haiti- not just an arcade fire song

Haitian politics have always been contentious. Its colonial history saw both Britain and France impose themselves on the state, with an economic system reliant upon the slave trade and plantations. Haiti is the only state in the Western Hemisphere to undergo a successful slave revolution. Yet its independence was only recognised some 60 years after the fact. France and the United States, have repeatedly interfered in Haitian politics since the country’s founding, and this consciousness permeates Haitian politics. The economic environment in Haiti is depressing. A substantial portion of the labour sector remains tied to the ‘sweatshop’ or manufacturing industry where low wages are the norm. A 2006 IMF report estimated that some 55% of Haitian families live on 44 cents a  day. The long history of oppression by dictators, including François Duvalier is also an influence upon Haitian consciousness.

Haiti’s recent history has been plagued by internal conflict. In 1990, following the collapse of the notoriously brutal Duvalier dictatorship in which thousands of people were killed or exiled, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest and champion of the poor, became Haiti’s first democratically elected leader. International awareness over the atrocities committed in Haiti is appalling, and this is much to do with foreign involvement into its domestic politics. The motivations for such ‘involvement’ are questionable.

US Involvement: Hopes for stability and democratic reform were dashed within just seven months when the new president was forced to flee after a military coup supported by the wealthy elite. After several months of popular demonstrations and pressures exerted by the international community, especially by France, the USA and Canada, Aristide went into exile. He was escorted from the country by US soldiers on February 29, 2004.

President Aristide: “No, I didn’t resign. What some people call ‘resignation’ is a ‘new coup d’état,’ or ‘modern kidnapping.”

The UN Peacekeeping Mission has been in place in Haiti since the 2004 rebellion. According to its mandate from the UN Security Council, MINUSTAH is required to concentrate the use of its resources, including civilian police, on increasing security and protection during the electoral period and to assist with the restoration and maintenance of the rule of law, public safety and public order in Haiti. Critics argue that its main purpose is to suppress popular opposition to the interim government and to give an impression of legitimacy to the imperialist agenda of France, Canada, and the US, the three countries responsible for orchestrating the overthrow of the Aristide government.

But the Arcade Fire song is awesome.  


~ by k-rock and l-jive on June 20, 2008.

One Response to “haiti- not just an arcade fire song”

  1. The article, like the Arcade Fire song, is a good intro into what is happening in Haiti. For more, read “Damming the Flood” by Peter Hallward, a Canadian philosopher living in England, or “The Uses of Haiti” by Paul Farmer (Arcade Fire donates proceeds from its records and concerts to Dr. Farmer’s organization, Partners in Health)

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