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NYT: Haiti’s freedom “ransom” cost it $21B, crippled country to today

illustration depicting plantations burning
An illustration depicting plantations burning in 1791, during the Haitian Revolution. Credit: Universal Images Group, via Getty Images.

The Haitian times 
By Larisa Karr

NEW YORK — In a special report on Haiti published days after Haitian Flag Day, The New York Times looked at the long history of payments Haiti made to France to secure its hard-won independence and how “the ransom” crippled the First Black Republic. The impact of the initial debt, refusal by other nations to acknowledge Haiti as a sovereign country, subsequent punitive international financial deals – including one involving United States-based Citibank, and Haitian rulers’ corruption – all had a hand in creating the under-developed country Haiti is today.

“For generations, the descendants of enslaved people paid the descendants of their former slave masters, with money that could have been used to build schools, roads, clinics or a vibrant economy,” said a recap of the five stories. 

The series is divided into five segments with six key takeaways. The first installment – The Root of Haiti’s Misery: Reparations to Enslavers – focuses on how Haiti, “fearful of being invaded and eager to establish trade with other nations,” agreed by force to pay 150 million French francs to France. It also details how Haitian rulers, unable to pay the amount demanded, resorted to taking out loans from France, thus doubling the debt.

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