Violence. Tragedy. Hunger. Underdevelopment. These bywords have clung to Haiti for more than a century. Kidnappings. Outbreaks. Earthquakes. The president assassinated — this time in his bedroom.
How is it possible, many ask, that Haiti shares an island with the Dominican Republic, with its underground subway system, health care coverage, public schools, teeming resorts and impressive stretches of economic growth?
Corruption is the usual explanation, and not without reason: Haiti’s leaders have historically ransacked the country for their own gain, legislators have spoken openly on the radio about accepting bribes and oligarchs sit atop lucrative monopolies, paying few taxes. Transparency International ranks it among the most corrupt nations in the world.
But another story is rarely taught or acknowledged: The first people in the modern world to free themselves from slavery and create their own nation were forced to pay for their freedom yet again — in cash.