A series of articles from New York Times (article in English), published Friday, May 20, brings to light the tragic history of Haiti’s independence and the astronomical debt that the country had to pay to France in the 19th century.

After several months of analysis of archives, the American newspaper estimated that the payments, paid from 1825 by the first black republic in history, to compensate the former slave colonists, “cost Haiti’s economic development between $21 billion and $115 billion in losses over two centuries, or one to eight times the country’s gross domestic product in 2020.”

If the publication is widely shared and commented on social networks, complete silence prevails both on the side of the authorities in place in Port-au-Prince and on the side of its opponents.

Ousting of President Aristide under French pressure

The reluctance of Haitian leaders to embrace this cause can also be explained by Western interventionism in the recent past of the Caribbean country. In 2003, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had made the question of this debt of independence his battle horse, quantifying, to the penny, the amount received by France at more than 21 billion dollars.

Faced with an armed insurrection and a popular revolt, which denounced violations of human rights, he was ousted from power in February 2004, under strong American, French and Canadian pressure.

Questioned almost two decades later by the New York TimesThierry Burkard, French Ambassador at the time, admits that there was “a little” link between the ousting of President Aristide and his demands for the restitution of this debt.

Toxic loans paid to CIC

By declaring its independence on January 1, 1804, Haiti finds itself banished from the nations of a world then dominated by slave powers. The payments demanded by France have deprived the Haitian economy of resources vital to its growth as much as they have allowed its former metropolis to prosper.

the New York Times thus showed how, at the end of the 19th century, the CIC bank repatriated to France, via toxic loans supposed to help Port-au-Prince to purge its debt, the income of the young Haitian national bank. This capital subsequently enabled the Parisian banking establishment to finance, in particular, the construction of the Eiffel Tower.

The current parent company of the CIC reacted Monday to the revelations of the American media. “Because it is important to illuminate all components of the history of colonization – including in the 1870s, the mutual bank will fund independent academic work to shed light on this past”, announced Crédit Mutuel in a press release.


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