The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewEric Margolis Archive
Weep for Poor Haiti
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeThanksLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

Jean-Claude Duvalier, Haiti’s former president, known to one and all as “Baby Doc,” died of a heart attack last week in Port-au-Prince, aged only 63.

He was not mourned.

Rumor in Haiti had it that the son of “Papa Doc,” the fearsome late dictator, Francois Duvalier, had died as a result of a deadly curse by one of the nation’s leading “houngans,” or voodoo lords. Sweet revenge said many Haitians.

In the mid-1960’s, my old friend Tijo Noustas and I, driven by youthful recklessness, crashed the dinner at Haiti’s National Palace. We met Baby Doc, who was just a little kid back then, and had a very, very scary encounter with Papa Doc Himself. I still recall his coke-bottle thick glasses and sinister, whispering voice.

Papa Doc ruled Haiti’s 10 million wretched people by a combination of supernatural fear and terror. Once a simple country doctor, Duvalier became Haiti’s leading voodoo houngan. Haitians believed he could turn himself into a crow, lay spells, raise the dead and kill at long distance.

If Haitians were not sufficiently cowed by voodoo magic, Papa Doc had his dreaded paramilitary thugs, the TonTon Macoutes (bogeymen in Creole). Dressed in blue denim from head to foot, the heavily armed TTM’s terrorized Haitians, abducting suspects, and imposing “street tax” on passersby. I had numerous run-ins with the TTM’s, all near-death experiences.

Papa Doc was a paranoid monster who routinely had his foes, real or imagined, shot at the yellow-painted Fort Dimanche. The executions were carried live on radio.

However brutal, Duvalier was supported by Washington which feared a Cuban-style takeover of Haiti. Castro’s Cuba was only 80km from Haiti across the strategic Windward Passage and looked like heaven compared to Haitian Hell.

When Duvalier died in 1971, his tubby, 114 kilo son, Jean-Claude, was put into power as a figurehead by the TonTon Macoutes, the wealthy mulatto business elite and Uncle Sam. He was a miserable creature, afraid of his own shadow, terrified, like many Haitians, that Papa Doc might rise from his grave like the evil voodoo deity, Baron Samedi.

The mulattos and TTM’s went on looting Haiti’s meager resources while the other 99% lived near starvation, afflicted by parasites, typhoid, syphilis, and diseases known only in Central Africa, which rural Haiti resembled. Port-au-Prince, once a charming colonial city, became a cesspool of rubbish and swarms of diseased beggars.

Many Haitians considered the era 1915-1934, when Haiti was occupied and run by the US Marine Corps, as the only felicitous time in their tragic history and hoped the American military would return.

In the 1780’s, Haiti, then a French slave colony, was the richest nation in the Western Hemisphere, including Spain’s gold and silver-producing Latin American colonies. Four crops a year of that era’s version of today’s oil riches– cocoa, dyes, spices, sugar, coffee and tobacco –poured into France. Bordeaux and Nantes were built on the revenues of the West Indies trade and slavery.

ORDER IT NOW

Then came slave revolts in 1791 and 1804 that drove out even Napoleon’s veteran troops. Able slave leaders like Toussaint L’Overture and J.J. Dessalines were quickly replaced by fools and mental deficients, ending in the mad emperor Henri Christophe who finally shot himself with a silver bullet outside Cap Hatien. Whites were massacred. Haiti’s freed slaves relentlessly cut down its trees to make charcoal. Heavy rains washed away Haiti’s rich topsoil, leaving erosion and famine, the hemisphere’s worst environmental, social and political disaster. Haiti became the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

The inept Baby Doc and his beautiful mulatto wife, Michelle, were finally kicked out of Haiti in 1986, taking with them steamer trunks of cash. They went into a gilded exile in Paris, then Grasse. Various inept leaders replaced the younger Duvalier, including a Marxist former priest, J.B.Aristide who was in turn deposed by a US-engineered coup and shipped off to South Africa.

As a final misery, a massive 2011 earthquake devastated much of Haiti, killing tens of thousands, or even a million, no one knows. UN “rescue” troops from Nepal spread cholera; other UN troops paid girls $1 for sex.

Baby Doc’s wife Michel, having spent all their money on shopping, announced she was leaving him. “You can’t do that,” he pleaded, “I’m president of Haiti”

She hissed back, “I married the president of Haiti; you’re now a nobody!” And left.

Baby Doc finally returned to Haiti and claimed he would face accusations of mass murder and genocide. He never did. Many Haitians knew that poor Baby Doc was no monster, just a faint reflection of his frightening father and a henpecked husband. Duvalier II was more worthy of pity than retribution.

And so last week, his sad life withered away in Port-au-Prince as Haiti continued to sink ever deeper into an abyss of poverty, disease and hopelessness.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Haiti 
Hide 37 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
    []
  1. Cuba is heaven? Maybe for bootlicking Anglo journalists who go there to kiss the regime’s ass. No doubt they treated you very well. All journalists love powerful thugs.

    As for the people of Cuba, why should you care? Your job is to fellate those who speak power to truth.

    Choke it down, kiddo.

    By the way, Haiti is like Central Africa for the same reason Wisconsin is like Skandinavia, and the same reason you can count on a golden retriever to have the personality traits of a golden retriever.

    Show me an exception. I’ll be waiting.

    • Replies: @Vendetta
  2. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Haiti.

    Voodoo. AIDS. Endless boatloads of illegal migrants. That’s about all that can be said of the place after 200+ years. Haiti is the way it is for the same reason sub-Saharan Africa is the way it is (though nobody will admit this).

    Btw, Napoleon’s veteran troops were not driven out by Haitians. They were killed off by diseases.

  3. Vendetta says:
    @Lars Grobian

    “Compared to Haitian Hell”
    “Compared to Haitian Hell”
    “Compared to Haitian Hell”

    Next to Haiti or Central Africa, yes, Cuba is heaven.

    For Christ’s sake, Grus, read.

    Paul Kagame is your exception of a comptent, responsible leader in Central Africa. I pray he manages to find some sort of decent successor, or Rwanda’s going right back to hell as soon as he’s gone.

    • Replies: @jtgw
    , @Ed
  4. jtgw says:

    tl;dr: Haiti was a decent enough place to live while whites were in charge, but whenever they were left to their own devices, black Haitians turned the country into just another sub-Saharan African backwater.

    Am I missing anything?

  5. jtgw says:
    @Vendetta

    Basically, even with the dumbest ideology imaginable, Cuba manages not to be the worst-run country in the Western Hemisphere simply by virtue of having whites at the helm.

    Paul Kagame is not really an exception when you realize that he and fellow Tutsis have a fair amount of Caucasian in them. He looks more Ethiopian than Bantu. To the racists among us it’s not at all surprising that he’d manage to run his country half-way competently.

    I really, really want to know of more actual cases where full-blooded Negroes manage to govern themselves at least to a middle-income standard of living. Everyone keeps saying “Botswana”, but that’s like the only example I ever hear.

    • Replies: @Vendetta
  6. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Haiti is Africa, more precisely sub-Saharan Africa. If a little piece of Africa broke off and floated across the Atlantic, it would be basically the same. Actually, as amazing as it sounds, Haiti is not that bad a place, by sub-Saharan African standards, which is the only realistic comparison. Twenty-two countries in sub-Saharan Africa are poorer then Haiti. This difference may be explained by the small mulatto population Haiti has. In any case it is hardly surprising that no Haitians took up the offer from Senegal to “return to the mother country” after the earthquake a few years ago. When Haitians skip out, they don’t go to Africa. They go to the USA.

    • Replies: @jtgw
  7. Vendetta says:
    @jtgw

    Yeah…got nothing to counter otherwise when you exclude the Nilotics from the equation. Ghana, I suppose, is the one that seems most economically enterprising and diversifying right now, if they keep that up for ten years they’ll be getting somewhere. Even Botswana seems a poor example as it’s basically an empty country with a mineral jackpot….I doubt the living standards are much higher for ordinary people there, or they’d be getting an immigrant flood from Zimbabwe and other hell hole countries.

    • Replies: @jtgw
  8. jtgw says:
    @Anonymous

    Exactly. Anytime some guy complains of racism in the US or another Western country, I just want to say “You know, there are plenty of countries ruled by your kind of people where I’m sure you’d not suffer so much discrimination. Oh, they’re complete shitholes and you wouldn’t dream of moving there? I wonder why that is…”

  9. jtgw says:
    @Vendetta

    Hm well I wish the best for Ghana. It would be nice if they could break this stereotype some day.

  10. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Haitians have had more then two full centuries to get their act together and have accomplished absolutely nothing.

  11. Rootman says:

    Many racist comments here. I was 2 weeks in Haiti 2 years ago as a tourist. I was very impressed by the patient, industrious and peaceful nature of the people. And the very rich culture. The vodou religion is perhaps the only one on earth where gods and godesses are equal!

  12. @Rootman

    “I was very impressed by the patient, industrious and peaceful nature of the people. And the very rich culture.”

    I believe “vibrant” is the term you’re looking for.

  13. jtgw says:
    @Rootman

    I think that’s the case with a lot of primitive cultures and people: they are actually very friendly and warm-hearted and generous and all sorts of other good qualities. The problem is that this isn’t enough for a functioning industrialized nation: you also need intelligence, future-oriented thinking and a degree of self-control that these people don’t have. That’s why they’re so poor and disorganized. Ideally, they’d allow their public affairs be managed by those with the brains to do so, i.e. whites, though the Chinese seem to be filling the role in much of Africa these days. Then, they can continue to be wonderful and vibrant without incurring the ill consequences.

    • Replies: @Rootman
  14. Rootman says:
    @jtgw

    To call Haitian culture primitive is very primitive.

    Haiti is one of the most raped countries in the world. There is one hill, with incredible mansions and palaces, where the families live who own 95 % of all the land and recources.

    • Replies: @jtgw
    , @Anonymous
  15. jtgw says:
    @Rootman

    I don’t get it. Was that supposed to prove that Haiti does not have a primitive culture?

    By primitive I mean things like this: how much does your average Haitian plan for the future? What kind of organization does the community have and what efforts do they make to keep themselves clean and tidy? Here’s a very simply measure: are the streets filled with trash? Even if there is no official state body overseeing garbage disposal, I would say an advanced culture would figure out a way of keeping the streets sanitary.

  16. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Rootman

    Your right sport. VooDoo is a wonderful “religion” and an equal-opportunity player as well! Haitians are also industrious too. When i go to a store all i see are “made in Haiti” items. And if you find Haitian culture “very rich” well, each to his own. That’s about all you’ll find “very rich” about the place.

    Btw, if you think spending two weeks in a country as a pampered and sheltered tourist, gives you an accurate read of it and its history, you are truly gullible.

  17. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Rootman

    BUT Haiti has been exclusively black occupied and black run for over 200 years after just about every single white person was killed there. So if it is being “raped” it is by the Haitians themselves.

  18. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Rootman

    “Many racist comments here”.

    What has been said that is factually inaccurate? Haiti is virtually a 100% black country. It has been that way for over 200 years. It is also abysmally poor and backward. It is a black occupied and black ruled s***hole. Why is pointing out facts “racist”?

  19. jtgw says:

    Advanced cultures make use of their independence to forge ahead and improve themselves. Germany suffered catastrophic losses in WWII, but bounced back afterwards because their culture allowed this to happen. Yes, the Americans poured aid in, but America has also poured aid into Africa, where it’s been squandered.

    You point to hideous inequality as a cause of Haitian poverty. I do not doubt it, but again, that’s an indictment of Haitian culture as a whole. What causes the inequality? They’ve had so many chances to work things out for themselves, but they continue in the same vein. America is not occupying the country or forcing the poor to give up their wealth to the rich: that’s the work of Haitians themselves, both the upper-class that is exploiting them, and the lower class that hasn’t figured out a way of changing the situation. By contrast, look at countries like Japan that, all on their own, transformed themselves from an isolated and primitive feudalism to a modern capitalist nation.

    • Replies: @colm
  20. Rootman says:

    I was not a pampered tourist, but stayed with a local family. (Best way of traveling in Haiti for single men: find a Haitiana in a DR beach town: she is the perfect guide, interpreter and will love to see her family- everybody wins). Due to incompatibility of my ATM card I happened to have very little money. So no running water, rice and some beans with fruit. Trip is not cheap: One tends to spend much more than planned on the family and their friends if one sees their extreme poverty (once back in the DR).

    The biggest problem is this ruling class, the UN ´peacekeeping´ force is to prevent an uprising. The ruling class is much lighter colored (´les mulattes´) than all other people.Another great problem is the absence of cooking gas: people cook on charcoal, which makes for deforestation. Hurricanes wreak havoc on the soil.

    Another problem are the evangelical churches, which introduce a totally alien culture and religion. The catholic church seems to be quite well adapted though (example: rum as holy water!)

    I have not been near the camps of the earthquake survivors. English is not my first language (´rich culture´). Of course one can only get a small impression in 2 weeks. It is almost a different planet.

  21. jtgw says:

    How are evangelical churches a problem? In countries like Mexico, they’ve helped locals a lot in developing better habits that help them rise out of poverty. I’m sorry but the old Protestant stereotype of Catholic countries as backward has a lot of truth in it. I hope evangelicalism spreads in Haiti; it might improve things a bit.

  22. colm says:

    No reason to weep for ‘poor’ Haiti who is responsible for the downfall of Napoleon. Touissant L’Overture, one of the most evil person ever lived, is now honored in France’s Pantheon. Does America honor Tecumseh, Black Hawk or Crazy Horse?

    Touissant is also responsible for America gobbling up the Mississippi basin.

    And they shat all over in that resource-rich island.

    The Haitians only have themselves to blame for their misery.

    The president of haiti, plus any possible descendant of Touissant, have to kneel at Napoleon’s tomb at the Invalides to repent what they did to him.

    • Replies: @Vendetta
  23. colm says:
    @jtgw

    @Jonathan

    German could rise again after WWI because it still kept resource-rich Silesia.

    Now Silesia is under Polish rule and Germany remains a faithful watchdog of Washington.

    The moment America leaves Germany, Silesia will break away from Poland.

  24. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Most comments here are dumb, made by sheltered people who haven’t traveled outside of North America or Europe.

    Much of Haiti is pleasant. Outside of Port au Prince and the second largest city, the towns are clean and orderly. One seaside town on the south coast was the cleanest third world town I’ve ever seen–spotless. People had little fear of crime and were out walking alone at all hours.

    It’s a very artistic culture. Probably nowhere else in the world is there more public art per square km. On the city streets during the day, people are painting, selling art, playing music, possessed by voodoo gods, driving elaborately decorated shared taxis, etc. Quite remarkable how poor it is but how many people engaged in design and music over there.

    And there’s still a lot of forest left, no matter the environmental difficulties with out of control forest clearing, it’s still green in the countryside.

    • Replies: @jtgw
    , @Ed
  25. jtgw says:
    @Anonymous

    Thanks for those details. The lack of crime and the clean streets that you saw certainly suggest a better culture than my impression gave me. I’m just going by the general descriptions of the place that I have encountered but if they are inaccurate I’m glad to admit it.

  26. Vendetta says:
    @colm

    Yes, America does honor the Indian war chiefs that fought against it.

    Napoleon was responsible for the downfall of Napoleon. He invaded Russia and stuck around through wintertime.

    Toussaint’s rebellion produced a miserable failed state in the end, but I respect him for fighting back against those that enslaved him.

  27. Jefferson says:

    “Haiti is virtually a 100% black country.”

    Haiti is so Black that that even a light skin Dominican Mulato like Alex Rodriguez would stick out like a sore thumb there.

    Haitians are the New World Blacks who on average have the least amount of Caucasian blood.

  28. We met Baby Doc, who was just a little kid back then, and had a very, very scary encounter with Papa Doc Himself. I still recall his coke-bottle thick glasses and sinister, whispering voice.

    Sounds like Peter Lorre playing Mr. Moto.

  29. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Haitians believed he could turn himself into a crow, lay spells, raise the dead and kill at long distance.

    How in heaven’s name could anyone think these people are mentally capable of democratic rule?

    As a white Kenyan told me decades ago, “when the majority of voters believes that a candidate can become invisible, fly through the sky at limitless speeds, and peek over your shoulder in the voting booth (or read your mind), there ain’t no such thing as a ‘secret’ ballot.”

    • Replies: @Rootman
  30. Rootman says:
    @Anonymous

    ´How in heaven’s name could anyone think these people are mentally capable of democratic rule?´

    So we are? Believers in the cult of neoliberalism and neoconservatism: privatization, austerity, a rigged election system by plutocrats and lobbyists, iPnotized by MSM and blindly, instinctively responding to their fear and demonization campaigns?

    Who is doing the magical thinking?

  31. Ed says:
    @Vendetta

    Félix Houphouët-Boigny of the Ivory Coast wasn’t bad either.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%A9lix_Houphou%C3%ABt-Boigny

    • Replies: @colm
  32. Ed says:
    @Rootman

    Man some people really have gone over the deep end with this equality stuff. So their gods have gender equality, big deal. How does any of that keep people fed, clothed and sheltered?

    Get a grip man.

  33. Ed says:
    @Anonymous

    Quite remarkable how poor it is but how many people engaged in design and music over there.

    It’s not remarkable at all, art doesn’t feed people outside of a select few. Maybe that’s the problem they are all engaged in art and not activities that generate trade and increases wealth. As far as the lack of crime makes sense no one has much to steal.

  34. Harold says:

    When someone describes a people as having a ‘rich culture’, ask them for an example of a people who, by their reckoning, don’t have a rich culture. After all, it makes the term meaningless to call something rich unless it is in comparison to other not-so-rich things.

    • Replies: @Rootman
  35. Harold says:

    I thought Haitian art was probably crap so I looked some up on the web. It is not that bad. Little of it I saw had any subtlety in colour palette, being mosty composed of highly saturated colours, but that’s a matter of taste.

  36. Rootman says:
    @Harold

    ´Rich culture´: Very few! apart from the traditional cultures I can think of Tibet, Timbuktu, some Hindu, Taoist and Buddhist traditions, and perhaps some Christian, Sufi and some humanist branches. And science + philosophy of course!

  37. colm says:
    @Ed

    <Félix Houphouët-Boigny of the Ivory Coast wasn’t bad either.

    Felix Whoophee-Boynee is probably going to be remembered as the builder of a $300 million cathedral in the middle of jungle near his hometown.

    Incidentally now it is being maintained by some hapless Polish priests.

Current Commenter
says:

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone


 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments have been licensed to The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Eric Margolis Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
Bin Laden is dead, but his strategy still bleeds the United States.
Egyptians revolted against American rule as well as Mubarak’s.
“America’s strategic and economic interests in the Mideast and Muslim world are being threatened by the agony in...
A menace grows from Bush’s Korean blind spot.
Far from being a model for a “liberated” Iraq, Afghanistan shows how the U.S. can get bogged down Soviet-style.