Haiti’s debt of independence

March 5, 2004
A fight for leadership in the Caribbean nation of Haiti has plunged the Western hemisphere’s poorest country into further turmoil. The only nation in history to successfully overthrow enslavement, Haiti may also have been one of the developing world’s first heavily indebted countries. A significant portion of Haiti’s current multi-billion-dollar debt load is believed to have been amassed under the notorious 30-year Duvalier dictatorship, led by “Papa Doc” Duvalier and succeeded by his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc,” whose overthrow in 1986 led to his exile in France where he remains. The Haitian government launched a move several years ago to prosecute “Baby Doc” for crimes committed during his 15 years of rule, including the alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars secreted in Swiss banks. “Baby Doc,” said to be living in poverty, told a U.S. television station this week that he wanted to return to his homeland now that ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had fled to the Central African Republic in search of exile. In the lead-up to the country’s 200th anniversary of Haitian independence from France on Jan. 1, 2004, Aristide sought restitution from another of Haiti’s former rulers. According to Aristide, France owes Haiti nearly $22 billion in reparations for forcing Haiti into massive debt in exchange for recognition as a republic. Earlier this year, a Wall Street Journal article traced the history of Haiti’s long-ago debt to France and the story behind Aristide’s controversial debt challenge.

Categories: Haiti, Odious Debts

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