The US treated Haiti like a cash register
When the US military invaded Haiti in the summer of 1915, the official explanation was that Haiti was too poor and unstable to be left to its own devices. Secretary of State Robert Lansing made little effort to mask his disdain for the “African race”, portraying the occupation as a civilizational mission intended to end “anarchy, cruelty and oppression”.
But a hint of other motives had come the winter before, when a small team of Marines entered Haiti’s national bank and walked out with $500,000 in gold. Within days it was in the vault of a bank on Wall Street.
“I’ve helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank guys to collect revenue,” said the general who led U.S. forces in Haiti years later, describing himself as a “blackmailer for the capitalism”.
National City Bank was the forerunner of Citigroup, and along with other powers on Wall Street, it forced Washington to seize control of Haiti and its finances, according to decades of diplomatic correspondence, financial reports and archival records reviewed by The Times.
For the next several decades, the United States was the dominant power in Haiti, with parliament dissolving at gunpoint, killing thousands, and shipping much of Haiti’s revenue to bankers in New York, while the farmers who helped generate the profits often lived on the brink of starvation.
What is the 1619 project?
Recognition of a historic moment. In August 2019, DailyExpertNews Magazine launched the 1619 Project, led by Nikole Hannah-Jones. The project explored the history of slavery in the United States and was released to commemorate the anniversary of a ship carrying the first enslaved Africans to the English colonies.
Some historians cite tangible benefits to Haiti during the US occupation, such as hospitals, 800 miles of roads, and a more efficient civil service. But they also point to America’s use of forced labour, in which soldiers tie up workers with ropes, have Haitians build roads without pay, and shoot those who tried to flee.
For a decade, a quarter of Haiti’s total revenues went to pay off debts managed by the National City Bank and its subsidiary, according to nearly two dozen annual reports prepared by US officials and reviewed by The Times.
At times, the American officers who monitored Haiti’s finances spent more of its money to pay for their own salaries and expenses than they did on public health for the entire country of about two million people.