Shot President: Haiti - a country in the stranglehold of dictators and kleptocrats

It was slaves who first revolted on the island that is now Haiti and then founded the first independent state in the Caribbean. But after that, luck has seldom been seen - which is not only due to the old colonial power.

The president was downright massacred. His body had twelve bullet holes and he was hit in the head, chest, hip and stomach. “We found Jovenel Moïse lying on his back, blue pants, a white shirt smeared with blood. The office and bedroom were ransacked, ”said Judge Carl Henry Destin about the assassination of the Haitian head of state. Moïse died in his house in the middle of the night Port-au-Prince. His wife Martine was injured and flown to Miami for treatment.

Dispute over term of office of the president

The attack on Moïse caused consternation worldwide - and it should Crisis exacerbate in the unstable country. The 53-year-old president last ruled by decree after a parliamentary election planned for 2018 was postponed due to protests against him, among other things. Moïse, who took office in February 2017, had always argued that his term of office normally ended in February 2022. From the point of view of his political opponents, however, the mandate expired in February of this year.

The assassination of a head of state is a rarity, even for a region plagued by constant conflict, hardship and violence. "Haiti is in the hands of criminal gangs. Even if it is still open who ordered the murder, the event in a country that is on the brink of the abyss is unfortunately not surprising, ”writes the French newspaper“ L'Alsace ”about the events in the former colony. As bitter as the verdict may sound, almost the entire history of the state has been bitter.

“The life of the owners on St. Domingue is monotonous, that of their slaves is unbearable, because no pet is so plagued with work and so poorly cared for. Sometimes the owners neglect the maintenance of their slaves, either out of greed or out of poverty, and it is therefore not uncommon to see negroes, so almost naked, or covered with such disgusting rags that the sight of them causes both disgust and pity ”. With these The French researcher Justin Girod-Chantrans described drastic words 1782 the terrible conditions on the sugar cane plantations of the Caribbean island, which is now called Haiti and which shares the Antilles island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

The colonial pearl of France

For France, St. Domingue was the most profitable gem among the colonies. But the merciless exploitation could not be sustained for long: nine years after Girod-Chantran's visit, the slaves tore their chains off their bodies and chased their owners away. Their uprising made so much impression in distant Paris that the government there banned slavery in 1794. Another ten years later, the island broke away from France and became the first independent state in the Caribbean. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, Haiti is one of the most politically fragile and economically poorest countries in the world.

Even the famous slave revolt was less romantic than a rebellion of the oppressed against their oppressors would suggest. As with many revolts, the uprising immediately culminated in a kind of civil war, in which not only did everyone fight each other, but also ex-slaves shot each other, loyal to the monarchy at revolutionary French, and to make matters worse, American and Spanish troops intervened. When the former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines became Emperor of Haiti in 1804, some of the former serfs had meanwhile become slave owners themselves.

Emperor Jacques I was murdered two years later by Brigadier General Henri Christophe, who then ruled North Haiti as King for nine years. Haiti has not been able to free itself from this cycle of unrest, uprisings, coups d'etat, tyranny and other power struggles. The colonial legacy is also partly to blame for the country's instability. As with other liberated colonies later, France has demanded financial “compensation” from Haiti for the lost future profits. For decades, the young state had to transfer ransom money to Paris - around 20 billion euros based on today's value. Money that was missing to build and establish its own statehood.

In general, in the course of its history, the country was often only treated as what is called "area of ​​influence" in technical jargon. Speak as a region whose fate is determined by neighboring states or major powers, but not by the population or the government itself. The USA occupied the country from 1915, among other things because a small German minority was preparing to significantly expand its influence on Haiti . Decades later, François Duvalier, known as "Papa Doc", a proven anti-American came to power. Together with his son "Baby Doc" he set up a family dictatorship that was ended by a military coup in the 80s.

Looted by dictators and kleptocrats

Haiti and the Haitians have been hit several times. Not only is the country the plaything of great powers and has been plundered by dictators and other kleptocrats for almost two centuries - it is also geologically unfavorable. Because under the island of Hispaniola, the Caribbean and North American plates rub against each other. Consequence: regularly severe and extremely severe earthquakes. In January 2010, approximately 300.000 people died from the 7,0 tremors. And when that wasn't enough, every year tropical storms destroy the already modest infrastructure of the country.

"Most of my compatriots live a completely normal life, eat the usual food for their latitudes and unfortunately die all too common deaths, the tragedy of which lies in the normality of the accidents, diseases and violent crimes that they cause," wrote the Haitian historian Michel-Rolph Trouillot talked about everyday life in his country some time ago. But for years violence has been increasing in many parts, while the supply of almost all goods has deteriorated. Many Haitians therefore long for a different life.

Haiti's neighbor wants to build a wall through the island

An estimated 80 percent of people with higher education are drawn abroad. Your first destination, because it is obvious, is the Dominican Republic. But the neighbor is overwhelmed by the refugees from the west. To stop the migration flows, the government wants to build a fence along the border - to keep the Haitians out. Those who make it to the USA cannot hope for leniency there either. For example, US President Joe Bidens deported more people to Haiti in his first 100 days in office than predecessor Donald Trump in the whole of last year, like the aid organization Invisible Wall reported.

It is not as if Haiti has been forgotten by the world. There are countless aid organizations on site, but their work often trickles into a thicket of empty promises, confusion of jurisdiction and corruption. A frequent problem is that the land is mostly "owned by a few families with whom the politicians do not want to mess with," says a GEO report. “A young employee of 'Save the Children' said that the 'beautiful, earthquake-proof' school that her organization built for $ 90.000 had been demolished by the school principal: he had an offer from another NGO for an even larger school get “, writes Author Linda Polmann.

Everyone was gone except Sean Penn

When the last major earthquake shook the island eleven years ago, Haiti was overwhelmed by anger. Nowhere in the world were there suddenly more helpers per inhabitant than here. Among them was US actor and director Sean Penn. Back then he packed a plane full of medicine, flew to Port-au-Prince and stayed even after the press photographers had moved on again. To this day, his J / P Haitian Relief Organization oversees numerous aid projects. He recently said of his commitment: “All interventions must be initiated or approved by local people. There are always setbacks that can ruin years of work within seconds. Political circumstances are often decisive. It's often a frustrating game. You do it anyway. Out of hope. "

sources: DPA, Invisble Wall, "Vatican News","FAZ" Earthquake Database, Tagesschau, GEO, Oxford, AFP, Justin Girod-Chantrans: A Swiss travels to various colonies in America during the last war