No regrets for making Haiti a ‘shithole’?

By Sir Ronald Sanders
January 13, 2018 –

Haiti(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the OAS. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are his own)

The effect of the inappropriate depiction of Haiti, El Salvador and all African nations as “shit hole” countries is a matter that the people of the United States of America and their government and Congress should contemplate seriously.

The responses have been swift, showing a mixture of outrage and shock. At the time of writing this commentary, there has been no expression of regret about the comment that has done nothing but injure the relations between the United States and many countries. Hopefully, representatives of the U.S. in other countries will distance themselves from it, and apologise as discreetly as they can.

I am here concerned particularly with the remarks about Haiti, a member state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the current Chair of the group’s Heads of Government caucus. My colleague, the Ambassador of Haiti to the United States, Paul Altidor, rightly said, “We feel in the statements, if they were made, the president was either misinformed or miseducated about Haiti and its people”. The United Nations spokesman Rupert Colville, described the remarks as “racist”, adding that, “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes,’ whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Haiti, for us in the Caribbean is more than just a member of our community, it is the first nation to rise up against slavery and oppression in our region. Importantly when the Republic of Haiti was established on January 1, 1804, it was the first free nation of free black people to rise in a world of Empires of Western European nations.

And, Haiti paid a very high price for its assertion that black people were born free, entitled to freedom and the right to fight for it.

In a real sense, from the moment of that assertion of freedom, Haiti was earmarked for the “shithole” status now applied to it. It was punished by every European nation, particularly France, and successive governments of the United States aided and abetted in the process.

France demanded huge reparations for the slaves and plantations it lost at the revolt of Toussaint L’Ouverture. In 1825, Haiti’s leaders were forced to agree to pay France the harsh levy of 90 million gold francs, which the country did not finish repaying until 1947.

For almost a hundred years, Haiti was pushed into poverty by the French demand, upheld by Western European nations and the US. Indeed, the U.S., which continued to be a slave-owing nation after European nations outlawed it, did not recognise Haiti as a free nation until 1862 – the last major power at the time to do so.

But, even that recognition was meaningless. Taking advantage of Haiti’s lack of capacity to defend itself from external intervention, U.S. naval ships entered Haitian waters no less than 24 times between 1849 and 1913, ostensibly “to protect American lives and property”. Finally, in 1915, the U.S. invaded Haiti and ruled the country as an occupying force for 20 years.

During that period, Haiti and the Haitian people, already impoverished, exploited and isolated by what was then ‘the international community’ – Western European nations and the U.S – were further disadvantaged. Their constitution was rewritten against their will, something the U.S. State Department admitted in 1927. Under that Constitution, laws preventing foreigners from owning land were scrapped, allowing U.S, companies to take what they wanted.

In 1926, a New York business publication described Haiti as “a marvellous opportunity” for U.S. investment, stating that “the run of the mill Haitian is handy, easily directed, and gives a hard day’s labour for 20 cents, while in Panama the same day’s work cost $3”. U.S. corporations grew from 13 in 1966 to 154 in 1981, enriching themselves, pauperising the Haitian people even more and doing little to add wealth to the economy.

And, as with slavery, the excesses of U.S. occupation by U.S. companies were justified by the language of racial superiority. Haitians were described as “coons”, “mongrels”, “unwholesome”, “a horde of naked niggers”. The New York Times reported U.S. representatives as saying that Haiti needed “energetic Anglo-Saxon influence”.

The Haitians have also suffered from governments that suited foreign powers being put into office, only to be removed if their policies ceased to serve the interest of those foreign powers. Therefore, democracy in Haiti was emasculated not by the Haitian people, but by external forces and Haitian elites that they suborned.

Incidentally, the U.S. has had balance of trade surpluses with Haiti for many decades. For instance, in 2014, the U.S. trade surplus with Haiti was $356.4 million; in 2015 and 2016 respectively it was $190.5 and $191.9 million. For the 11 months, ending November 30, 2017, the surplus in favour of the U.S. was already $385 million. So, for a ‘shithole’ country it has provided annual revenues and employment to the U.S, of some magnitude.

Sadly, from this entire experience, Haiti is the poorest country in all the Americas. But it is far from a “shithole”, possessing as it does some of the most beautiful landscapes and seascapes in the Caribbean; a remarkably talented and creative people – Haitian art and craft is natural, untrained aptitude; and hard workers.

Of Haiti’s population of 10.4 million people, only 500,000 have permanent employment. Yet, the Haitian people maintain stability in a continuing struggle.

If Haiti is a “shithole”, those who made it so, should acknowledge their devastating role, and in their shame, they should pledge to do better.

Every Caribbean person, at all levels, should make it abundantly and crystal clear that we resent this depiction of Haiti; we call for acknowledgement by all who have exploited it and kept it in poverty; and we urge that, instead of dismissing it in unfortunate language, they implement programmes to atone for their part in its pauperisation.

For our part, the Caribbean should stand-up for Haiti with pride and gratitude.

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12 thoughts on “No regrets for making Haiti a ‘shithole’?”

  1. Second chance to stand up to Trump
    Last month, the Trinidad and Tobago Government failed us when it chose to sit on the fence and not stand up to Trump and his bullying administration in the United Nations resolution condemning his administration’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. If the Rowley administration did not understand it then, they should understand now why cowardice is not an option against bullies. It merely strengthens their hands.

    Trump’s blind hate
    Hateful. Vile. Racist. And nothing new for Donald Trump. In June the US president reportedly said immigrants from Haiti “all have Aids.” By Thursday, those immigrants were subject to a humiliating re-classification, coming – along with immigrants from El Salvador and the nations that comprise Africa – from “sh**hole countries”. And this vulgar language at a meeting about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca or Dreamers) programme!

    On the Streets of Haiti, Donald Trump’s Ground Zero ‘Sh*thole’
    News of Trump’s remarks hit the Haitian capital on the eve of a terrible anniversary: the 2010 earthquake that killed 250,000 people.

    Time for a US Apology to El Salvador
    Obama recently expressed regret for US support of Argentina’s “dirty war.” It’s time Washington did the same regarding our active backing of right-wing butchery in El Salvador.

    1. Don’t these people have a sense of history?
      One has to really be bold (or mad) to ‘piss’ on any non-European people.
      History has shown us that 60% of Europe population was decimated by the Black Plague. History has told us that The diseased European is responsible for the disappearance of the Native people of the Americas. They say, one European sneeze wiped out millions of Native people in South America.

      The Nerve of these people to call BEAUTIFUL AFRICA (and Africans) Shit-holes… Stuppes..

  2. Well Said. –Sir Ronald. The sad thing, Lots of Caribbean/Trinidad Folks, still is the rectom of America.Thinking that Country is their Savior. All these So call, Large Countries do is USE you, then trow you away.———–Eyes wide open, Still cannot see.

  3. Express wrote: “Today, the Government has the option to retrieve some self-respect and it can do so by doing what it failed to do last month–which is to secure a Caricom consensus and speak with one voice in support of Haiti, a valued and distinguished member of the Caribbean family, and in support of the countries of Africa, the cradle of human civilisation and ancestral land of the majority of Caribbean people whose peoples have been subjected to untold misery and destruction by the greed of conquering nations which have exploited, and continue to exploit, its enormous riches at the expense of Africans.

    It is not too late to find our voice against this global bully.”

    Great read Express, but can we really make these pronouncements when the African of Trinidad and Tobago are ‘abused and exploited’ (strange enough, we have an African PM)?
    We have a detention center that is filled with ‘Africans from the continent’.. yet, ‘Africans’ make up a small fraction of the 110,000 so called undocumented immigrants in TT… but about 90% of the detainees at Aripo are ‘Africans’.

    African Trinbagonians under-representation at UWI.. Denied access to media holdings in TT. I can go on, but I am busy.

    Anyway, Haiti abstained from the Israel vote also..

    1. Good observations RamK. Trinidad and Tobago has always denied the African self-respect or self sustenance. Notice, we have the Chinese Association, Portugese
      Association, the Maha Saba, etc etc. The moment David Mohammed introduced the Black Caucus every other ethnic groupings felt threatened. The suppression of blackness is evident in the Trinidadian culture and to some extent many of our own black men and women encourage the myth of black inferiority. But there is plenty of positivity in black history that we should be proud of. We do not need others to sanction our development. We can do it on our own but we need help. Where is the name of Hugh Wooding or Ellis Clarke or C.L.R James in our institutions of education and cultural development in our communities? There is a starting point to everything and we must start with recognizing our own intellect.

      1. Hands down.. We need our Radio and TV stations.. That is the ‘real’ starting point. 24/7 in HD radio, 3-4 stations over 1 frequency HD 1 Hd 2 Hd 3 with a higher quality for music. Multicasting for TV, up to 9 channels/stations on one transmitter.
        The idea is David Muhammed broadcasting every day and not on the grave night shift. The Professor can send 3-4 minute audio editorial (instead of waiting 1 week to read his stuff… in dem people papers)from where-ever in the world he is.
        The point is, the technology is there and it’s much cheaper than before..
        We need to stop feeling defenseless and realize that we can buy into our media today…. For Cheap.
        Dr. Rowley and his ‘Cartel handlers’ will not give us media. Yuh eh see how they want to divy up PretroSingh? Yeah Right!!!

  4. It is either most people are genuinely ignorant or there are a lot of hypocrites condemning crude and vulgar Donald Trump for reputedly referring to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries”. Whether he used those exact words or not, most people who are unaware of the history of America and Europe’s hand in keeping Haiti, El Salvador and Africa unstable and underdeveloped, share similar views. Most of the media, including those in Trinidad and Tobago, have done little to help change the attitude of people who were nurtured in anti-African racism. The outrage seems disingenuous to say the least. There should be a concerted effort by the media, politicians and the wider public to inform themselves about all these issues, and not simply get upset with ignorant and arrogant Trump for saying what they too believe.

  5. It is difficult for me to comment on Trump statement because these people have suffered so much and I can’t rejoice over other people suffering (not that he is) and add further insult to their miserly existence.

    One must remember that the key to building a progressive nation is to educate your citizens. With education comes more opportunities and the breaking of chains of poverty. Unfortunately the opposite of education is ignorance, superstition and downward drag. These things are perpetuated from one generation to the next.

    One cannot blame the ordinary citizen who is a victim of Western imperialism as is the case of Haiti. The long history of American influence in that nation has stifled a true economic structure and wealth.

  6. Donal Trump’s rhetoric appeals to the most ignorant (like himself) among the American electorate. His crude and vulgar behavior can only diminish the image of the United States of America. Truth be told, the materials needed to produce many parts for the most advanced air planes and electronics come from Africa. His war with ISIS and muslim terrorists is dependent on having access to Africa and the fool does not even realize that China has become the dominant super power with the best access to what Africa has to offer. All he sees is his white skin and that of those who support him. Haiti was instrumental in the fight against the Nazis in the second world war. Amongst the now famous Tuskeegee Airmen, were many Haitians who fought valiantly in helping the U.S win the war. But, as usual, many see the black man a a human being with black skin and insist that that is all we’ve got. Despite the history of all the black man has done towards development, there are those like Donald Trump who insist that the black man has done nothing. There is a historical hate for Haiti because it was the first black uprising to conquer European militarism. The U.S, being a western country was and (probably) still afraid of any progress the black man makes. An economically progressive Haiti will pose a danger to U.S hegemony. Donald Trump is so racist, that he is timid in helping Puerto Rico recover from the recent hurricanes that destroyed the island, even though it is technically part of the United States economy. From his point of view, Puerto Rico is considered ‘colored’ and for this reason he is hesitant to help them recover to some semblance of normalcy. Hate is a dangerous emotion and where it is used to replace common sense, there is always a chance that it’s purpose will turn to be evil.

  7. I hate these one sided responses to Trump who is a complete arse hole. But the more things change the more they remain the same with the whites who feel they own the whole blasted world. I was a professional engineer for more than 30 years and I knew from a long time ago ” Slavery never ever ended it was just repackaged with many more house Ns who suck up to get a better way of life and rule over us all even in sweet T&T “. Pull string is everywhere. It does not matter if you have a PHD from a recognized university and several years of proven experience. If you are NOT WHITE or A SUCK UP BLACK WITH PULL STRING you get no where. Imagine over 30 years ago, a mother of an engineering student told a senior engineer at Fedchem her son will be soon our President and so it came to pass. I tutored the boy who was short in expertise from a third class university in Canada but his board member uncle paved the way and HE IS WHITE to black trinis and did become and still is the President. Meanwhile I was never ever recognized for all my hard work of proven worth to the company. How do you fight this race thing. War is the only way out. It starts with murder, drugs, prostitution, human trafficking etc.

    1. Grow up. Name me a successful black run country folks. Yes the truth from Trump hurts, but he is right

  8. Name me a successful run ‘White’ country, John?

    BTW, I think they should move the ‘Statue of Liberty’ to POS… yuh eh see how much people trying to get into ‘our’ shi*hole? What they say, 1 out of 10-13 people in T&T are ‘undocumented’ immigrants. The 3rd wealthiest economy in the Americas (some say 2nd .. beating off Canada). All made possible by BLACK MEN.

    Aye John, something earth-shattering took place in South Africa about a week ago… But some want to offer us ‘Garbage’ from Africa to digest…

    Here.. (Thanks to Trumpism… I call it, Revenge of the Shi*holes)

    Julius Malema EFF Motion | Expropriation Of Land Without Compensation

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