Theo Sitther recounts a Haitian joke about international meddling in his PeaceSigns article for this month. But the article ends on a more serious note:
By all accounts, Haiti should be a wealthy nation. However, France forced Haiti to pay $21 billion in today’s dollars for loss of property, including freed slaves. The United States, France and other European nations refused to recognize Haiti and since then Haiti has been embroiled in a state of poverty and political instability, which has included several U.S. military interventions, United Nations peacekeeping forces, dictatorships and economic intrusion.
Today, Haiti stands as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Over 80% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day. The country pays international creditors debt payments totaling $56 million each year, while much of the population lacks access to food, health care and education.
Haiti also stands as the most open country in the Caribbean in terms of trade. Until the 1980s, Haiti was a self-sufficient rice producer feeding much of its own population with little or no imports. However, due to intervention and structural adjustment by the IMF, Haiti opened up its markets to foreign imports. This has resulted in a flood of subsidized rice from the United States causing the collapse of local production, loss of jobs and livelihoods.
U.S. policies today continue the legacy of slavery. During my visit to Haiti, the people that I met were clear in calling for an equal relationship with the United States and not one of intervention.
The Bible calls us to love our neighbors. As U.S. citizens we must call for policies that respect and love our neighbors in Haiti.