Colonization and Revolution
The term “Haiti” comes from the indigenous Arawaks’ term for their own country “Ayiti,” which means “land of the mountains.” Despite their warm reception of Columbus’ crew and their peaceful ways, the Arawaks were genocided by Spanish colonists over the next 100 years. After exhausting its resources, the Spanish moved on to other colonies, creating a vaccum that allowed French settlers to step in. The French and Spanish eventually clashed over control of the island, until the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 split it in two. The French got the Western half of the island, which they named Saint Domingue (current-day Haiti), and the Spanish eastern half was named Santo Domingo (current-day Dominican Republic).
Over the next 100 years, Saint Domingue was turned by the French into the most profitable colony in the world, creating “more revenue than all thirteen North American colonies combined” in the words of Dr. Paul Farmer. The savage exploitation of the black slave majority by the white settler minority is what made this possible. William Robinson has called the treatment of black slaves in the French-governed territory “perhaps the most extreme and arbitrary terror in modern history” (Hallward 2006, 9).
Have they not hung up men with heads downward, drowned them in sacks, crucified them on planks, buried them alive, crushed them in mortars? Have they not forced them to eat shit? And, having flayed them with the lash, have they not cast them alive to be devoured by worms, or onto anthills, or lashed them to stakes in the swamp to be devoured by mosquitoes? Have they not thrown them into boiling cauldrons of cane syrup? Have they not put men and women inside barrels studded with spikes and rolled them down mountainsides into the abyss? Have they not consigned these miserable blacks to man eating-dogs until the latter, sated by human flesh, left the mangled victims to be finished off with bayonet and poniard? – Former Slave (Quoted in Heinl and Heinl 1995, 25)
The social order consisted of three main groups: the blancs (white colonists), affranchis (free blacks, some of whom actually owned their own slaves), and the slaves. As early as the 1850s, roving bands of former slaves and affranchis launched raids against slave plantations (Scott 2004). A massive black-led revolt began in August 1791, soon after the French Revolution, under the leadership of the legendary Toussaint L’Ouverture.
The rebellion quickly destroyed the white-owned plantations in northern Saint Domingue and continued with an assault on the port city of Cap Français. White residents of the city manged to beat back the tens of thousands of black rebels despite being vastly outnumbered. This intitial rebellion ended with some 10,000 blacks dead, 2,000 whites dead, and 1,000 plantations looted and destroyed.
The French Republic eventually decided to grant the affranchis equal rights and in 1792 sent over commissioners to pledge their support for the empowerment of free blacks. White slave-owners subsequently pledged their loyalty to the Bourbons while L’Ouverture and his men pledged loyalty to Republican France. French Commission Léger-Félicité Sonthonax formally abolished slavery in Saint Domingue in August 1793. Meanwhile, admist the chaotic situation that existed in the colony, the British and Spanish hatched a plot to invade and gain control of the French possession for themselves, with the British taking the south and the Spanish taking the north. L’Ouverture soon found himself up against former allies as various black and mullato groups aligned themselves with these new foreign invaders. He successfully routed every adversary he went up against.
L’Ouverture would gain full control of the colony by the end of the century and in 1801 was declared to be Governor-general-for-life under the new Constitution. France, now under the rule of Napoléon Bonaparte, sent over an expedition of between 16,000 and 20,000 men to take back the colony. These forces landed on the northern coast in January 1802. Utilizing alliances of convenience with various black and mullato groups, the French were able to get L’Ouverture to surrender on 5 May 1802. A month later the French abducted him and shipped him off to a prison in Fort de Joux in the Jura Mountains where he died from horrid conditions on 7 April 1803.
Incensed by the betrayal of L’Ouverture and the reinstitution of slavery, the black and mullato groups turned against the French once again. This time they kicked them out for good. The black republic of Haiti finally declared its independence in 1804 under the leadership of Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
And so began independent Haiti’s bitter 200-year-long struggle with internal strife and foreign meddling.
The existence of a Negro people in arms, occupying country it has soiled by the most criminal acts is a horrible specter for all white nations – Letter from French FM Charles Talleyrand to U.S. Secretary of State James Madison, 1805 (Quoted in Hallward 2007, 14).
Dessalines would himself be assassinated by some of his own subordinates in 1806 and Haiti was subsequently divided into two states, a kingdom in the north and a republic in the south. The two regions would eventually be reunited as one country in 1820.
One source of the young nation’s early challenges was the pointed refusal of the white nations of Western Europe and North America to recognize its independence and grant it any trading rights. France requested a payment of 150 million francs (later reduced to 60 million francs in 1838) as “compensation” for the loss of its slaves in exchange for normalized relations and the U.S. would only grant it recognition following its own domestic confrontation with the issue of slavery in 1862. The financial arrangement with France essentially forced Haiti take out loans from European banks that it would not succeed in completely paying off until 1948, effectively destroying its prospects for economic sovereignty.
Now, the era between Jean-Pierre Boyer’s overthrow in 1843 and the start of the U.S. occupation in 1915 is worth skimming over in brief. Haiti in this time period was generally in a state of chaos and instability with constant changes in leadership.
Of the twenty-two heads of state between 1843 and 1915, only one served out his prescribed term of office, three died while serving, one was blown up with his palace, one presumably poisoned, one hacked to pieces by a mob, one resigned. The other fourteen were deposed by revolution after incumbencies ranging in length from three months to twelve years – James G. Leyburn (Quoted in Federal Research Division 1989, Chapter 6: “Decades of Instability”)
For the purposes of this effortpost, it really is not worth getting into the specifics of this time period. The country was wracked with rivalries between mulattoes and blacks on one hand and elitists and populists on the other. It was also frequently victimized by incursions from foreign powers, such as France and Germany. The penetrative economic power of the German community in Haiti (about 200 people in 1910) was what originally raised Uncle Sam’s eyebrows. The Germans “controlled about 80 percent of the country’s international commerce; they also owned and operated utilities in Cap Haïtien and Port-au-Prince, the main wharf and a tramway in the capital, and a railroad in the north” (Ibid). At a time when the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary had deep influence on U.S. foreign policy, such European meddling in the region was increasingly seen as a pretext for the U.S. to start interfering on its own terms.
The First U.S. Occupation
Dear me, think of it! Niggers speaking French – U.S. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, 1912 (Quoted in Schmidt 1972, 48).
The experience of Liberia and Haiti show that the African race are devoid of any capacity for political organization and lack genius for government. Unquestionably there is in them an inherent tendency to revert to savagery and to cast aside the shackles of civilization which are irksome to their physical nature. Of course there are many exceptions to this racial weakness but it is true of the mass, as we know from experience in this country. It is this which makes the negro problem practically unsolvable – U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing, 30 January 1918 (Quoted in Schmidt 1972, 62-3).
The pretext for the U.S. invasion Haiti came on 27 July 1915, when president Vilbrun Guillaume Sam executed 167 political prisoners and was subsequently hacked to pieces by an angry mob. The specter of such anarchy was successfully utilized to justify the placement of U.S. sailors and marines in Port-au-Prince (Haiti’s capital) the very next day. The U.S. gained full control of Haiti’s custom houses and administrative institutions within six weeks. It would maintain a presence in Haiti for the next 19 years.
The American military regime proceeded to implement a kind of structural adjustment program avant la lettre: they abolished an “undemocratic” clause in the constitution that had barred foreigners from owning property in Haiti, took over the National Bank, reorganized the economy to ensure more regular payments of foreign debt, expropriated land to create new plantations, and trained a brutal military force designed to fight one and only one enemy—Haiti’s own domestic population. – Peter Hallward 2007, 14
Indeed, the effects of the U.S. establishment of the Gendarmerie d’Haïti, Haiti’s first professional military force, are still felt by Haitians to this very day.
By the time the last U.S. Marines left the country in August 1934, some 15,000 to 30,000 Haitians were dead as a result of the brutal responses to various uprisings. It was also clear that the occupation’s main beneficiary was the U.S. business community. While infrastructural improvements were made, these were largely done to facilitate the movement of the U.S. military throughout the country as well as the penetration of U.S. capital. The terms of trade had also been adjusted in the U.S.’ favor. But most importantly, the Haitian state’s security apparatus was now both centralized and professionalized. The consequences of this were especially visible in the 1950 military coup against president Dumarsais Estimé. Estimé was originally chosen by the National Assembly in 1946, partly because of the perception from the military that he was the “safest candidate.” He turned out to be an anti-elitist who showed great enthusiasm for social welfare initiatives. Among other things, he expanded access to public education, assisted the founding of rurul cooperatives and gave civil servants a pay raise. He angered the elite by empowering labor unions, enacting Haiti’s first ever income tax, and improving the representation of the lower and middle classes in the public sector. When he attempted to alter the constitution so as to extend his term his office, he provoked enough of a backlash that the army eventually forced his resignation on 10 May 1950.
That same year, Presidential Guard commander Major Paul E. Magloire won the presidency in an election which was designed to favor both the elite and the military. Magloire’s administration restored the economic influence of the elite and took corruption to unprecedented levels. The combination of popular outrage and concern over his attempts to maintain power past his term in office led him to flee the country, leaving the army in charge once again.
Papa Doc and Baby Doc Dvualier
Amidst a campaign of military repression (lead by army men who were trained by U.S. Marines in the 1930s), a man named François Duvalier won the presidential election in September 1957.
A former medical doctor who appealed to noirisme (black nationalism), Duveiler promised to rule in favor of the black-skinned majority and to remove the lighter-skinned mulatto elites from their societal pedestal. However, once “Papa Doc” Duvalier was in office, he ruled mostly in favor the old elites as well as his closest cronies. He established a crazed private security force that was officially called the Volunteers for National Security but were popularly known as the Tonton Macoutes.
[N]amed after the frightening bogeyman of folklore who stole children and put them in his basket, [t]he Macoutes made it clear that nobody was immune from state terror. Women, children, the elderly, state officials–all were vulnerable to indiscriminate attack at any time – Helen Scott, 2004
Despite a cut off of aid from the Kennedy administration and official wariness towards his noirisme, Duvalier still largely relied on the U.S. for supporting his regime. This was because he granted favorable terms to U.S. corporations and engaged in a massive repression against communist and leftist dissidents.
[Duvalier’s government] physically eliminated, imprisoned, or forced into exile hundreds of progressive intellectuals, writers, professors, journalists, and union and peasant leaders. The vast majority of these people had no contact with the [Haitian Communist Party] or with any other political organization. In ideological terms, most of the victims were barely what U.S. nomenclature would describe as left of center. But that was all it took.… Duvalier used the proven existence of a few armed communists to push the legislature into voting a legal monstrosity, the Anti-Communist Law of April 1969. Every “profession of communist belief, verbal or written, public or private” was declared a crime against national security and made its perpetrator into an “outlaw eligible for the death penalty meted out by a permanent military court” – Michel-Rolph Trouillot (Quoted in Scott 2004).
Upon the death of “Papa Doc” in 1971, rule over Haiti was passed on to his 19 year-old son, “Baby Doc” Jean-Claude Duvalier. “Baby Doc” was considerably more favorable to U.S. interests than and his father, and for this was rewarded with the reinstatement of U.S. aid to Haiti the same year he took power. His kleptocratic ways arguably surpassed that of his father as he soon became notorious for skimming hundreds of millions of dollars out of the Tobacco Administration and other assorted government-owned businesses. During the 1980s he was more than willing to abide by IMF and World Bank funded structural adjustment programs. He provided U.S. business interests with an investment climate consisting of minimal taxation, a low-wage workforce, and 100% profit repatriation.
The period of the Duvaliers’ rule was also one of increased international “aid,” largely in the form of loans from the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the North American and Western European governments. The corrupt regime siphoned off much of the money for personal gain and very little was invested in development. Between 1973 and 1980 Haiti’s debt increased from $53 million to $366 million, while the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty increased from 48 percent in 1976 to 81 percent 1985. Loans were contingent on an economic orientation on agricultural exports and the assembly industry–”The American Plan”–which ruined Haiti’s peasant farmers while benefiting only U.S. and Haitian corporate elites. The American plan proved an economic disaster. Official unemployment increased from 22 to 30 percent between 1980 and 1986, and in the same period economic growth showed an annual 2.5 percent decline. – Helen Scott
Neoliberalism had also succeeded at driving much of the Haitian peasantry off their traditional farming lands and into crowded slums such as Cité Soleil, where more than 200,000 of them dwelt in poorly built shacks lacking electricty, running water, and a sewage system.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, admist a scare over African Swine Fever (ASF) in Dominican Pigs, the U.S. successfully convinced Duvalier to wipe out the entire population of black Creole pigs and replace them with pigs supplied by the U.S. and international organizations. The peasantry complained that these new foreign pigs required a special treatment that they could not afford. They also claimed that compensation from the government was either insufficient or non-existent. The episode contributed to the downword spiral of poverty the Haitian people were going through and demonstrated the sheer lack of concern shown by both Haiti’s leaders and U.S. patrons.
By the mid-1980s, it was clear that the Haitian people had had enough. Informal groups called organisations populaires (OP’s) became increasingly popular by defending their communities from incursions by the security forces and Macoutes as well as providing much needed social programs that the government neglected to even consider. Small liberation theology based church groups known as ti legliz were also deeply influential. One priest in particular, Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, became very well known for his eloquently-worded and passionate sermons against Duveiler, the oligarchy, and the military.
Alone we are weak, together we are strong, together we are the flood [Lavalas]. Let the flood descend, the flood of poor peasants and poor soldiers, the flood of the poor jobless multitudes … And then God will descend and put down the mighty and send them away, and He will raise the lowly and place them on high – Sermon by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, 22 November 1988 (Quoted in Hallward 2007, 21).
In October 1985, there were street protests and raids on food distribution centers. By January 1986, the uprising had spread to six other cities. This worried the military brass, the U.S., and the business community enough to convince them that Duveiler had to leave office if any stability was to be preserved. The military officially forced Duveiler out of office on 7 February 1986. It was a period of shortlived rejoicing for the Haitian people, who were about to find out that the military had no real intentions of enacting popular reform.
The National Council of Government
Lieutenant General Henri Namphy and Colonel Williams Regala, who both led the military plot against Duvalier, ruled Haiti through the National Council of Government (CNG). The CNG actually managed to kill more Haitians in its first year in power than the Duvalier regime had managed to in the previous 15 years. Although the Tonton Macoutes were officially dismantled, many of its former members were subsequently absorbed into the army and other security forces. When journalist Mark Danner (1987) asked a group of Haitians working on mud removal for their opinion on the situtation, they responded by saying that “Duvalier is gone, but the Duvalierists are still here… The Duvalierist system was not uprooted, only the top of its head was cut off.”
The process of neoliberal restructuring was significantly accelerated under the CNG as well. The April 1986 appointment of Leslie Delatour as Minister of Finance was a sign of this. A “Chicago Boy” economist with experience at the World Bank, Delatour believed that the best way to end the legacy of Duvalierist corruption was to reduce the interference of the state in economic affairs. He closed state-owned companies and slashed tariffs on imports and exports, moves that sent many Haitians into unemployment and ruined much of what remained of Haiti’s peasantry.
As Aristide denounced both the remnants of Duvalierism and the neoliberal “death plan” for his country’s economy, his movement increasingly became the target of state-sanctioned atrocities. Popular demonstrations were with ended by army-initiated massacres and incursions into impoverished areas of Port-au-Prince became common. The CNG presided over a system often referred to as “Duvalierism without Duvalier,” and for this it alienated the U.S. foreign policy establishment and liberal sectors of the Haitian elite.
The United States is not happy with “chaos” in its client states. It’s bad for control, it’s bad for business, it’s unpredictable who will come out on top, perhaps another Fidel Castro. It was the danger of “massive internal uprisings” that induced the United States to inform Jean-Claude Duvalier that it was time for him to venture a life of struggle on the French Riviera, and a similar chaotic situation that led the US Ambassador to suggest to Avril [leader of Haiti from September 1988 to March 1989] that it was an apt moment to retire; transportation into exile for the good general was once again courtesy of Uncle Sam. Thus it was that the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince pressured the Haitian officer corps to allow a new election. – William Blum 2003, 371
Despite his own extreme reluctance to do so, Aristide was convinced by his own supporters to run in the December 1990 elections under a broad coalition of OP’s and liberal reformists. The U.S.’ most obvious pick for the candidacy was former World Bank official Marc Bazin, who received about $36 million from the U.S. to run his campaign.
Aristide’s First Presidency
After much violence and intimidation from ex-Macoutes and other assorted thugs, Aristide won the December 16 presidential elections with 67% of the vote. His victory was a source of great jubilation for the Haitian masses, who flocked to his February 7 inauguration.
The radical priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, draped in a red and blue sash presented by a peasant woman and four homeless boys, was sworn in yesterday as Haiti’s first democratically elected president. He promptly challenged the army to retire six conservative officers. Thousands of Haitians poured into the streets, singing and dancing, after Aristide’s inauguration, televised live from the Chamber of Deputies of the Legislative Palace. It came five years to the day after the fall of the 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship. […] In his first speech as president, Aristide accused the army of perpetrating violence and appealed for reconciliation. “If I could, I would come down and wash your feet” of blood, he told army chiefs gathered with him outside the National Palace. “Not one drop of blood should flow in this country again.” He asked Lt. Gen. Herard Abraham, the chief of staff, to retire six of the eight members of the Army High Command and replace them. “If these changes were made today the army would be happy, the Haitian people would be happy, the whole world would be happy, because all of you who served would enjoy a fine retirement with honor and respect,” Aristide said. […] As the newly elected president emerged from the Legislative Palace surrounded by security men, he was mobbed by well-wishers who sang and shouted his nickname, “Titid,” the Creole diminutive for “Aristide.” “The country is with you!” they shouted. “You can govern as you wish” – Associated Press, 8 February 1991 (Hayword 1991).
Even before the inauguration, the prospect of an Aristide presidency was too much for many of the Duvalierists and oligarchs to bear. On 7 January, former Macoute militia chief Roger Lafontant attempted to pre-empt Aristide by seizing power in a coup. A few reactionary sectors of the army and Presidential Guard took part in the coup by seizing control of the National Palace, which they only occupied for a couple of hours. Haiti’s ambassador to Washingon responded with assurance that the coup would fail and that Lafontant had only a small portion of the army behind him. His prediction was proven correct when the residents of Port-au-Prince’s teeming slums erupted in fury and formed a massive demonstrations of tens of thousands outside the National Palace that very same day. The soldiers proved reluctant to shoot into the crowds. After Lafontant tried to declare martial law, moderate elements within the army stormed the Palace early next morning and arrested the coup plotters with barely any resistance.
During and after the coup, large mobs of angry Haitians seeking retaliation took out their anger on multiple targets including the headquarters of Lafontant’s Duvalierist political party as well as elements of the conservative church hierchy such as the Haitian Roman Catholic Bishops Conference and the home of the Papal Nuncio. Around 40 to 50 people died in violence, with 20 to 30 of them thought to be Macoutes. Such incidents of popular reprisal would later be used to demonize Aristide’s movement as nothing more than an unruly mob of thugs who relied on violence and coercion to maintain power. Such a view, which would later became popular on the American right, ignored the overwhelmingly non-violent nature of Aristide’s rhetoric and followers in contrast to the opponents’ bloody history and ferocious campaigns of intimidation.
Once in office, Aristide worked toward his “social revolution” on gradualist terms. He improved tax collection, increased the minimum wage, initiated literacy programs, and began a modest land reform effort. On issues concerning human rights and security, Aristide was infinitely better than previous administrations. He immediately purged the military brass of its most rabid reactionaries, began replacing the hated section chief system with a democratized and apolitical police force, ended most forms of political repression, and appointed a commission to investigate state-sanctioned killings since 1986. By August, the New York Times could credibly report that “six months after his inauguration, the 38-year-old leader’s calls for change have given way to an unanticipated degree of moderation in many areas that has pleasantly surprised some skeptics while disappointing some supporters.” Such an approach, although relatively restrained, were enough to spook the economic and military elites. Aristide was making it hard for them to demonize him as a crazed radical who was remaking Haitian society in his own image. In many ways, this made him even more of a threat to their power and prestige. Since the international community ultimately saw him as a legitimately elected leader and a good democrat, any attempts to undermine him would immediately be condemned.
Naturally, there were a couple of incidents where Aristide clashed with the old guard and Haiti’s foreign tormentors. When he had the nerve to criticize the Dominican Republic for its barbaric and racist treatment of migrant Haitian plantation workers, the DR responded by deporting at least 10,000 of them back to Haiti. In August, the parliament threatened to demand the resignation of Aristide’s prime minister, René Préval. This prompted large demonstrations and media statements accusing the parliament of being riddled with vestiges of the old regime. Chamer Deputy Robert Monde in particular is accused of being a former Macoute. The protests also focused on the fact that both houses of parliament refused to vote on 97 out of 100 laws proposed since Aristide’s inauguration (Haitian Information Bureau 1994, 206).
What probably frightened Haiti’s establishment the most was Aristide’s famous “Pe Lebrun” Speech, given on 27 September 1991. It is worth quoting in its entirety:
Brothers and sisters who are born in the bourgeoisie in Haiti and who would not like to see the bourgeoisie fighting the people, and you the people who would not like to fight the bourgeoisie, but who know that the bourgeoisie must conform (play) according to the rules of the democratic game, today it’s in the name of this people, I come to tell you: Y O U who have money yet who would not like to go live outside this country of Haiti, you who would like to live in the country, when you die, you won’t take the money with you.
Put people to work. You must invest your money any old way, so that more people can find work, for: if you don’t do it, I am sorry for you! It’s not my fault, you understand!?
That money in your possession, it is not really yours. You earned it in thievery, you carried it through bad choices you made, under an evil regime, an evil system, and in all other unsavory ways. Today, seven months after February 7th, in this day ending with the numeral 7, I give you a chance, because you won’t get two, nor three chances. it’s only one chance that you’ll get, Otherwise, things won’t be good for you! (Shriek from people).
If I speak to you in that way, it’s because I’ve given you seven months to conform, and the seven months are up to the day. If I speak to you in that way, it’s not because I have forgotten that in days of justice (free wheeling justice), they could have put all these thieves to rout and grab whatever they now have, and which isn’t theirs anyway. If you don’t understand what I meant I invite you to understand. It’s Creole that I am speaking, Creole should be understood.
Now, whenever you are hungry, turn your eyes in the direction of those people who aren’t hungry. Whenever you are out of work, turn your eyes in the direction of those who can put people to work. Ask them why not? What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for the sea to dry up (He actually made a play on words, rhyming “Tann” with “Pwa Tann” which means waiting for tender beans to mature). Why don’t you start? It’s time for you to start, because the country needs you, the country needs us economically, so that we can do better, twice as much.
Whenever you feel the heat of unemployment, whenever the heat of the pavement begins to make you feel awful, whenever you feel revolt inside you, turn your eyes to the direction of those with the means. Ask them why not? What are you waiting for? Why this long wait? Are you waiting for the seas to dry up (the same allusion as above)?
And if you catch a cat (the slang in Creole for thief), if you catch a thief, if you catch a false, Lavalassian (followers of the President), if you catch a false…(he stopped right in the middle of the word), if you catch one who shouldn’t be there, don’t he-si-tate – to – give – him – what – he – deserves (staccato for effect and repeated twice, and his voice rising in a crescendo).
Your tool in hand, your instrument in hand, your constitution in hand! Don’t he – si-tate – to – give – him – what – he – deserves.
Your equipment in hand, your trowel in hand, your pencil in hand, your Constitution in hand, don’t he-si-tate – to – give – him – what – he – deserves.
The 291 (Article of the Constitution banning the Tontons Macoutes from political life for 10 years) is in the middle of the head where there is no hair (an allusion to Roger Lafontant), and says: Macoute isn’t in the game. Macoute isn’t in the game. Don’t he-si-tate – to – give – him – what – he – deserves. Three days and three nights watching in front of the National Penitentiary, if one escapes, don’t he-si-tate – to – give – him – what – he – deserves. (Repeated twice)
Everywhere, in the four corners, we are watching, we are praying, we are watching, we are praying, when you catch one, don’t he-si-tate – to – give – him – what – he – de-serves.
What a beautiful tool! What a beautiful instrument! What a beautiful piece of equipment! It’s beautiful, yes it’s beautiful, it’s cute, it’s pretty, it has a good smell, wherever you go you want to inhale it. Since the law of the country says Macoute isn’t in the game, whatever happens to him he deserves, he came looking for trouble.
Again, under this flag of pride, under this flag of dignity, under this same flag of solidarity, hand in hand, one encouraging the other, one holding the other’s hand so that from this day forward, each one will pick up this message of respect that I share with you, this message of justice that I share with you, so that the word ceases to be the word and becomes action. With other actions in the economic field, I throw the ball to you, you dribble it, you shoot, shoot from before the penalty box, shoot on the goal adroitly, because if the people don’t find this ball to hold it in the net, well, as I told you, it’s not my fault, it’s you who will find what – you – de-serve, according to what the Mother Law of the country declares.
One alone, we are weak,
Together we are strong. Together together,
We are the flood. (Frenzy … !)
Do you feel proud!) (yeah … !)
Do you feel proud! (yeah … !)
It has been alleged by many right-wingers demonizing Aristide that this speech was a call for mobs of his supporters to “necklace” his political opponents by putting tires around their necks and lighting them on fire. However, it is more likely that what Aristide was referring to was an article in the Haitian Constitution that banned Macoutes from taking part in national politics. This is especially likely when one considers that not a single necklacing had took place since Aristide had been in office. Instances of necklacing only occurred in response to provocative actions taken by the Macoutes and other various right-wing thugs before Aristide was even inaugurated.
Either way, the stage had now been set for Aristide’s first overthrow. The Haitian elite and foreign sweatshop investors knew now they were dealing with a man who would be the biggest threat their power and privilege would ever face in a lifetime.
Blum, William. 2003. “Haiti, 1986-1994: Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” in Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.
Danner, Mark D. 1987. “The Struggle for a Democratic Haiti.” New York Times Magazine, 21 June.
Federal Research Division. 1989. Haiti: A Country Study. Washington, DC: Library of Congress.
French, Howard W. 1991a. “Former chief of Duvalier’s militia claims power after coup in Haiti.” New York Times, 7 January.
French, Howard W. 1991b. “Troops, storming palace, capture plotters and free president.” New York Times, 7 January.
Haitian Information Bureau. 1994. “Events in Haiti, October 15, 1990-May 11, 1994.” In The Haiti Files: Decoding the Crisis, ed. James Ridgeway. Washington, DC: Essential Information Books, 205-240.
Hallward, Peter. 2007. Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment. New York: Verso.
Hayword, Susana. 1991. “Aristide sworn in as leader of Haiti.” Associated Press, 8 February.
Heinl, Robert Debs and Nancy Gordon Heinl. 1995. Written in Blood: The History of the Haitian People. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
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Scott, Helen. 2004. “200 years of U.S. imperialism: Haiti under siege.” International Socialist Review 35(May-June).