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A French official ignores the realities of Haiti's history

January 19, 2010 - Mike Maneval
In the wake of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti, people here in America and around the world have stepped up to the plate to assist the afflicted - except for one official, who spent the opportunity trying to fit his foot in his mouth.

French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet blasted the U.S. on Monday, demanding a UN investigation into U.S. management of flights to Haiti and comparing the U.S.-led efforts to an occupation, Deborah Seward of Huffington Post reports.

These remarks are particularly rich coming from a French official. As NYU business professor Tunku Varadarajan details, the abysmal state of Haiti's civil fabric is rooted in an act of extortion upon the country's independence from France, by France.

Varadarajan notes a French naval blockade after Haitians drove the colonial powers off the island left Haiti in its infancy subject to the then-superpower's demands. And France's demands included 150 million gold Francs - five times the value of Haitian export revenues in 1825.

Haiti could not afford the "restitution," as France euphemistically called the extortion, and so France loaned the new republic the money, gouging them even more on interest rates. Haiti did not finish paying the debt off until 1947, when Haiti's "fate as the Western Hemisphere's poorest country had been well and truly sealed," in Varadarajan's words.


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