In a recent piece in The Miami Hurricane, (published Monday, Jan. 25) Anthony Wojtkowiak argued that the United States should instruct the International Monetary Fund to forgive Haiti’s crushing debt. On this tactical question, I agree.
As U.S. citizens, however, perhaps we can think of some other options open to us. Surely, we are obligated to at least understand why Haiti, the beneficiary of the most U.S. intervention in the 20th century, remains the poorest country in the West.
Woodrow Wilson first invaded Haiti with Marines in 1915, killing thousands, disbanding the parliament and passing a U.S. written constitution allowing for foreign ownership of land and resources. Our troops finally withdrew in 1934, leaving in its place a vicious National Guard that would receive direct U.S. training and funding throughout the two brutal Duvalier dictatorships (both supported by the United States) from 1957 to 1986.
In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide became Haiti’s first democratically-elected president, beating the U.S.-supported former World Bank official Marc Bazin. The government was overthrown in a military coup a year later, and though Aristide was later returned to office by the United States, it was on the condition that he would continue the economic program of Bazin.
Predictably, previously self-sufficient farmers were driven into urban slums to work for starvation wages and end up killed by the earthquake that would later tear through their primitive shantytowns. Finally in 2004, Aristide was, as he put it, “kidnapped” by U.S. Marines at gunpoint and has since been prohibited from returning to his country.
How much of this policy and its results are our responsibility? Luckily for us, our responsibility has not been in forming, or even ratifying, such policies but we are guilty if we do not work to affect these policies in the future.
So, what do we do now? Anyone who wishes to discuss it, or would like evidence for the above historical assertions, please e-mail me.
Adam Bird-Ridnell is a sophomore majoring in history and philosophy. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.