The debt owed to Haiti

September 24, 2022

From the September-October 2022 issue of News & Letters

San Francisco—This May, The New York Times published a detailed account of devastating “reparations” imposed on Haiti after it won independence from France. In a stunning perversion of any concept of justice, the former slaves were forced to pay billions to their former masters to recompense them for loss of their “property.”

The undermining of a Black nation, whose people won their own freedom, has been ongoing ever since. The present state of political unrest and economic misery continues almost uninterrupted since 1804.


Demonstration by Haiti Action Committee and supporters in San Francisco on July 28 demanding Citibank end funding of death squads in Haiti. Photo: Urszula Wislanka for News & Letters

On July 28 Haiti Action Committee called on Citibank—an institution which, according to the speakers, made a lot of money on slavery, made many slave owners very rich, and which today opposes any expenditures for health or education in Haiti—to stop funding death squads and others who massacre Haitians demanding the right to even stay on their own land.

People in Haiti continue to struggle just to survive. This February, thousands of Haitian garment workers demanded an end to horrifying working conditions and demanded a wage increase from $4.80 for a nine-hour workday to $14.40 per day.

Just the cost of transportation to and from the factory would take up to 40% of their wages. The government unleashed police terror on the strikers, though they did offer a small raise, to $7 per day.


Of course, any calls for France, or U.S., or Citibank, to pay reparations are not intended as windfall for the present corrupt government. The question is whether they can help form a basis for a free and democratic Haiti, with resources to establish a society in which all can flourish.

The wish for a better society resonated with many people present at the demonstration, including Black Lives Matter and SF Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines. Demonstrators chanted: “No to occupation! Yes to Liberation!”

—Urszula Wislanka

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