Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Troops out of Haiti! Cancel the debt! - statement by the Revolutionary Communist Group

As the magnitude of the disaster in Haiti becomes apparent – perhaps 200,000 dead, the whole of the capital Port-au-Prince devastated as a consequence of the 12 January earthquake, so anti-imperialists have to hold those responsible for this calamity to account. No-one can prevent earthquakes, but states can create conditions where the scale of destruction that follows is limited, and where there is an infrastructure which can support effective relief operations. It is obvious that neither existed in Haiti so that the consequences of the earthquake were all the more horrific. But the primary responsibility for this lies not with the desperately impoverished Haitian state, but with those who caused this impoverishment: imperialism in general, and US imperialism in particular. Haiti is the epitome of a dependent state, its development deliberately obstructed by the US to keep it and its people in subjection.

Haiti was the first independent state in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the only state to be created from a slave rebellion. Yet 21 years after its establishment the ruling elite agreed to pay its French former masters an indemnity equivalent to $21 billion in today’s money to compensate the former tenants. From then on Haiti was held under economic domination first by France and then by the US. In 1914 US Marines seized the Haitian government’s gold deposits at gun point and deposited them in New York’s National City Bank. Following a series of coups the US occupied Haiti in July 1915, using the pretext of preventing disorder. Haiti’s police force was disbanded and replaced by a police force under US officers. The economy and political system were tied to the US. US Marines bloodily repressed peasant resistance. They departed in 1934 but the Banque Nationale remained a subsidiary of the US Export-Import Bank until 1947, the year when the final debt repayment for overthrowing slavery was made to France.

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