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That pact with the devil

14 January 2010

“They were under the heel of the French, Napoleón the Third or whoever…”

Thus sayeth Pat Robertson, in claiming Haiti made a “pact with the Devil” in 1804, and somehow leading to an earthquake in 2010.

The barking mad Empress Carlota also confused Napoleón III with the Devil, and there might be some divine grace and mercy extended to the unfortunate and bonkers, but Napoleón the Third wasn’t born until 1808.  Napoleón Bonaparte was the French leader at the time, but he was a very different person.

I’d suggest Pat ask Jesus for forgiveness, but the addled old fool has been been praying to to  Madonna’s boy toy Jesus LuzJesús Alou of the Houston Astros or “narco saint” Jesus Malverde all this time.

Oh well, the original Devil’s bargain was at least French:

The appalling state of the country is a direct result of having offended a quite different celestial authority — the French. France gained the western third of the island of Hispaniola — the territory that is now Haiti — in 1697. It planted sugar and coffee, supported by an unprecedented increase in the importation of African slaves. Economically, the result was a success, but life as a slave was intolerable. Living conditions were squalid, disease was rife, and beatings and abuses were universal. The slaves’ life expectancy was 21 years. After a dramatic slave uprising that shook the western world, and 12 years of war, Haiti finally defeated Napoleon’s forces in 1804 and declared independence. But France demanded reparations: 150m francs, in gold.

For Haiti, this debt did not signify the beginning of freedom, but the end of hope. Even after it was reduced to 60m francs in the 1830s, it was still far more than the war-ravaged country could afford. Haiti was the only country in which the ex-slaves themselves were expected to pay a foreign government for their liberty. By 1900, it was spending 80% of its national budget on repayments. In order to manage the original reparations, further loans were taken out — mostly from the United States, Germany and France. Instead of developing its potential, this deformed state produced a parade of nefarious leaders, most of whom gave up the insurmountable task of trying to fix the country and looted it instead. In 1947, Haiti finally paid off the original reparations, plus interest. Doing so left it destitute, corrupt, disastrously lacking in investment and politically volatile. Haiti was trapped in a downward spiral, from which it is still impossible to escape. It remains hopelessly in debt to this day.

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