Help!  Save Haiti from Itself

Haiti, half the island of Hispaniola, was colonized by the French in the 1700’s. They set up plantations to produce export crops. Spain held the other part of the island which became today’s Dominican Republic.

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A demonstrator holds up an Haitian flag during protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, March 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Miami – Haiti, today the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, was once the richest back in 1800.  How did this happen?

In those long distant days, the West indies was the equivalent of today’s Mideast – a vast treasure trove of resources. The western powers – Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, and Holland – battled to control the islands that produced tobacco, sugar, peppers, potatoes, slaves, rum, cloves, nutmeg, and bananas. 

Customers in Europe’s coffee houses got high and talkative over cups of the new wonder liquid, coffee, and nicotine.  Alkaloids from coffee and sugar became the oil of the 19th century and the fuel of revolution.  Entire cities and regions grew up catering the slave trade which the lovely French city of Bordeaux became rich from serving.

Haiti, half the island of Hispaniola, was colonized by the French in the 1700’s. They set up plantations to produce export crops. Spain held the other part of the island which became today’s Dominican Republic.

Haiti’s slaves revolted around 1794 led by remarkable figures, ex-slaves Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. They defeated Napoleon’s troops and massacred white planters.  An ex-slave, Henri Christophe, built a huge fortress atop a mountain at Cap-Haitien and killed himself there with a silver bullet.  Climbing up to their vertiginous aerie almost killed me too.

Haiti’s former slaves became the first free blacks in North America. But it quickly fell into ruin and poverty.  The freed slaves relentlessly cut down Haiti’s trees to make charcoal for cooking.  Heavy rains came and washed away the lush topsoil that once produced crops.  Warlords and bandits terrorized the local population. 

Wretched Haiti became the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.  As I saw, the countryside looked like darkest Africa. A mild-spoken country doctor, François Duvalier, seized power and began a long era of terror and extortion.  I had to deal with Papa Doc’s goons, the fearsome Tonton Macoutes (bogeyman in Creole).  I went through two attempted coups in Haiti and, crazy as it sounds, my Haitian friend Joe Noustas crashed a dinner party for Papa Doc at the National Palace where I had a long chat with Duvalier. After Papa Doc’s death. His roly-poly son, known as ‘Baby Doc’ took over with the help of the monied mulatto class.  Baby Doc’s beautiful wife, Michèle, spent all his money, then ditched him.  Haiti fell into the chaos we see today.

All semblance of civilized society in Haiti has vanished. Today, gangs of drug-crazed savages rule the streets.  The former president, Jovenel Moise, was murdered. His wife is accused of complicity.

What to do.  I’ve visited Haiti since the early 1960’s.  Haitians are a lovely, talented people. But they can’t manage themselves or their once beautiful nation. The only solution to rescuing Haiti from anarchy that will launch more waves of immigrants to the US and Canada is to deploy the US Marine Corps there.  I am an ardent anti-imperialist and hate colonialism but see no other solution to sending in the Marines. 

The US Marine Corps ruled then chaotic Haiti from 1915 to 1934.  That was considered Haiti’s golden age.  The Marines brought law, order, and food.  They did a better job of running Haiti than any Haitian government.  When the Marines left in 1934, they installed a regime of mulattos who held power until Papa Doc and his voodoo regime.  I vividly recall listening each night to the sound of drums and chanting by the believers in the ‘Oungan’ voodoo cult.  I was twice threatened with death by the Tonton Macoutes. My friend Tijo (little Joe) was later murdered.

Someone has to go in and rescue Haiti from itself.  Sending ill-trained, AIDS-ridden soldiers from Kenya is not the answer.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2024

Eric S. Margolis

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in globally recognized newspapers and He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC. As a war correspondent Margolis has covered conflicts in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Sinai, Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Pakistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was among the first journalists to ever interview Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi and was among the first to be allowed access to KGB headquarters in Moscow.

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