Haitian democracy was only born a short while ago. During its brief lifespan, this starved and diseased creature has only received a series of blows. Haiti was in its infancy, in the festival days of 1991, when the nation was killed by the military coup of General Raoul Cedras. Three years later, it was revived. After having installed and removed some many military dictators, the United States removed and installed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been the first ruler elected by popular vote in the entire history of Haiti and who had had the crazy idea of wanting a less unjust country.
The vote and the veto
In order to erase the fingerprints of the United States in the sanguinary dictatorship of General Cedras, the marines carried away 160 thousand pages of secret files. Aristide returned in chains. They gave him permission to govern once again, but they prohibited him any power. His successor, René Préval, obtained nearly 90 percent of the vote, but more power than Préval is possessed by any fourth grade functionary from the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, although the Haitian people haven’t elected them with even a single vote.
The veto counts more than the vote. Veto of reforms: any time that Préval, or any of his ministers, requests international loans to give bread to the starving, education to the illiterate or land to farmers, there is no response, or they answer by ordering him to:
¡Recite the lesson! And, as the Haitian government never finishes learning to dismantle the few public services remaining, the last mean protections for one of the least protected communities in the world, the professors consider the test failed.
The demographic excuse
At the end of last year, four German legislators visited Haiti. Barely having arrived, the people’s misery deeply affected them. So, the ambassador of Germany to Haiti explained to them the problem of Port-au-Prince:
This is a densely populated country -he said-. The Haitian woman always wants to, and the Haitian man always can.
And, he laughed. The legislators fell mute. That evening, one of them, Winfried Wolf, reviewed the figures. And, he determined that Haiti is, together with El Salvador, the most densely populated country in the Americas, but it is just as densely populated as German: the country has almost the same number of inhabitants per square kilometer.
During his time in Haití, Congressman Wolf was not only struck my the misery: he was also stunned by the capacity for beauty of the community painters. And, he arrived at the conclusion that Haiti is overpopulated … by artists.
In reality, the demographic excuse is more or less recent. Until a few years ago, the Western powers spoke more clearly.
The racist tradition
The United States invaded Haití in 1915 and governed the country until 1934. The United States withdrew when it achieved its two objectives: collecting the debits of City Bank and repealing the constitutional article that prohibited the sale of plantations to foreigners. Then Robert Lansing, secretary of State, justified the long and cruel military explanation by explaining that the black race is incapable of governing itself, that it has “an inherent tendency to savagery and is physically incapable of civilization”. One of those responsible for the invasion, William Philips, had incubated the keen idea: “This is an inferior people, incapable of maintaining the civilization that the French left them”.
Haiti had been the pearl of the crown, France’s richest colony: a grand sugar plantation, with slave labor. In the spirit of the law, Montesquieu had frankly explained it: “Sugar would be too expensive if slaves did not work in its production. Said slaves are Blacks, from head to toe, and they have noses so flat that it’s almost impossible feel compassion for them. It’s unthinkable to believe that God, a very wise being, would have placed a soul, and moreover a good soul, in an entirely black body”.
By contrast, God had placed a whip in the had of the overseer. Slaves were not singled out for their desire to work. Blacks were inherently slaves and also inherently lazy, and nature – accessory of the social order – was the work of God: the slave should have served the master and the master should have punished the slave, who did not demonstrate the slightest enthusiasm at the time of fulfilling divine intention. Karl von Linneo,a contemporary of Montesquieu, had portrayed Blacks with scientific precision: “Lazy, slothful, neglectful, indolent and lascivious in their customs”. More generously, another contemporary, David Hume, had proven that Black people “could develop certain human abilities similar to the way in which a parrot speaks some words”.
In 1803, the Black people of Haiti dealt a tremendous beating to the troops of Napoleón Bonaparte, and Europe never forgave this humiliation inflicted upon the White race. Haiti was the first free nation of the Americas. The United States had conquered before its independence, but that country had a half million slaves working in cotton and tobacco plantations. Jefferson, who owned slaves, said that all men were equal, but he also said that Black people have been, are and will be inferior.
The band of the freed slaves was raised over the ruins. Haitian land had been devastated by single crop farming of sugar and destroyed by the calamities of the war against France, and one-third of the population had fallen in combat. Then, the blockade started. The newborn nation was condemned to isolation. No one bought from it, no one sold it, no one recognized it.
The crime of dignity
Not even Simón Bolívar, as brave as he was known to be, had the courage to sign the diplomatic recognition of the Black country. Bolívar had been able to re-launch its fight for American independence, when Spain had already defeated that country, thanks to the support of Haiti. The Haitian government had provided seven ships and many arms and soldiers, with the sole condition that Bolívar free the slaves, an idea that had not occurred to the Liberator. Bolívar kept that promise, but after his victory, when he was already governing Gran Colombia, he turned his back on the country that had saved him. And, when he convened the American nations at the meeting of Panaman, he did not invite Haiti but did invite England.
The United States only recognized Haiti sixty years after the end of the war of independence, while Etienne Serres, a French intellectual in the field of anatomy, discovered in Paris that Blacks were primitive because they have a shorter distance between their navel and penis. By then, Haiti was already in the hands of bloodthirty military dictators, who directed the country’s scarce resources to the payment of the French: Europe had imposed upon Haiti the obligation to pay France an enormous indemnization in exchange for being pardoned for the crime of dignity.
The history of harassment of Haiti, that today has tragic dimensions, is also a history of racism in Western civilization.
*Taken from: Brecha 556, Montevideo, July 26, 1996*
*(Translated by Iuslingua LLC)*