Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, the poorest in the western hemisphere. The United States has played a large part in Haiti’s downfall. The United States government has had a negative effect on Haiti’s independence and growth by engaging in a trade embargo against Haiti with France and Europe that left Haiti in debt at the beginning of the countries newly gained independence, the occupation of Haiti, and the construction of the Peligre Dam.
The United States engaged in a trade embargo with France and Europe in order to force Haiti to pay back the country’s debt to France as retribution from the Haitian Revolution, leaving Haiti in debt for over one hundred years. In 1804, the Haitian revolution ended freeing Haiti from France. Haiti was the first black republic in the world to declare its independence (“Haiti: A History of Hurt”). The colony of Haiti accounted for about half of France’s foreign reserves (Goforth). The loss of income from such a valuable colony caused France to demand retribution payments from Haiti.
The United States joined French, Spanish, and Portuguese boycotts against Haiti, banning global shipping originating in or by Haiti (Elliot). “This coordinated embargo effectively crippled Haiti’s export-driven economy and its development as a once prosperous Caribbean port under French rule” (Elliot). If Haiti did not compensate France, the American-European alliance threatened Haiti with re-colonization and re-enslavement (Elliot). The French plantation owners demanded retribution for their losses of lucrative sugar, coffee, and tobacco fortunes supported by slave labor (Elliot).
Haiti then spent the next 111 years paying 70 percent of its national revenues in retributions to France (Elliot). This ransom was enforced by the American-European trade alliance as the price for Haiti’s independence (Elliot). “The French government bled the nation and rendered it a failed state. It was a merciless exploitation that was designed and guaranteed to collapse the Haitian economy and society” (Elliot). Almost half a century ago, the Dominican Republic was 25 percent richer than Haiti- now the Dominican Republic is six times richer than Haiti (Goforth).
Although the United States government has played a large part in Haiti’s initial debt, the U. S. government has recently made efforts to help Haiti regain function as an independent nation. Although the United States occupation of Haiti had many positive effects, the occupation of Haiti failed to leave behind functional democratic government. The execution of 167 of then President Vilbrun Gillaume Sam’s political prisoners on July 27th 1915, led the Haitian people to revolt and mutilate his body in the streets outside of the French Legation where the President was hiding (Mont-Reynaud).
This brutal act along with concern that if the United States government didn’t step into action, Germany might, was further motivation for President Wilson’s gun-boat diplomacy (Taylor). “For a long time, there had been concerns about German presence in Haiti as a threat to American territory” (Mont-Reynaud). Despite the negative effects, the United States government has had on Haiti’s growth and independence, the United States occupation of Haiti has resulted in several positive effects for the Haitian people. The occupation greatly improved Haiti’s infrastructure (“Occupation of Haiti (1915-34)”).
“The Americans built 12 hospitals, 147 rural clinics, 210 bridges, 12 lighthouses, nine wharves, along with irrigation, sanitation, municipal water and technical education systems” (Taylor). By the end of the occupation, more than 15,000 Haitians had lost their lives (Danticat). Many of the Americans involved in the occupation believed that their efforts were to aid in the peaceful governance of the country (Mont-Reynaud). The United States did little to help build a democracy. Marie-Josee Mont-Reynaud discussed the failure in her blog “elections under the occupation were rigged; a treaty was passed by force.
” The newly elected president was soon presented with a treaty, which was to be signed without modification. The treaty gave the United States control of customs, an American financial advisor, establishment of a Haitian gendarmerie, and American aid in the development of sanitation, agriculture, and public works (Mont-Reynaud). The United States wielded veto power over all governmental decisions in Haiti, and the military commander served as administrators in the provinces (“Occupation of Haiti (1915-34)”). The goal of the occupation failed in building a democratic government that would last after its forces departed (Mont-Reynaud).
The quick withdrawal of forces left an unstable government in Haiti. Peter Shawn Taylor describes what is necessary to leave Haiti with a functioning democracy “Yet there is more to making Haiti work than providing it with the necessary modern conveniences, it also requires a democratic tradition and a competent bureaucracy. ” The building of the Peligre Dam flooded the Artibonite River Valley, leaving many Haitians homeless and without any way to provide for their families. Although the Peligre Dam does benefit Haitians who live downstream from the dam, there are many negative effects for the Haitians living above the flooded valley.
Paul Farmer describes the poor intentions of the United States government “The dam was meant to benefit agribusiness downstream, mostly American-owned back then, and the electricity was for the Haitian elite in Port-au-Prince with the resources to enjoy it. ” Many of the Haitian people did not support the Peligre Dam project. The parishioners of Haiti’s Verettes Parish had this simple petition “we have already started shedding tears. People will lose their land, their houses, their garrets, their trees, their graves. Those who do not lose their own land will lose their dwelling and their jobs.
These pieces of land are our livelihood, they feed us and allow us to send the children to school” (Adams). Surprisingly many of the Haitian’s who lost their homes did not even realize they would lose their home until it was too late. The dam destroyed almost ten thousand acres of prime agricultural land, a scarce commodity in food-short Haiti (Adams). A cost/benefit counter-study was carried out by local agromists, economists, and sociologists. The study found that the flooding would destroy lands that could feed 60,000 Haitians annually.
The researchers also found that the total income from the valley’s agricultural output was 40 percent higher than the projected benefits of the two dams (Adams). If the United States government did not have ulterior motives for “helping” Haiti, the country could benefit much more than they currently are. Although the United States government has made some significant changes for the Haitian people, many of these changes have influenced Haiti poorly simply because the U. S. government has put their priorities above Haiti’s own. In the future, those who want to help the failing country should listen to the Haitian people to see how their plans will help or hurt them as a whole before executing their plans. Works Cited Adams, Pat. “Dam Busters. ” New Internationalist 183 (May 1988) Web.
15 July 2010. Danticat, Edwidge. “Ghosts Still Haunt Haiti’s People. ” Commondreams. org. Common Dreams Organization, 25 July 2005. Web. 15 July 2010. Elliot,Elison. “A Note on the Economic History of Haiti. ” Online Posting. 28 January 2010. Foreign Policy Blogs. Web. 15 July 2010. <http://globaleconomy. foreignpolicyblogs. com/tag/haitian-embargo>. Goforth, Sean. “The Bifurcation of Hispaniola. ” Online Posting. 27 January 2010.
Foreign Policy Blogs. Web. 15 July 2010. < http://latinamerica. foreignpolicyblogs. com/2010/01/27/the-bifurcatio… >. “Haiti: A History of Hurt. ” Week. 22 January 2010, Web. 15 July 2010. Mont-Reynaud, Marie-Josee. “The Failure of the American Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934. ” Online Posting. March 2002. Fouye Haiti Network. Web. 15 July 2010. <http://haitiforever. com/windowsonhaiti/am-occup. htm>. “Occupation of Haiti (1915-34). ” Global Security. org. Global Security. 6 May 2005. Web. 15 July 2010. Taylor, Peter Shawn. “What Can We Learn From the U. S. Occupation of Haiti? ” Globe and Mail, 5 Feb. 2010. Web. 15 July 2010.