How a French Bank Captured Haiti

The National Bank of Haiti, on which so many hopes were pinned that night, was national in name only. Far from an instrument of Haiti’s salvation, the central bank was, from its very inception, an instrument of French financiers and a way to keep a suffocating grip on a former colony into the next century.

Crédit Industriel, known in France as C.I.C., is now a $355 billion subsidiary of one of Europe’s largest financial conglomerates. But its exploits in Haiti left a crippling legacy of financial extraction and dashed hopes — even by the standards of a nation with a long history of both.

Haiti was the first modern nation to win its independence after a slave uprising, only to be financially shackled for generations by the reparations demanded by the French government for most of the 19th century.

And just when that money was nearly paid, Crédit Industriel and its national bank — the very instruments that seemed to hold the promise of financial independence — locked Haiti into a new vortex of debt for decades more to come.