In the last 60 days, Haiti has seen more than its share of heartache and uncertainty. On July 7th, according to Haitian police (BBC, 2021), mercenaries, mostly Columbian, were behind the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, 53, in the president’s private residence in the Haitian capital of Port-au- Prince. Police Chief Leon Charles alleges that Haitian national Christian Emmanuel Sanon hired the group of individuals responsible through a Miami-based company called CTU, run by Venezuelan national Tony Intriago. Charles, alleges that he believes the group was hired under false pretense of protecting Sanon and then changed their assignment.
Factor in its history of poverty, gang violence, political uncertainty, and its struggle to get a handle on the Corona virus; Haiti has by far been the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere for many years, much due to its debt to France. This past weekend another earthquake, the magnitude of 7.2, hit Haiti. With the death toll having reached 1,900 as rescue teams continue to look through the rubble for survivors. Over the past decade, Haiti has seen its share of earthquakes that has taken the lives of 220,000, displaced over 1 million and injured roughly 30,000 (NPR, 2021). Haiti, who shares an island, Hispaniola, with the Dominican Republic, is susceptible as it sits on the fault line between two huge tectonic plates, the North American and Caribbean plates. These tectonic plates are pieces of the Earth’s crust that slide past each other over time.
Catastrophic earthquakes for Haiti date all the way back to the 1700’s. Before the 2010 earthquake, the Enriquillo -Plantain Garden fault line had not seen an earthquake for 200 years. According to the U.S. Geological Survey there have been 22 magnitude 7 or larger earthquakes in 2010, the same year as the devastating earthquake with almost all fatalities hitting on January 12 of that year. In the years since the 1770’s Haitians have focused on building their homes to withstand hurricanes and not earthquakes.
Haiti has long held the title of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, mainly due to its debt to France. According to Forbes, Haiti agreed to pay France and equivalent of what todays money, $21 billion in 1825 to preserve its Independence. This $21 billion was “reparations” to the French slaveholders it had overthrown. This victory for the Haitian people made them a threat to all slave-owing countries, including the United States. By Haiti agreeing to pay this allowed them to gain immunity from the French but brought about debt that would take over 100 years to pay off, finally settling the debt in 1947.
While France has thrived and is seeing n as one of the wealthiest nations, Haiti has been plagued with food shortages, droughts, a constantly failing power grid, and a per capita of $350 annual income. As Haiti continues to recover from its latest devastating earthquake by also bracing for a very active hurricane season, we must judge these acts of God, not by what we think we know about Haiti but by sending prayers, love, compassion, and resources to a people in need.