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Jefferson Beauregard Sessions was sworn in as the 84th Attorney General of the United States on February 9, 2017.

Jeff Sessions was sworn in on National Pizza Day.

This is a serendipitous coincidence as he will oversee the break up of criminality and corruption, including child sexual abuse and human trafficking. In other words, Pizzagate.

Many of us who have scratched even the surface of this horrifying scandal cannot look at our favourite Italian pie without feeling queasy. Thank goodness for calzones.

President Donald Trump knew about the sexual abuse of children as long ago as 2012:

Now he is in the White House and has Jeff Sessions as chief law enforcement officer and chief lawyer for the United States.

Pizzagate and human trafficking

Fortunately, while Democrats were delaying on approving Trump’s cabinet appointments, law enforcement carried on with their work.

On February 4, 2017, Homeland Security and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) issued a new appeal to Americans. Note the pizza place and the gate nearby:

Many of us are awaiting an Executive Order or Executive Action something like this (courtesy of  The_Donald):

On February 1, 474 people were arrested and 28 sexually exploited children were rescued in a sting operation across the state of California, led by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Twenty-seven adults were also rescued from exploitation:

More will surely follow higher up the tree. Hollywood actors have been saying for several years that child sexual abuse is rampant in the entertainment industry.

On February 3, police in Pennsylvania were making arrests and continued to receive tips concerning a group of men involved in sexual abuse of at least one boy.

On February 5, news emerged about a state bill in Utah has passed the (state) House Committee regarding human trafficking. If passed by Utah’s House, the death penalty — either legal injection or firing squad(!) — would be brought back for convicted human traffickers.

Also on February 5, a child sex trafficking bust took place in Haiti. That link, from The_Donald, has links to several articles about the raid at the Kaliko Bay Hotel. This could be very relevant to the United States, as some nefarious Americans masquerade as missionaries or child welfare workers. The Haiti Sentinel reports (emphases mine):

31 minors, all girls aged 13-17, were rescued in an anti-child-trafficking sting operation undertaken by the Haitian National Police on Sunday. Among the arrested were 9 adults, foreigners, including missionaries among them.

All 31 children were being held in a single room, number 155, at the Kaliko Bay Hotel in Côte-des-Arcadins …

The investigation began in December and remains ongoing to uncover the true breadth of the operation that appears to include non-governmental organization and international elements. Assistance was given by fellow missionaries to police, which aided in the operation.

Investigators believe the syndicate was preparing to take the children over the Dominican Republic border to then leave the island. Police and other public officials are also investigating possible sexual exploitation being that all the minors were female

The article also mentions Pizzagate.

It is highly likely that Sessions will be investigating government employees for child pornography and/or sexual abuse. This ‘cheat sheet for journos’ explains the gaps in investigations as well as a bit about those who have been charged over the past few years. An eye-opener, to say the least.

Oddly enough, the only Democrat — Joe Manchin of West Virginia — to vote for Sessions is anti-paedophile!

Immigration

This week, Trump’s Executive Order (EO) restricting immigration from seven countries for 90 days was halted by the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco.

Sessions can help find a way to enforce US Code 1182 – Inadmissible Aliens, particularly the following clause:

(f) Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. Whenever the Attorney General finds that a commercial airline has failed to comply with regulations of the Attorney General relating to requirements of airlines for the detection of fraudulent documents used by passengers traveling to the United States (including the training of personnel in such detection), the Attorney General may suspend the entry of some or all aliens transported to the United States by such airline.

No one raised an eyebrow when Obama issued a similar order for the same seven countries, but now that Trump is doing it, he’s ‘literally Hitler’. Perhaps Trump would have been successful had he written in his EO that he was extending Obama’s.

Security at highest government levels

Sessions will have to put tight vetting procedures in place for security at the highest levels, including information technology departments.

On February 4, The Daily Caller reported that three brothers who worked in IT for the House Permanent Select Committee:

were abruptly relieved of their duties on suspicion that they accessed congressional computers without permission.

Brothers Abid, Imran, and Jamal Awan were barred from computer networks at the House of Representatives Thursday …

I am amazed that three brothers were allowed to work together in the same department in one of the highest centres of American government. What were their superiors thinking by hiring all three?

The Conservative Treehouse explains:

the House Intelligence Committee is part of the deepest oversight network with responsibility over the most sensitive and secretive government intelligence, including covert anti-terrorism activity

Also, reflecting on the death of the Navy SEAL in Yemen days before during a critical intelligence gathering mission (emphasis in the original here):

the recently authorized Trump operation in Yemen would have been a part of the advance briefing to this very select oversight committee.  The exact same oversight committee these three brothers worked in the IT department for….

♦ Does the firing have any potential attachment to the outcome in Yemen?

♦ Exactly like Benghazi, the Washington DC cover your a[–] machine would never, ever allow sunlight upon such a consequential intelligence compromise.  They would never allow, nor even launch, an investigation in that regard. Too dangerous.

So you decide.

The Daily Caller article also states that the computer of Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was forced to resign on July 24, 2016 as head of the Democratic National Committee, might have been compromised by these three men. WikiLeaks released a series of her emails which were critical of Bernie Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

Furthermore:

The brothers are suspected of serious violations, including accessing members’ computer networks without their knowledge and stealing equipment from Congress …

A criminal investigation into five unnamed people began late last year related to serious and potentially illegal violations of House IT policies, Politico reported Thursday. Chiefs of staff for the members were briefed Thursday by the Sergeant-at-Arms.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki said the investigation was still ongoing, and arrests have not been made but staff were “asked to update their security settings.”

Interestingly, Hina Alvi, the woman who owns the house in Virginia where the brothers live, also works in IT for the House of Representatives. Politico says she is married to Imran and is also under investigation.

Anti-conservative riots

Sessions will also have to figure out a way to get local police not to stand by idly while ‘protesters’ harm innocent people and damage public or private property.

He will also need to ensure through the relevant law enforcement agencies that agitators and activist groups are thoroughly investigated and, where necessary, prosecuted.

The latest instance was in Berkeley last weekend, where a mob violently reacted to a scheduled appearance by young British conservative Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California (UC) Berkeley.

UC Berkeley denied that its faculty or students were part of the melée, however, members of the public are less sure:

Berkeley Police stood and watched as the mayhem went on unabated.

Washington DC’s finest were also lax in preventing Trump supporters from harm during the inauguration.

Safety of American citizens at home

For years, Americans have read of illegal aliens committing harrowing acts against American citizens who are minding their own business.

Trump mentioned several of these crimes during his presidential campaign in 2016. He also had their families speak of the harrowing incidents at some of his rallies.

A lesser known case is that of Earl Olander, 90, who was brutally murdered on his Minnesota farm by two illegal aliens from south of the border. Olander hired one of the men to paint his house in 2014. His niece said that the farmer was very kind to him and bought him snacks and beverages from a nearby shop. On April 8, 2015, the house painter returned to Olander’s house — with an accomplice — to bind him with duct tape and beat him to death. On May 6, 2016, the two men were given sentences of 37 years each. They will be deported after they complete their sentences. Breitbart reported:

Olander spent his last minutes on Earth blinded, bound, and bleeding to death on his living room floor while listening to Vergara and Benitez tear through his home. Police didn’t find him until a day or two later.

It was his Bible that Vergara and Benitez stole that led police to find him: Someone cleaning out the apartment the killers fled found the Bible stuffed with Olander’s savings bonds and after learning Olander was a murder victim called authorities.

Also in Minnesota, in December 2016, a Somali refugee who had been in the US for only three months raped a woman on a bus. If found guilty of this felony, he could receive up to 30 years in prison. Breitbart tried to find out what refugee programme he entered under but received no response. Gateway Pundit has several links about the story, including Breitbart‘s. Alarmingly, he was released from the Northwest Regional Correction Center on $5,000 bond on condition that he does not leave Minnesota. Who knows where he could be now?

Conclusion

Trump had this to say at Sessions’s swearing-in:

Afterwards, he signed three EOs: one for a task force on crime reduction and public safety, one for preventing violence against federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement officers and one for enforcing federal law with respect to transnational criminal organisations and preventing international trafficking.

We can be certain that the next eight years will be busy ones for Jeff Sessions. I wish him Godspeed! A nation’s prayers are with him!

And if he can make pizza great again, we will be eternally grateful.

(Continued from Wednesday’s post …) 

Please continue to pray for the people in Haiti at this troubled time.  

History over the past century

1902: A German warship intervenes in a Haitian uprising, forcing a rebel gunboat to blow itself up or face seizure.  Germans living in Haiti number around 200, yet they control around 80% of international commerce from the island and administer customs receipts.  Berlin wants to install a coal station there to serve the German naval fleet.  

1914: With the outbreak of the First World War, the US starts putting together a plan to annex Haiti.

1915: Guillaume Sam rules Haiti, proving to be just as unpopular with the people as his recent predecessors.  He executes 167 political prisoners, resulting in mob violence in Port-au-Prince. The mob finds Sam and pulls his body to pieces. They then parade his dismembered corpse openly through the streets. The US uses this as a pretext to annex the nation for stability in the region.  The US controls customs houses, which means that they now administer the receipts instead of the Germans.  They also administer Haitian government offices. 

1915-1934: The US occupies Haiti; you can read more here.  Martial law existed until 1929 and figureheads were installed as presidents. Although this period is very orderly and the Haitians’ physical health improves, racial tension is everywhere.  A new type of Haitian artist and political activist emerges to reinforce the Haitian identity against the white Americans.  Haitians unite behind the mulatto elite.  In the late 1920s, the Forbes Commission concludes that there is no desire on the part of Haitians for orderly government, relief of poverty or self-determination.  The last contingent of Marines leaves in August 1934.

1937: Dominican dictator Trujillo Molina orders his troops to massacre 15,000 – 20,000 Haitians on the Dominican side of Hispaniola. President Vincent dismisses his Army Commander, Calixte, thought to be working secretly with Trujillo.  Calixte later accepts a post from Trujillo.  This spells the end to disloyalty in the Haitian Army.  From now on, the Army supports the Haitian president unconditionally — including politically.

1943: Vincent’s successor, Lescot, is under the influence of Trujillo’s money and power.  It transpires that Trujillo was able to buy the Haitian votes that brought Lescot to power. 

1946: Lescot jails the editors of a Marxist magazine.  The cities respond with strikes and protests.  The Revolution of 1946 results in the Garde — Army — assuming power in a three-member military junta.   They promise to hold free elections.  Dumarsais Estimé, a former schoolteacher, is elected and moves the country leftward away from the mulatto elite.

1950: The Haitian Army — formerly the Garde — moves in again and deposes Estimé.  

1957-1971: Francois Duvalier rules the country with an iron fist.  People live in fear of the man popularly known as ‘Papa Doc’.  The brutal torture by the Tontons Macoute of political enemies is commonplace.  Yet, many Haitians today mourn his loss.  You can read more here.

1971-1986: Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier succeeds his late father.  On a visit to Haiti in 1983, Pope John Paul II declares, ‘Something must change here.’  His message galvanises Catholics to ensure fairer social and economic practices. But it also unleashes social and political activists who start riots and agitate disaffected Haitians.  Duvalier responds by cracking down on the organisers and participants.  The US finds the violence and instability so alarming that they refuse Duvalier political asylum, although they offer him and his family assistance to leave Haiti.  Duvalier and his family move to … France!  A revolving door of successors sits behind the president’s desk.

1989 – 2009: Haiti receives a total of $2bn internationally in aid for development.  Yet, the people see very little of this as the money goes to finance the lifestyles of the ruling class. 

2001: Canadian minister Denis Paradis, parliamentary secretary for the Canadian foreign affairs minister, declares after a visit: “If the Canadians treated their animals the way the Haitian authorities treat their citizens, they would be put in prison.”

2004: Ex-priest and Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide flees the country in exile.  The word on the street is that he was dabbling in black magic and displeasing the loas, or vodou spirits.  More about Aristide here.  

2008: Comparing nations, the Dominican Republic has a per capita income of $8,200 and a ranking of 119th in the world.  By contrast, Haiti has a per capita income of $1,300 and ranked 203rd.  Haitians with little to no food resort to eating mud biscuits.  Meanwhile, Canada has a surplus of hogs, which end up slaughtered, yet Haiti could use the meat.     

Survival

Some working parents are no longer able to afford breakfast for their children.  Yet, only 30 years ago, Haiti was self-sufficient in rice production. In 1986, the IMF and World Bank lent Haiti $24.6m after Jean-Claude Duvalier looted the Treasury and left the country.  In return, Haiti had to lower tariff protection for its rice. As a result, cheaper US rice flooded in to Haiti.  Haiti’s national rice production plummeted. Food prices across the board have shot up over the years.

There is one voluntary organisation for every 800 residents

Haitians living abroad send $2bn home to their families annually.  This gives them leverage to stay afloat economically and may provide a way forward in rebuilding the country.

The restavecs (‘stay withs’) are children whose parents give them up for money to other Haitians or foreigners.  These children in effect become slaves — in many ways — to other families.

Cunning and duplicity are considered virtues.  They are seen as a means to an end — staying alive — in a land which revolves around survival of the fittest.  

For many, vodou is the panacea for physical or economic upsets.  Candles flickering on the streets or beaches at night indicate prayers and petitions to the loas, or spirits.  It seems many believe that they are better off with vodou than with Christianity

Yet, a retired English physician says, ‘No one who has been to Haiti ever loses his interest in the country. It is one of those places that, because of its history, because of its culture, because of its torments, captures the imagination and never lets it go. You respond to it not with tough, but appalled love.’

 

2010: The earthquakes

– Because of the poor construction, it is believed that even an earthquake measuring 2.0 would have levelled many of Haiti’s buildings.

– Private donations pour in from all over the world.   

January 13: An earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale occurs near Port-au-Prince.  President Preval, who is also homeless, thanks countries sending in aid and help.

January 13 (BBC News – television): British firefighters prepare to fly out to Haiti.  Workmen clear Gatwick Airport runways of snow, enabling the flight to leave later in the day.

January 13 (BBC News – television): An emergency generator is brought in to Haiti’s main airport in Port-au-Prince to get it up and running again. 

January 14: Should journalists be helping instead of standing by reporting?

January 14: No food, no water, nothing except for a few aid agencies on the ground — a near-apocalypse.

January 14: What happens when all the institutions you depend on vanish at once? 

January 15: Haitians set up roadblocks in protest at slow relief efforts. Three million people — one third of the population — are injured or homeless.

January 15: Environmentally ‘friendly’ policies aren’t always people-friendly.  They can kill.

January 15: Gangs with machetes roam the streets of Port-au-Prince.

January 16: Neighbouring Dominican Republic arranges to take in several thousand Haitians who need emergency medical help, however, they emphasise it’s only a temporary measure. They reinforce the border to prevent an influx of refugees.  You can read more about the relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic here.

January 16: Haitian seminarian says how important it is to keep one’s faith in God.  Others, looking at the cathedral ruins, say that God is angry with them.

January 16: Haitian consul blames voodoo for quake.

January 16: President Obama pledges $100m in aid as well as military humanitarian help. 

January 17: Presidents Clinton and Bush say ‘now is not the time for politics’.  Now is the time to help Haiti build a truly modern state with a more resilient economy.

January 17: US accused of ‘annexing airport’.  Other flights must land in the Dominican Republic.

January 17: Elderly nursing home residents await their final moments.  Younger people have stolen what the elderly had — clean underwear and money.  Some need dressings or incontinence pads changed, and yet, young refugees walk by, ignoring them.  

January 17: Senegal offers to resettle Haitians, including repatriation and free land in an opportunity ‘to return to their origin’.   

January 17: Criminals who were able to escape when the main prison collapsed are back on the streets after setting the remains of the Ministry of Justice on fire in an attempt to destroy their records.

January 17: Voodoo priests object to 50,000 mass burials.

January 17: Elsewhere, Haitians bury their dead with voodoo rituals.

January 17: Tampa, Florida, may take in a number of Haitian refugees.  The airport is on standby.

January 18: A woman was decapitated near a Port-au-Prince market randomly just so a robber could grab what she was carrying — whatever it was.

January 18: France and the US argue about why aid is not reaching Haitians.

January 18: 22-year old Catholic says he and the congregation have not lost their faith in God.

January 19: Israel sends two jumbo jets with 220 aid workers — doctors, nurses and civil engineers.

January 19: Aid finally starts to trickle through amidst roadblocks and violence.

January 19: Dentist puts kids on bus to fend for themselves:

Some Haitians sent only their children to the countryside while they stay behind to try to resume their jobs and find decent housing.

Fearing an outbreak of disease or violence, Charlemagne Ulrick had put his three children ages 4 to 11 on an overloaded truck for an all-day journey to Mole Saint Nicolas, at the far tip of Haiti’s northwestern peninsula.

“They have to go and save themselves,” said Ulrick, a dentist. “I don’t know when they’re coming back.”

Words fail me. What happens to them now?

January 20: Another quake hits Haiti — 5.9 on the scale.

January 23: Bolivia and Costa Rica are hit by quakes measuring 5.0+.

When and where does it all end?

They should always insist on the Bwa Kayiman ceremony which took place on the 13/14 of August 1791. 

They should always insist on this truth: the 21 nations of African Ginen [spirits] came together in order to snatch Haiti from under the claws of the French foreigners. — ZANTRAY (Haitian group for the promotion of vodou)     

Even for those who profess the Christian faith, vodou (voodoo) plays an important role in the hearts and minds of most Haitians.  It took me some time to find a detailed, historical explanation of an academic nature and finally discovered an English translation of a Swedish paper, ‘”Our Government is in Bwa Kayiman”: A Vodou Ceremony in 1791 and Its Contemporary Significations’ by Markel Thylefors in the Stockholm Review of Latin American Studies, Issue No. 4, March 2009, which is available here.         

The paper is 12 pages long, but for those who are interested in finding out more about Haitian identity, independence and culture, it is essential reading. All sources are listed at the end of the paper. What follows are summaries and excerpts in a Q&A format.        

What is Bwa Kayiman?        

Bwa Kayiman is known in French as Bois Caïman, or Cayman Wood.  It was at this location where a ceremony in 1791 took place, led by a houngan (vodou priest) named Boukman (Bookman).  It is said to have started the Haitian Revolution for independence from French colonial slaveowners.  The slaves gained their independence in 1804.       

The ceremony involved a gathering of 200 slave foremen from various plantations.  Boukman led the group with fiery exhortations to action.  A black pig was sacrificed.  (See page 3 of the paper for details.)       

Here is a pictorial representation (courtesy of ChrisHorner.net):        

       

Accounts since then differ as to the location of Bwa Kayiman.  Some say it is on the Morne Rouge in the northern plain.  However, Thylefors research indicated more than one place in the north claiming to be Bwa Kayiman (p. 5).       

Did the ceremony actually take place?       

Whilst there is plenty of documentation about the events leading up to the Haitian Revolution, none mentions either Bwa Kayiman or the meeting.  Yet, both are part of Haitian identity, not just at home but in the public sphere.  The late Haitian dictator Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier wrote in 1968 (p. 3):       

… [T]hey celebrated the ceremony of Bois-Caïman during which they all swore to take vengeance against the White colonizers by iron and fire. A grand Vodou priest called Boukman became the terrible organizer of the slave revolt. Hallaou, Hyacinthe, the Lafortunes, all Vodou priests made fanatic by their African beliefs, pulverized the Northern plains of Haiti so that the burning flames of a thousand glowing houses could be seen as far as the Bermuda Islands. The African beliefs thus served to gather the slaves in the face of the conquest of the Independence of Haiti. (Duvalier, 1968: 278-279, [Thylefors’s] translation)       

In 2003, the former Catholic priest and Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide declared vodou an official religion of the nation and in 2006 wrote (p. 3):      

To free themselves from the bonds of slavery, our forefathers turned to the Ancestors in the ceremony of Bois Caïman, in August 1791. In other words, to become free, the slaves prayed not to the God of his master but to the God of Ancestors.      

How alive is this memory?     

Thylefors explains (p. 3):     

The event of the Bwa Kayiman ceremony forms an important part of Haitian national identity as it relates to the very genesis of Haiti. Moreover, the Vodou constituent of the Bwa Kayiman ceremony also manifests a particular cultural, or ethnic, dimension of the Haitian Revolution and ensuing declaration of the Republic of Haiti. Thus, it is not surprising that the event is taught at school, referred to in public debates and appears in popular songs (cf. CHAR, 2007; cf. AHP, 2007; cf. Fombrun, 1980).     

He also quotes a vodou priest who says (p. 4):    

Whatever Haitian you are, since you’re Haitian; be it a Catholic priest – you’re Vodouisant, be it a reverend – you’re Vodouisant. Because when you say “Haiti,” you say “Vodou.” When you say “Vodou,” you say “Haiti.” Because this little terrain, this little piece of earth right here.  I believe that two hundred years [ago] – Vodou gave it its independence. Do you understand? You recognize this? 
 
In 1991, vodou practitioners celebrated the bicentenary of Bwa Kayiman in its various claimed locations.  In more recent years, Protestant missionaries have tried to conduct prayer meetings at these spots, but Haitian police have made it difficult or impossible for them to proceed.  It would appear that Protestants are more interested than Catholics in turning these into Christian sites.      

  

What do historical records tell us?

A large meeting did take place near Morne Rouge on the Le Normand plantation on August 14, 1791.  The slaveowners granted the foremen permission to meet under the pretext that the assembly was meeting to share a meal.  In addition, the foremen had an inclination that abolitionists and revolutionaries in France supported their cause.  However, there is no record of a vodou ceremony taking place.  The support they understood to have had encouraged them to start their revolt (p. 4). 

The notion of the ceremony appeared in writings published in 1814 from Antoine Dalmas, a French doctor who was on the island at the time and stayed through the early years of the revolution.  Dalmas mentions the ‘kind of feast, or sacrifice’ of the pig.  However, this event took place a week later on August 21 — and 10 kilometers away from Morne Rouge.  It would appear that later writings conflated the two events (p. 6). 

In 1819, a French revolutionary and abolitionist Civique de Gastine was the first to write that the ceremony and the meeting were the same event.  Although he had not visited Haiti at the time he wrote his account, borrowed heavily from Dalmas, he put the elements and imagery of Bwa Kayiman into the popular imagination.  In 1824, the Haitian government minister and writer Hérard Dumesle published what later became known as the legendary Boukman Prayer.  Dumesle never mentioned Boukman, although subsequent writers and historians have. An English translation of the prayer goes like this:

The god who created the sun which gives us light, who rouses the waves and rules the storm, though hidden in the clouds, he watches us. He sees all that the white man does. The god of the white man inspires him with the crime, but our god calls upon us to do good works. Our god who is good to us orders us to revenge our wrongs. He will direct our arms and aid us. Throw away the symbol of the god of the whites who has so often caused us to weep, and listen to the voice of liberty, which speaks in the hearts of us all.

Yet, there is a dichotomy between what appears a clear rejection of Christianity and the adherence to Christianity of the Haitians of the time.  Perhaps it reveals more about Dumesle’s own ideology than what was actually said at Bwa Kayiman.  As Thylefors explains (p. 6):

Revolutionary leaders like Toussaint and Dessalines might have practiced Vodou, nevertheless their Catholic allegiances are well-established. Macaya and Romaine-la-Prophétesse were two other rebel leaders who made eclectic use of both Christian and African beliefs. Romaine even claimed being the godson of the Virgin Mary (Rey, 2002: 270-271).

Conclusion

Thylefors writes that when he visited Haiti in 2006 and 2007, he attended three vodou press conference where Bwa Kayiman was mentioned at each.  Yet, the documented history of Haiti shows only three occasions where vodou played a part in the revolution.  It also did not seem to figure highly in the southern region during that time (p. 9).  Yet, Thylefors says that it is highly likely that revolutionaries and slaves engaged in vodou rituals and prayers before important skirmishes. 

He posits two ideas. One, that the interest in Bwa Kayiman and devotion to vodou is a means of escapism from corrupt government and a means of remembering past glories. Two, the emphasis on the trigger for the Revolution and vodou may be a reference point for transforming it into a more peaceful religion today.

The point is that no one can downplay vodou when talking about Haiti or Haitians.  For many, it is part and parcel of their history and identity. 

Tomorrow: A Haitian Dossier — Part 2

We don’t really have a set of complete information in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquakes with regard to history and socio-political analysis.  What follows is a humble attempt with links to help us better understand this small Caribbean nation.  Please continue to pray for Haiti and its people.

Fast facts

The following data come from CIA — The World Factbook, where you can find detailed information:

– Size: comparable to Maryland

– Population: 9m; 38% are children under the age of 14; median age is 20 years

– People: 60 years life expectancy; 52% literacy rate; religion — 96% Christian (80% Catholic, 16% Protestant); 50% of the population practices voodoo 

– Border: shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic

– Government: Republic, with constitution (1987) and universal voting at the age of 18; President is René Preval (2006)

– Climate: tropical and semi-arid;  prone to hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, droughts 

– Terrain: rough and mountainous; deforestation a problem; only 28% of the land is arable; only 12% is used to grow permanent crops

Fight for independence

1492: Christopher Columbus discovers the island.  Spaniards work native population to death in silver mines within 10 years’ time.

1791: August 14 — a meeting and/or voodoo ritual takes place at Bois Caïman on St Dominique (Haiti’s original name) which starts the Haitian Revolution of African slaves from Niger and Dahomey (Bénin) against their French owners (more on this tomorrow).

1791: August 25 — the revolution begins.  50,000 slaves revolt. 1,000 French-owned sugar and coffee plantations are burnt to the ground.

1793: Britain, at war with France, decides to invade St Dominique and end the revolution. Five years and 12,000 British soldiers later, they withdraw.  Britain at that time is the world’s superpower and largest slave-trading nation.

1794: Spain, possibly colluding with Britain, invades.  They also fail.

1800:  The efforts of Toussaint L’Ouverture, who leads the slave forces, causes the opposing mulatto army to surrender. Some mullatoes leave the island.  L’Ouverture then puts plans in place to stabilise the country.  He also begins corresponding with US President John Adams, who sends him arms and ships. (Yes, the US was a slave-owning nation at the time.  This did make the US slaveowners nervous.)

1801: A constitution is drawn up and the extant Colonial Assembly gives L’Ouverture executive power to accompany his title of Governor General for Life.

1802: Napoleon Bonaparte sends his brother-in-law General Leclerc with 10,000 troops from the mainland to quell the fighting but to no avail.  The general and most of the troops die in battle — but not before a weakened L’Ouverture surrenders to the French, who were in a strong position at the time. 

1803: L’Ouverture is sent by ship to France where he dies in a cold prison dungeon in the Jura mountains on April 7.  Napoleon sells Louisiana and contiguous French territories to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.  He loses interest in that part of the world.  Leclerc’s replacement, General Rochambeau, flees to Jamaica where he surrenders to the British.

1804: January 1 — a new nation called Haiti declares its independence.  Jean Jacques Dessalines succeeds L’Ouverture as leader and becomes the people’s liberator.

1805: Dessalines crowns himself (like Charlemagne!) Emperor of Haiti.  Corruption, autocracy and licentiousness upset the remaining mulatto population, still an influential part of Haitian society. The economy is going nowhere. He unsuccessfully attempts to invade Santo Domingo in the eastern part of the island. Thus, the two halves of the island are never the same again. The world learns of Dessalines’s brutal treatment of whites and isolates the country. Dessalines travels on horseback with a column of troops to put down a mulatto uprising. A senior mulatto officer shoots him fatally in Port-au-Prince. 

19th century history

1806: Henri Christophe, a black, becomes leader, with Alexandre Pétion, a mulatto, as head of the legislature.  However, the mulattoes effectively made Christophe a figurehead with the real power in Pétion and the legislature.  Unhappy, Christophe establishes his own dominion in the north of the country.  Pétion governs the south as a republic, which has Port-au-Prince as its capital.  Its constitution is closely modelled on that of the United States.

1809: Pétion was less fortunate with his republic.  Although he began land distribution, initially to his soldiers, within a few years almost everyone could buy their own land. However, they had little reason to grow anything other than subsistence crops. Consequently, there aren’t sufficient amounts of harvested crops — like coffee or sugar — to export.  

1811: Christophe  crowns himself Henri I of Haiti and creates a series of noble titles for his friends. He brings in a select, loyal group of warriors from Dahomey (Benin) — the Royal Dahomets — to oversee work on the plantations.  Life for those in the fields is harsh, but better than it had been under Dessalines.  Production and export levels rise, too, bringing in a steady income for the region and its people.

1816: The constitution under which Pétion governed as elected president is replaced with a charter creating an office of President for Life.

1818: Pétion dies.  His mulatto elite remains in place.  He was generally well liked by all the people, however, and becomes known as Papa Bon Coeur (Father Good Heart).  Having said that, he had more of an impact on neighbouring South American countries’ fight for independence than on making his part of Haiti prosperous.  General Jean-Pierre Boyer, Pétion’s confidant, succeeds him.

1820: Henri I commits suicide after he suffers a stroke.  His resulting physical disability causes him to lose control of his army and become despondent.  Boyer, with a show of troops, reunites the nation.

1822: The export of sugar from Haiti ceases.  Sugar mills close and workers lose their jobs.  The military is the only career option for black men, who, being deprived of education, are largely illiterate.

1830s: Boyer’s economy struggles.  Tensions between blacks and mulattoes increase.  Boyer’s opposition is Hérard Dumesle, a writer and political thinker, who encourages Haitians to form a national identity and divorce it from the French. 

1838: France refused to settle claims from Haiti dating from the Revolution.  Boyer was anxious for them to recognise the nation of Haiti. He agrees to pay France never to reclaim Haiti and to secure recognition of Haiti as a nation.  Originally, the amount to be paid was 150m French Francs, which France agreed to reduce to 60m FF.  By then, it was too late.  Haiti’s coffers were evaporating.    

1843: Dumesle, with most of Boyer’s army now on board for reform, overthrows Boyer with the help of his cousin, Charles Rivière-Hérard, who led a troop of rebel forces. When Boyer finds out, he sets sail for Jamaica, never to return.  Rivière-Hérard takes over as military ruler.

1844: An invasion of Santo Domingo by the Dominicans (as in Republic) weakens Rivière-Hérard’s control.  Black farmers in rural areas of Haiti are also unhappy; they want a black president.  Rebel groups oust Rivière-Hérard and the mulatto elite installs Philippe Guerrier, who held a title under Henri I.  This marks the first of the leaders installed by mulattoes to appease blacks in the rural areas.  This period runs through the early 20th century.  You can read more here and here.

1862: Haiti is still shunned by major nations of the day, but the United States recognises it as a fully fledged nation. For the rest of the century, some legislators in the US government propose to annex the island, although this has little support from others.

Tomorrow: The significance of Bois Caïman

Because of all the adverse publicity surrounding what Pat Robertson said about Haiti in a historical context, I refused to watch his CBN broadcast about last week’s earthquake there.

Finally, curiosity overcame my objections.  I watched a six-minute broadcast, which is a news story, including Robertson’s interview with Bill Horan, who runs Robertson’s Operation Blessing in Haiti.  Incidentally, Robertson co-presented with a person of colour, to whom he made the questionable statement. 

Immediately before the earthquake, Horan explained that Operation Blessing was helping a local hospital get rid of raw sewage in an operating theatre.  Now, they will be working with UN relief efforts to get their (Operation Blessing’s) high-tech equipment and supplies to help the victims of this horrific disaster.

You can see the CBN report for yourself here. It’s the lead story. Robertson’s choice of words — one sentence out of six minutes of interviews featuring many people, including Haitians in the US —  wasn’t the best.  However, his own missionaries work there on an ongoing basis. They also have a rescue operation in place right now.  Robertson also asked people to continue to pray for Haiti.   

CBN later issued a statement clarifying what Robertson meant. An excerpt follows:

… This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed. Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God’s wrath. If you watch the entire video segment, Dr. Robertson’s compassion for the people of Haiti is clear …

Indeed it is. Sometimes it’s worthwhile seeing the full picture instead of relying on a soundbite.

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