Haiti was the world’s first black republic and the first country to be founded by former slaves, Haiti declared independence from France in 1804. The new nation faced blockades, isolation and protracted interference over two centuries from white-majority powers, including France, which imposed a century of impoverishing reparations for the loss of its slaves, only paid off in 1947, in exchange for recognition.
A week before the assassination of Moise, Haiti's president, on the night of 29 June, 15 Haitians died in targeted killings, including political activists and journalists. Yet the world's media became indignant at the murder of the top politician.
This blog sheds no tears for Moise. We share the same sentiments as a Haiti protester once explained.
“We’re fighting against a system where we can’t eat and we don’t get paid. That’s why we’ve taken to the streets,” Drelien explained then. “The president [Moïse] isn’t working for us. He’s no friend of the people – only of the bourgeoisie and businessmen, while we live in poverty.”
Despite receiving $13bn (£9.5bn) in international aid since the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 220,000 people, the situation for Haitians, by most indicators, continued to worsen.
The previous very modest gains in poverty reduction in Haiti, according to the World Bank, has gone into reverse.
60% of the country live in poverty with the richest 20% of the population holding more than 64% of its income, a wealthy elite, which barely governs. Recent governments have been largely divorced from Haitians’ lives of poverty, nominated from within the same tight circle of politically connected oligarchs with the blessing of foreign powers.
Haiti is hugely dependent on remittances from Haitians living abroad.
Foreign aid and foreign intervention, far from helping, has helped undermine an almost nonexistent administration. Few can fully comprehend the absence of services and institutions, planning or state direction. Three years ago, Joël Boutrue, then deputy special representative for the UN stabilisation mission in Haiti, was blunt.
“Haiti would be better off without aid,” he said. “Or at least, without the bad kind of aid that allows the administration and the elites to continue without changing."
US historian Robert Taber wrote in the Washington Post last week, that the Clinton administration destroyed the Haitian domestic rice market in the mid-1990s. Later a UN peacekeeping force reintroducing cholera in the mid-2000s.
Jake Johnston, a researcher at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, who coined the term "aid state" to describe Haiti, explains, “Economic policies have been imposed by multilateral banks, like the IMF, which has seen agricultural subsidies slashed. The education and health systems have been turned over to private actors like NGOs. All of which has created a separation between the people and a government that is not governing.” That hollowed out Haiti’s institutions.
Johnston went on to point out, “Aid to Haiti has been used for political purposes going back years. It is transactional. It has gone up under certain leaders and it has gone down when someone isn’t liked, or it goes to an organisation that shares the interest of the donor country.”
Jonathan M Katz, analysed how $3.5bn of foreign aid failed to improve Haiti in his book The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.
“The thing is that I don’t think a lot people realise how aid has been used intentionally to weaken the Haitian state. There’s a long, if little-known, paper trail, going back to the end of the Duvalier dictatorship, particularly involving the US,” he said. “There are documents that very specifically talk about using private, voluntary organisations – now known as NGOs – to funnel money away from the Haitian government to recreate its functions elsewhere." He goes on to say, “It happened again explicitly during the period of the Aristide government [the leftwing president who fell victim to a coup and was reinstated by a US military intervention] and there are public documents from USAid and other government agencies saying we were withholding money and giving it to private organisations to weaken the policies of Aristide.”
The $3.2bn PetroCaribe scheme was an alternative model to improve the Haitian situation, in which funds freed up by a deferred payment credit scheme for Venezuelan energy were then to be dispensed by Haiti’s government for large-scale development projects. it was supposed to be the thing that the post-earthquake reconstruction was not. Venezuela was going to free up all this money for Haiti to spend on itself. About $2bn was stolen during the presidency of Michel Martelly.