Tag Archives: Haiti


In 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti causing massive destruction in the City of Port au Prince and the smaller towns along the northern peninsula of the island. Several towns or small cities were utterly flattened. The death toll is estimated to have been as high as 300,000. The world responded and billions of dollars were pledged to assist the failed nation state to recover and rebuild. The NGO’s, foreign powers, and charitable organizations all rushed in to help…

Six years later, if you visit Haiti – not a hell of a lot has changed.

A fresh disaster, Hurricane Matthew has visited the island, and once again we are treated to dire reports –

Hurricane Matthew toll in Haiti rises to 1,000, dead buried in mass graves

Haiti started burying some of its dead in mass graves in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a government official said on Sunday, as cholera spread in the devastated southwest and the death toll from the storm rose to 1,000 people.

The powerful hurricane, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, slammed into Haiti on Tuesday with 145 mile-per-hour (233 kph) winds and torrential rains that left 1.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

A Reuters tally of numbers from local officials showed that 1,000 people were killed by the storm in Haiti, which has a population of about 10 million and is the poorest country in the Americas.

The official death toll from the central civil protection agency is 336, a slower count because officials must visit each village to confirm the numbers.

Authorities had to start burying the dead in mass graves in Jeremie because the bodies were starting to decompose, said Kedner Frenel, the most senior central government official in the Grand’Anse region on Haiti’s western peninsula.

Frenel said 522 people were killed in Grand’Anse alone. A tally of deaths reported by mayors from 15 of 18 municipalities in Sud Department on the south side of the peninsula showed 386 people there. In the rest of the country, 92 people were killed, the same tally showed.

Frenel said there was great concern about cholera spreading, and that authorities were focused on getting water, food and medication to the thousands of people living in shelters.

Cholera causes severe diarrhea and can kill within hours if untreated. It is spread through contaminated water and has a short incubation period, which leads to rapid outbreaks.

Government teams fanned out across the hard-hit southwestern tip of the country over the weekend to repair treatment centers and reach the epicenter of one outbreak.

Once again the NGOs and charitable organizations are calling for money to help Haiti.

The response this time has been decidedly muted.

Of the $12 billion promised to Haiti after the earthquake for major infrastructure rebuilding, only about $600 million, mostly spent in humanitarian aid was ever actually spent. The monies promised for the major infrastructure projects, a new Airport, a sewage treatment plans, new power plants, drinking water processing, storm drainage…was never spent.

Why? Largely because of the Haitian Government, and the Haitians themselves.

Bill Clinton, through the Clinton-Bush Foundation formed the International Haitian Reconstruction Commission. It was funded by promised donations to over $3 billion. The Foundation only spent about $300 million of that. The IHRC Commission was made up of 22 voting members, with final approval for all projects by the Committee Chair Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive. Chairman Bellerive tabled all of the major development projects, including the Airport, Septic plant, water processing, and storm drainage. So none of those projects got done.

Bill Clinton’s failure was in believing the Haitian Ministers would forgo the usual corruption and act in the best interest of the country…They didn’t.

A lot of the problems the country experienced with Matthew could have been mitigated or averted.

Here is an example. The reason the earthquake was so particularly devastating in Haiti was because of the low grade form of concrete utilized in most Haitian buildings. Concrete can be made with a variety of sand, but the type of sand used vastly affects the strength of the concrete. Haiti, unlike many of the islands in the Caribbean was formed by geological uplift from the bottom of the ocean. You dig anywhere in Haiti 12 inches below ground and you hit granite. Faced with the prospect of importing silica based sand, which makes the strongest concrete, Haitians used the cheaper locally acquired granite sand, resulting in a concrete at least 300% weaker. In engineering terms a concrete crumbling at 1000 psi, vs 3300 psi used to commonly build structures in the US, and even 7000 psi used to built airport runways and special structures. What you get from Granite sand is a concrete which vaporizes when shaken by an earthquake. When I arrived in Haiti after the earthquake, the entire city of Port au Prince was covered in an inch thick layer of concrete dust. In the frenetic rebuilding after the earthquake, the Haitian Government had the choice to set standards as to the types of materials used. They refused. So construction continued with the sub-par concrete. The new buildings fell…Again, during Matthew. And it wasn’t an issue of cost per say. My company investigated having barges bring in sand from Louisiana, and over 1,000 cubic yards a clip. The cost was not prohibitive (less than $10-20 million for 1 million cubic yards), and could have easily been covered by one of the grants to give the necessary sand to the public.

You can’t help somebody whose interest aren’t in helping themselves. It’s sad, and I cry for the innocent civilians… But there is little anyone can do about it.

Perhaps that is why there isn’t quite the outpouring of sympathy anymore.


Posted by on October 10, 2016 in Haiti


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There are No Trees in Haiti… Because the Kids Ate Them!

There is no shortage of food in Haiti.

There a a very many other things screwed up in the country, including  an obscene “Container Tax” which makes it impossible to sell their foodstuffs overseas…But there is no shortage of food.

You will find one of the below on almost every commercial block in Haitian cities –

Image result for Haiti Food Vendors

There are almost no trees left in Haiti, although there are half a dozen groups that have been successful in replanting some areas.

So this is a bit of a surprise…

The kids ate them?


Posted by on October 4, 2016 in Faux News, Haiti


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UN Finally Admits Role in Cholera Epidemic in Haiti

The whole truth of this, as I suspect a lot of things in the 3rd world, has never been admitted. Having been in Haiti working when the epidemic started, I think the numbers provided by the world press are off by 5 or more. Indeed, one person I know who was in position to say – put the number of dead the first two days at double the claimed total number today.

The Haitians figured out pretty quick where the cholera came from. A disease which Papa Doc had eliminated in the country. The UN promptly went into cover-up mode, even when it was found that the sewage trenches dug by their soldiers from Nepal were leaking directly into the river. And even after it was discovered by DWB that the strain of cholera was native to the Nepal region of Asia. Even when it was shown that those soldier hadn’t been screened for cholera and other infectuous diseases (which is a UN requirement) prior to deployment.

Haitian despise the UN’s Minustah which is their “Peacekeeping” Military force – and this is just one of the reasons.

U.N. Admits Role in Cholera Epidemic in Haiti

For the first time since a cholera epidemic believed to be imported by United Nations peacekeepers began killing thousands of Haitians nearly six years ago, the office of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged that the United Nations played a role in the initial outbreak and that a “significant new set of U.N. actions” will be needed to respond to the crisis.

The deputy spokesman for the secretary general, Farhan Haq, said in an email this week that “over the past year, the U.N. has become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera.” He added that a “new response will be presented publicly within the next two months, once it has been fully elaborated, agreed with the Haitian authorities and discussed with member states.”

The statement comes on the heels of a confidential report sent to Mr. Ban by a longtime United Nations adviser on Aug. 8. Written by Philip Alston, a New York University law professor who serves as one of a few dozen experts, known as special rapporteurs, who advise the organization on human rights issues, the draft language stated plainly that the epidemic “would not have broken out but for the actions of the United Nations.”

The secretary general’s acknowledgment, by contrast, stopped short of saying that the United Nations specifically caused the epidemic. Nor does it indicate a change in the organization’s legal position that it is absolutely immune from legal actions, including a federal lawsuit brought in the United States on behalf of cholera victims seeking billions in damages stemming from the Haiti crisis.

But it represents a significant shift after more than five years of high-level denial of any involvement or responsibility of the United Nations in the outbreak, which has killed at least 10,000 people and sickened hundreds of thousands. Cholera victims suffer from dehydration caused by severediarrhea or vomiting.

Special rapporteurs’ reports are technically independent guidance, which the United Nations can accept or reject. United Nations officials have until the end of this week to respond to the report, which will then go through revisions, but the statement suggests a new receptivity to its criticism.

In the 19-page report, obtained from an official who had access to it, Mr. Alston took issue with the United Nations’ public handling of the outbreak, which was first documented in mid-October 2010, shortly after people living along the Meille River began dying from the disease.

The first victims lived near a base housing 454 United Nations peacekeepers freshly arrived from Nepal, where a cholera outbreak was underway, and waste from the base often leaked into the river. Numerous scientists have since argued that the base was the only plausible source of the outbreak — whose real death toll, one study found, could be much higher than the official numbers state — but United Nations officials have consistently insisted that its origins remain up for debate.

Mr. Alston wrote that the United Nations’ Haiti cholera policy “is morally unconscionable, legally indefensible and politically self-defeating.” He added, “It is also entirely unnecessary.” The organization’s continuing denial and refusal to make reparations to the victims, he argued, “upholds a double standard according to which the U.N. insists that member states respect human rights, while rejecting any such responsibility for itself.”

He said, “It provides highly combustible fuel for those who claim that U.N. peacekeeping operations trample on the rights of those being protected, and it undermines both the U.N.’s overall credibility and the integrity of the Office of the Secretary-General.”

Mr. Alston went beyond criticizing the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to blame the entire United Nations system. “As the magnitude of the disaster became known, key international officials carefully avoided acknowledging that the outbreak had resulted from discharges from the camp,” he noted.

His most severe criticism was reserved for the organization’s Office of Legal Affairs, whose advice, he wrote, “has been permitted to override all of the other considerations that militate so powerfully in favor of seeking a constructive and just solution.” Its interpretations, he said, have “trumped the rule of law.”

Mr. Alston also argued in his report that, as The New York Times hasreported, the United Nations’ cholera eradication program has failed. Infection rates have been rising every year in Haiti since 2014, as the organization struggles to raise the $2.27 billion it says is needed to eradicate the disease from member states. No major water or sanitation projects have been completed in Haiti; two pilot wastewater processing plants built there in the wake of the epidemic quickly closed because of a lack of donor funds.

In a separate internal report released days ago after being withheld for nearly a year, United Nations auditors said a quarter of the sites run by the peacekeepers with the organization’s Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or Minustah, that they had visited were still discharging their waste into public canals as late as 2014, four years after the epidemic began.

“Victims are living in fear because the disease is still out there,” Mario Joseph, a prominent Haitian human rights lawyer representing cholera victims, told demonstrators in Port-au-Prince last month. He added, “If the Nepalese contingent returns to defecate in the water again, they will get the disease again, only worse.”

In 2011, when families of 5,000 Haitian cholera victims petitioned the United Nations for redress, its Office of Legal Affairs simply declared their claims “not receivable.” (Mr. Alston called that argument “wholly unconvincing in legal terms.”)…More…

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Posted by on August 18, 2016 in Haiti


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Martelly Steps Down in Haiti

Probably a good thing in terms of slowing the country’s roll into violence. However once again, the candidates still standing are all bad.

Haiti president steps down without successor in place

Haiti’s President Michel Martelly has stepped down at the end of his term amid tension over how he is to be replaced.

No successor has yet been chosen as opposition supporters challenge a deal to select an interim leader.

The first day of carnival has been called off over the threat of more opposition protests.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is still struggling to recover from a huge earthquake in 2010.

The last-minute deal aims to prevent the country from plunging into an immediate power vacuum.

In a speech, Mr Martelly said his biggest regret was that January’s presidential election had been postponed.

The runoff vote to elect his successor was shelved because of fears of violence and allegations of fraud.

It will now be held on April 24, with a new president due to be sworn in on 14 May.

Under the latest agreement, parliament will elect an interim president and install a transitional government for a four-month term.

Mr Martelly is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election but has thrown his weight behind Jovenel Moise, a banana exporter who won the first round of the presidential election in November.

But the result has been contested by the opposition challenger, Jude Celestin.

He accused the electoral authorities of favouring Mr Moise and threatened to pull out of the runoff vote.

Prime Minister Evans Paul – who is due to remain in his post until parliament agrees his replacement – has appealed for calm.

On Friday, protesters beat a man to death in the capital, Port-au-Prince, in a clash with ex-soldiers.

Martelly was a singer in the Haitian Kompa music style. His onstage antics were legend…

Some of those antics have become fodder for anti-Martelly vids, which would have undoubtedly buried a candidate in the US…

An early video of “Sweet Mickey”


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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in Haiti


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Haiti – The Painter From Jalouzi

Jalouzi is a village built on the mountains on the south side of Port au Prince, which sits in a valley between two ranges. It sits adjacent to Haiti’s wealthiest town, Petionville. Most of it was built during the term of President Aristide, who changed the area’s restrictive zoning laws to the chagrin of the wealthier neighbors. It sits only a few miles from the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, but survived catastrophic damage because of certain factors having to do with the geology of the area, as did the adjoining Petionville. By far, it is not the worst slum in Haiti. If you look at the walls he is painting in the video, you will see a very low grade of concrete, which is used to construct the houses of the poor there. In the areas which were subjected to severe shaking by the earthquake, that concrete vaporized. It is the principal reason so many people died, as their homes just collapsed on top of them. For several months after the earthquake, the streets were covered in an inch or so of fine choking concrete dust. I don’t believe most of these houses have running water, electricity, or sewer. Cooking is done by charcoal fire which covers the entire city in smoke in summer. There is no glass in the windows in most of these homes, which means everyone is exposed to the air pollutants. Which is why Haiti has the highest level of Tuberculosis in the world, and an average life expectancy of only 59 years.

This video shows a bit of the indomitable spirit of the Haitian people.


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Posted by on November 25, 2015 in Haiti


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The History of “Zombies”

The origination of the concept of the “Walking Dead” came from Haiti, It really only has been adopted into the American lexicon in the past 100 years or so. So, on the night before Halloween – the true tale of Zombies…

The original “zombies” were Haitian slaves, condemned to be trapped inside their bodies as slaves forever.

The Tragic, Forgotten History of Zombies

The horror-movie trope owes its heritage to Haitian slaves, who imagined being imprisoned in their bodies forever.

In the original script for 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, the director George A. Romero refers to his flesh-eating antagonists as “ghouls.” Although the film is widely credited with launching zombies into the cultural zeitgeist, it wasn’t until its follow-up 10 years later, the consumerist nightmare Dawn of the Dead, that Romero would actually use the term. While making the first film, Romero understood zombies instead to be the undead Haitian slaves depicted in the 1932 Bela Lugosi horror film White Zombie.

By the time Dawn of the Dead was released in 1978 the cultural tide had shifted completely, and Romero had essentially reinvented the zombie for American audiences. The last 15 years have seen films and TV shows including Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, World War Z, Zombieland, Life After Beth, iZombie, and even the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

But the zombie myth is far older and more rooted in history than the blinkered arc of American pop culture suggests. It first appeared in Haiti in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the country was known as Saint-Domingue and ruled by France, which hauled in African slaves to work on sugar plantations. Slavery in Saint-Domingue under the French was extremely brutal: Half of the slaves brought in from Africa were worked to death within a few years, which only led to the capture and import of more. In the hundreds of years since, the zombie myth has been widely appropriated by American pop culture in a way that whitewashes its origins—and turns the undead into a platform for escapist fantasy.

The original brains-eating fiend was a slave not to the flesh of others but to his own. The zombie archetype, as it appeared in Haiti and mirrored the inhumanity that existed there from 1625 to around 1800, was a projection of the African slaves’ relentless misery and subjugation. Haitian slaves believed that dying would release them back to lan guinée, literally Guinea, or Africa in general, a kind of afterlife where they could be free. Though suicide was common among slaves, those who took their own lives wouldn’t be allowed to return to lan guinée. Instead, they’d be condemned to skulk the Hispaniola plantations for eternity, an undead slave at once denied their own bodies and yet trapped inside them—a soulless zombie.

After the Haitian Revolution in 1804 and the end of French colonialism, the zombie became a part of Haiti’s folklore. The myth evolved slightly and was folded into the Voodoo religion, with Haitians believing zombies were corpses reanimated by shamans and voodoo priests. Sorcerers, known as bokor, used their bewitched undead as free labor or to carry out nefarious tasks. This was the post-colonialism zombie, the emblem of a nation haunted by the legacy of slavery and ever wary of its reinstitution. As the UC Irvine professor Amy Wilentz has pointed out in her writing on zombies, on several occasions after the revolution Haiti teetered on the brink of reinstating slavery. The zombies of the Haitian Voodoo religion were a more fractured representation of the anxieties of slavery, mixed as they were with occult trappings of sorcerers and necromancy. Even then, the zombie’s roots in the horrors of slavery were already facing dilution.
It was in this form—Voodoo bokor and black magic—that the Haitian myth first crossed paths with American culture, in the aforementioned White Zombie. Although the film doesn’t begin to transform the undead in the way that Romero’s films and the subsequent zombie industrial complex would, it’s notable for its introduction of white people as interlopers in the zombie legend. It would take another few decades or so, but eventually the memory of Haiti’s colonialist history and the suffering it wrought—millions of Africans worked into the grave—would be excised from the zombie myth for good…

Which is a shame, because the zombie is such a potent symbol. For example, there’s a clear connection between the zombie of slave-driven Saint-Domingue and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s recent exploration of black disembodiment—the body under constant threat of capture, imprisonment, and murder. For Haitian slaves, the invention of the zombie was proof that the abuse they suffered was in a way more powerful than life itself—they had imagined a scenario in which they continued to be slaves even after death. In Between the World and Me, observing a young boy in front of a 7-Eleven, Coates writes, “This was a war for the possession of his body and that would be the war of his whole life.” The same declaration could be transported 1400 miles and 300 years and still hold true.

Instead American pop culture has used the zombie, fraught as it is with history, as a form of escapism, rather than a vehicle to explore its own past or current fears. Writing for GreenCine, Liz Cole is onto something when she says that, whatever their allegorical shadow, zombies are perhaps “indulging our post-apocalyptic fantasies” above all. Elmo Keep notes in The Awl how pop culture tends to romanticize depictions of the end of the world: In these situations, “Petty frustrations and mundane realities of real life all disappear, as do the complexities.” And so the zombie apocalypse isn’t an outlet for fears but for fantasies, functioning as an escape hatch into a world with higher dramatic stakes, fewer people, and the chance to reinvent oneself, for better or worse….Read the Whole Article Here


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The First American Invasion of Haiti 1915-1934

One of the Historical Footnotes, I was reminded of by my Haitian co-workers and friends while working in Haiti after the earthquake -was that America had invaded Haiti, and occupied the country for nearly 20 years. Fortunately for me, I had, upon increasingly becoming involved in the work in Haiti, had read as much Haitian History as I could. Off course, not being to read Creole, I had little understanding of the Haitian side of things – although I would learn form personal experience the “caicos” (from Creole meaning “Birds of Prey”…or  “bad niggers” as the Americans would call them) still existed, in the modern form of the “Machete Gang” employed by former President Preval (as well as Aristide), and the regional role of politics in the country- North versus South, and the implications of what it really meant when a HAitian described a politicians base as “coming from the North”.

A part of the Haitian cultural psyche is to be extraordinarily defensive at anything which might even tangentially be construed as a slight. Without a cultural and historical context, such paranoia  seems to the unknowledged  a bit overboard. In the case of Haiti, the sense the world is out to get them, is not entirely counterfactual.
The US invaded Haiti in 1915, set up a puppet dictator, and murdered over 3,000 Haitians, often slaughtering prisoners and lynching suspects believed to be supporting Haitian resistance before departing in 1934. In 1920, the NAACP issued this report. The US would, in line with the deeply racist beliefs held by Americans at that time, create a “paper bag test” elite, favoring the mixed race, lighter skinned Haitians with product distribution an import agreements, as well a using the puppet government to favor them with business contracts, jobs, and licenses. While Haiti has thrown that pig off the bus, the impact of that can be seen today when you meet a group of the major business leaders, and middle/upper class of the country. Met Miss Haiti 2010 while they were doing a photo shoot of her at the Hotel I was staying at. Got a bit of a kickback that evening from a lady friend , when I joined she and her friends at her restaurant for dinner and drinks. Fact is, Haitians come in all shades, just like African-Americans. There is no color barrier anymore – but the social dynamic of folks from a particular social class living in the same neighborhood, and intermarrying – receiving the generational benefits of middle-class, means that most of the folks who are of the middle or upper class are still of mixed blood. Those whose skills, education, and pluck which have moved them into the upper classes in the last 20 years or so, tend to be representative of the population in general. I didn’t particularly care, face it – Miss Bertin is gorgeous, as were the next several women who won the title (You Dawgs among my readership can just look it up). The scars of American racism are still there.

This is an excellent discussion of that, in an interview of Haitian descended Dr Patrick Bellegarde-Smith.


The capture of Ft Revere – The first American invasion and occupation of Haiti.


A century ago we invaded and occupied a nation

“Bandit” is a very interesting term. It implies that we aren’t actually fighting a war against a legitimate military foe, but are instead just hunting a group of outlaws. Thus the rules of war don’t apply.
Bandit was the term used by America when it occupied Nicaragua from 1925 to 1933 and failed to quash the Sandino Revolt. But where did the American propaganda machine create that term from?

Short lived brutal Haitian Dictator Vilbrun Guillaume Sam m whose reign of terror lasted only 6 months in 1915

It turns out that we learned it from Haiti several years before.
I want to introduce you to yet another American military occupation that some would prefer you forgot.

On February 25, 1915, Vilbrun Guillaume Sam seized power in Haiti in a military coup. This ruthless thug had no power base. Thus, when he began getting too friendly with American commercial and military interests a revolt broke out. Afraid that he would end up like his predecessors, dictator Sam had all 167 political prisoners being held in a Port-au-Prince jail executed on July 27, 1915. The people of Haiti rose in revolt and  forced Sam to flee to the French embassy. The mob stormed the embassy and found him hiding in a toilet. They literally tore his body to pieces. Thus dictator Sam’s rule ended after just five months.

The chaos that followed threatened the interests of the Haitian American Sugar Company (HASCO), which got President Wilson’s attention. Also, the Haitian government was deeply behind on its debts to American banks.
Officially the reasons why America got involved was because a) we were afraid that Germany might use the chaos as an excuse to invade Haiti, and b) the American government was horrified at the violence committed against the Haitian dictator. Both reasons don’t pass the smell test. As for Germany, invading Haiti while engaged in a two-front war in Europe was far-fetched by any measure. And as for the violence against the dictator, remember that this was 1915 and most Americans at the time had very little problem with a black man being lynched.

The very next day a marine detachment of 2,000 was ordered to Haiti. One of these marines had already created a name for himself, Smedley Darlington Butler. It was in Haiti that he truly distinguished himself as a leader of men.

Port-au-Prince and most of southern Haiti allowed the huge neighbor to the north to occupy the country. But northern Haiti was home of the “cacos” (“or bad niggers as we would call them at home.” – Smedley Butler). In the local dialect cacos means “bird of prey”. They feared no army, despite being armed with just machetes, pikes, and 19th Century firearms. The didn’t grasp guerrilla warfare, despite that being their only viable option, and decided to attack the marines head-on. In other words, they were hopelessly out gunned and out trained.

It didn’t take long before the cacos had retreated to Fort Rivière, an old French fortress that was perfectly situated for  18th Century warfare.

Fort Rivière, renamed Fort Liberte is one of several major architectural ruins from the colonial period in Haiti


Butler, one private, and a sergeant named Ross L. lams together scrambled up the slope, bullets pecking into the ground around them, and reached the foot of the wall, to find that the only way in was a storm drain, through which the defenders kept up a steady fire. “I had never experienced a keener desire to be some place else,” Butler remembered. “My misery and an unconscious, helpless, pleading must have been written all over my face. lams took one look at me and then said, ‘Oh, hell, I’m going through.’ ”

Sergeant lams shouldered his way into the drain with Butler and the private right behind him. The startled defenders somehow missed all three, and before they could reload, the Marines were among them. Fifty-one were shot dead: twenty-nine inside the fortress, the rest as they jumped from the parapet and tried to flee into the jungle. Total Marine injuries: two teeth knocked out by a hurled rock. No prisoners were taken; no Haitian survived.

Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave

The first Cacos War was over and Smedley Butler received his 2nd Medal of Honor as well as being appointed commanding officer of the Haitian Gendarmerie.

Now that the first Cacos War was mercifully over, America decided to set up a representative government.

A few weeks later, the US State Department installs Senator Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave as the head of state. “When the National Assembly met, the Marines stood in the aisles with their bayonets until the man selected by the American Minister was made President,” Smedley Butler, a Marine who will administer Haiti’s local police force, later writes.The man selected was Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave and he would be president of Haiti for the next seven years. Soon after assuming office he was presented with a treaty written by the American government and told to sign it. The treaty legitimized the American occupation, as well as gave U.S. control of Customs (something that America had requested just a year earlier) and appointed an American financial adviser (who at one point withheld the pay of the Haitian legislators).

Jim Crow and Dollar Imperialism

For some silly reason the Haitian legislature held onto the quaint notion that they should work for the interests of the people of Haiti. So when America drafted a new constitution for Haiti in 1917 which excluded a “provision from the country’s previous constitution which had prohibited foreign ownership of land” the Haitian legislature rejected it and began crafting their own constitution which would reverse the terms of the 1915 treaty. They even began moving to impeach Haitian President Dartiguenave because he failed to oppose the U.S.-drafted constitution.

Dartiguenave asked Smedley Butler to use the marines to dissolve the Haitian legislature just before they prepared to vote on the new constitution.

Smedley claims that the measure is necessary in order “to end the spirit of anarchy which animates it [the Hatian legislature].” The U.S.-written constitution is submitted to a popular vote in June 1917 and it passes overwhelmingly. Of course only 5% of the population was eligible to vote.

“The Americans taught us how to build prisons. By the end of the 1915 occupation, the police in the city really knew how to hold human beings trapped in cages.”
– Edwidge Danticat

One consistent theme of the Haitian Occupation was the blatant racism of it all.

Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan infamously said of the Haitian elite “Dear me, think of it! Niggers speaking French.” State Department Counselor Robert Lansing believed that “[t]he experience of Liberia and Haiti show that the African race are devoid of any capacity for political organization and lack genius for government. Unquestionably there is in them an inherent tendency to revert to savagery and to cast aside the shackles of civilization which are irksome to their physical nature.”‘ And Assistant Secretary of State William Philipps bemoaned “‘the failure of an inferior people to maintain the degree of civilization left them by the French.”Of course the racism went beyond simply words. Jim Crow laws were imported from the American South to Haiti. Newly arrived U.S. personnel insisted on segregated hotels, restaurants and clubs. Curfews and press censorships followed.

The worst example of this was the re-institution of the corvee system.

Haiti in 1917 had only 3 miles of paved roads outside of main cities. In order to more effectively control the country, the American military needed roads. To build the roads they needed labor. Thus they went back to the days of French colonialism to force Haitians to perform unpaid labor building roads three days a month.

Anyone who knows anything about Haitian history knows the brutality involved in theHaitian Revolutions. One third of the population of Haiti died fighting both British and French troops in the longest, bloodiest slave revolt in history. In order to win their freedom from slavery, Haitians endured hardships and atrocities that Americans could not even imagine (the French “civilization” that William Philipps spoke of involved burying people alive as well as boiling them alive in pots of molasses). To reimpose the corvee system in Haiti shows an incredible insensitivity that could only exist in a racist mind… The reaction was predictable and inevitable.

The Second Cacos War

Charlemagne Masséna Péralte was born October 10, 1885, in Haiti. He was a military officer when the Americans invaded in 1915.
He was fiercely nationalistic, so instead of surrendering to the Americans he simply resigned his position and went home to care for his family. In October 1917, Charlemagne led 60 others in an failed attack on the house of the U.S. commander in Hinche, his hometown. He was captured and sentenced to five years of hard labor. After a couple months he escaped into the mountains with the help of his guard and started a revolt that surprised almost everyone.

During Charlemagne’s time in prison, the corvee system was so unpopular that even the American administration noticed and began to phase it out. Too late.

Initial fighting occurred in June 1918 when a gendarme force, sent out to enforce the edict, was severely beaten by a group of cacos. During the summer and fall of 1918, the cacos developed a military force of 3,000 men, with the active assistance of about one-fifth of the entire Haitian people. Led by the charismatic personality of Charlemagne Peralte, they organized a fairly sophisticated system of intelligence and security, forcing peasants to join up whether they wanted to or not.The cacos took the offensive to the gendarmerie, burning their barracks and, on occasion, administering severe defeats on the newly-formed outfit. The movement began to assume the proportions of a full-scale revolution, led by Charlemagne’s cry to “drive the invaders into the sea and free Haiti.” With the gendarmerie clearly on the defensive, the country tottered on the brink of disaster. In March, 1919, a belated call for another marine intervention was made by the government of Haiti.

Charlemagne’s cacos revolt was so successful against the native gendarmerie police forces that by spring 1919 Charlemagne and his “Chief Minister of Revolution”, Benoit Batraville, was in the process of setting up a new rebel government in northern Haiti where he had taken almost complete control. The new marines commander in Haiti, Col. John Russell, was given the task of defeating this new threat to American control. But they soon learned that this wasn’t the same cacos they had fought in 1915. This time the enemy had at least some grasp of the concept of guerrilla warfare even though they were using the same ancient weapons.

Using hit and run tactics, the Cacos managed to inflict at least minor damage and casualties on the marines while avoiding any major defeats. As the months drug on without a solution, Charlemagne grew more bold while the marines grew more frustrated.

 Almost everyone stationed in Haiti during the early part of the year seemed to have some knowledge of the fact that both marines and gendarmeries were killing prisoners. It is very difficult to get any witnesses to testify directly, as in the opinion of the undersigned, they were all equally culpable.
– Major T. C. Turner. 1919 investigation report

“There was unquestionably some things done by the gendarmeries and some of the marines which deserved punishment.”
– Secretary Daniels

There were at least 400 illegal execution of prisoners, but probably many more. Certain records related to the atrocities mysteriously vanished. An investigation by Secretary Daniels was actively undermined by the adjutant general of the Marine Corps with the approval of Major General George Barnett.
General Barnett had gone to the trouble of ordering the marine commander in Haiti to stop the “indiscriminate killing of natives.”

“If one chances to ‘pop off’ a caco, there is not even the trouble of explaining, for one’s companions will do that in their laconic report to headquarters.”
– journalist Harry Franck

Despite this wholesale killing of anyone suspected of being a caco sympathizer, the revolt failed to diminish. In fact, it flourished, as guerrilla campaigns are liable to do in the face of widespread atrocities. Peralte proclaimed a holy war against the “white infidels”. From April to October there was 131 separate attacks on the marines by the rebels.

On October 7, 1919, Charlemagne and Benoit launched their boldest attack of all – an assault with 300 men on Port-au-Prince itself. While the coordination with insurgents within the city was impressive, it failed on all accounts and the attack turned into a rout with at least 40 dead.
Nevertheless, the close-call forced the marines to face the idea that they were facing a full-scale revolution. Until this point information was covered up in the hopes of playing down the trouble. No longer. The order was put out to kill Peralte one way or another.

 “It was a pretty big order. It meant running down one Haitian out of several millions of Haitians in a country as big as the state of New York. And that one Haitian was surrounded by his friends, operating in a country which was almost entirely sympathedc to him, was protected by a fanatical body guard, never slept two nights in the same place, and must be run down in a tangled maze of mountains and valleys and jungles, of which there were no accurate maps.”
– Colonel F. M. Wise

The job of killing Charlemagne eventually fell on Sergeant H. H. Hanneken. Like Smedley Butler’s victory in the first Cacos War, this plan was bold to the point of reckless. Hanneken needed help, and so he turned to Jean-Baptiste Conze. Conze was a wealthy Haitian that hated Peralte even more than Americans. He was also promised $9,600 for his help.

Conze publicly denounced the Americans, and even led a fake attack on an American base with men in his employ. On October 30, Conze, having now infiltrated into the ranks of the rebels, gave the location of Peralte to Hanneken.

 With sixteen hand picked gendarmes, Hanneken and his second in command, Corporal William R. Button (USMC) , went through six caco outposts undetected. They were inspected by flashlight at each point, but incredibly enough, they were able to disguise their skin by the use of black cork coloring. They made it through each outpost undetected, white men “dressed” in caco skin.
When they arrived at the main rebel base, Conze silently pointed out Charlemagne hovering near the light of a small campfire. The American pumped two .45 caliber slugs into the betrayed leader, killing him instantly. The bodyguard was instantly felled by automatic rifle fire.

The following day Charlemagne’s body was photographed and copies were placed all over Haiti in order to convince the rebels of his death. But the Americans had made a mistake.

Perhaps the marines didn’t realize that photographing the body of their dead leader in a Christ-like crucification pose in a catholic country might have unintended consequences.


After a short period of time, the rebellion sprung to life anew. This time led by Benoit Batraville, a former police chief of Mirebalais. With the opening of 1920 the marines in Haiti took the counter-insurgency to the next level. For the first time since WWI ground forces worked in concert with seven seaplanes and six biplanes, all of whom were converted into bombers. The entire ground strategy was reconfigured into districts. Both methods were effective. The cacos were driven back time and time again. In nearly 200 engagements most of the cacos were either killed or captured. In early June Benoit was killed when his camp was overrun, thus effectively ending the war.

The official number of casualties from the second Cacos War was 13 marines and 27 gendarmeries killed in action, as well as over 3,000 rebels and suspected sympathizers.

The American Occupation of Haiti continued until 1934. It probably would have continued longer if not for a general strike in Novemeber 1929 that ended with the infamous Cayes Massacre of December 6.

An American Soldier stands amidst the bodies of Haitian “Rebels”.

The Cayes Massacre

Fifteen hundred angry peasants, armed with stones, machetes, and clubs, surrounded a detachment of twenty Marines armed with rifles and automatic weapons. The Marines had gone out to meet the peasants, who were advancing on the town intent on securing the release of prisoners arrested the day before and on airing various grievances against the Occupation, including complaints about alcohol, tobacco, and other taxes. Marine airplanes had dropped bombs in the Cayes harbor in an attempt to awe the local population into submissiveness, but this demonstration apparently had the undesired effect of creating terror and frenetic excitement. A district Marine officer unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the mob to retire, but then, according to an account given by two Marine participants, a Haitian leader instigated a scuffle:

The leader made a suspicious move and Gillaspey countered with a blow with the stock of his Browning gun, breaking the stock. The belligerent fell, tackling Gillaspey around the right leg and biting him. William T. Meyers, private, first class, bayoneted the man without seriously hurting him, but forcing him to release Gillaspey. The clash with the natives followed.

The State Department announced that the Haitians first threw stones and then rushed the Marines. In any case, the Marines opened fire at point-blank range and dispersed the mob.

Initial Marine reports and State Department press releases indicated that 5 Haitians were killed and 20 wounded, but Russell later informed the department that the final hospital list totaled 12 dead and 23 wounded, and that It is possible that other wounded were not brought in and other deaths occurred in the hills from contaminated wounds. Reports are current that this is the case, but verification cannot be secured. Casualty lists published in the Haitian press in Jan. 1930 totaled 24 dead and 51 wounded. In response to pointed questions from Under Secretary of State Joseph P. Cotton, who referred to the Marine detachment as a firing squad, Russell explained the curious fact that both the officer in charge of the detachment and his second-in-command had arrived in Haiti only two days before the massacre by saying that they were selected for this duty as they would operate on a military basis, having no bias or preconceived ideas of the Haitian situation. Russell reported that 600 rounds had been fired by rifles, automatic rifles, and one machine gun, but that most of the firing had been deliberately over the natives’ heads and that Had punitive effect been desired, it is reported that from 300 to 400, perhaps more, could easily have been killed. A State Department press release indicated that one Marine was hurt in hand-to-hand encounter with a mob leader. The Marines were later officially vindicated of any taint of brutality or indiscretion when the Navy Department awarded the Navy Cross to the Cayes detachment commander for commendable courage and forbearance. (…)


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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in Haiti


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