26 February 2004
“[In 1825] Haiti was obliged to repay more than it received…. France’s King Charles X ordered former French slaves to pay 150m francs [over $2 billion at today’s prices] before France would grant diplomatic recognition to Haiti, Latin America’s oldest republic. A French diplomat recently told me, without irony, that during François Mitterrand’s presidency, “Haiti still owed us part of that debt”.” 
So what else has changed in the following 179 years? Not very much and predictably, the media is doing a hatchet job on Haiti’s Aristide. A piece by Andrew Gumbel in Saturday’s Independent (21/02/04 p. 21) is pretty typical. Headed “The little priest who became a bloody dictator like the one he once despised” is an outrageous rewriting of the history of Haiti with nary a mention of the role that the US has played in the island’s sorry history for the past 179 years including refusing to recognise the world’s first independent Black republic until 1864, fearful of the example it set for its own enslaved African population.