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Understanding Haiti: History, Horror & Hope

Understanding Haiti: History, Horror & Hope

The common narrative surrounding the events in Haiti from both Republicans and Democrats in the United States share the inflammatory talking points of gangs, violence, corruption and cannibalism. From fears of illegal immigration and increased instability, the truth of the harsh reality that humans in Haiti face has been buried underneath an avalanche of articles online with divisive rhetoric demonizing the land as a whole. While their home is collapsing into chaos right now, I still believe there is hope for the future of the people of Haiti by creating a reasonable path to independence that, when caught in the middle of the madness of modern times, the good people of Haiti can stand in support of. 

No matter the nation, no matter the culture, no matter the division lines, I still believe that good people exist everywhere on Earth. Good people exist in China. Good people exist in Russia and Ukraine. Good people exist in Israel and Palestine. Good people exist within the United States of America. That same train of thought runs right through the heart of Haiti, where good people exist there as well. 

In my own life, some of the best people I have ever known or worked with have been from Haiti. Living in Florida as I did for nearly a decade, the best friends I made during my time there were Haitian. Back then I didn’t know anything about Haitian culture or their history, I just connected with them as individuals who became great friends within my own lifetime. I helped my Haitian neighbors build a recording studio, recorded music often and even rode the bus to work every morning with the mother of their family. Specifically, her before sunrise early morning bus ride talks helped me navigate the pain I felt coming from Texas after my own Mom died. Her good morning smile and daily kindness helped me adapt to the new environment of living in a new state away from home for the first time. This time and these connections will be with me for all of my days moving forward. 

I say all of this because I see a great deal of negativity online from people I respect towards what is happening in Haiti. I think a lot of it comes from people in America just being tired of the illegal immigration problem we have been facing with our open borders, the massive population influx and the amount of resources spent on non-citizens while our own citizens struggle. The common rejection is understandable. They are just afraid the crisis in Haiti will lead to more illegal immigration, and honestly they’re probably not wrong in that thought. Throw in the past few weeks of prison breaks, gang violence and cannibalism, or the elements that have captured the spotlight of American media coverage, and you get some Americans who completely reject any sympathy for or thought towards what is happening in Haiti.  

I don’t believe in allowing illegal immigration. I do believe in legal immigration and believe it is good to have a system in place for accountability to individual merit that attracts and allows the best minds of the world to become American. That is the greatness of America, that anyone can come here and become American by following the constitution and respecting our bill of rights. I believe illegal immigration is a threat to that natural order and I believe what is happening right now with our open borders is nothing more than a long term voter scheme. I do believe there should be justice for what has been allowed to happen here on many fronts, illegal immigration included. But with that said, I disagree with the negative view that many of my Republican (and Democratic) peers are currently sharing. While their American stance is understandable, I believe they are looking at the situation in Haiti too much from a personal perspective. I disagree with this assessment, and decided to see what the perspective was on the situation in Haiti from the perspective of the people who are living there and going through it. Just like many Americans in America, the people caught in the middle of the madness just simply want their country back and for life to get back on track towards some kind of functioning every day order without outside interference or internal corruption. There are good people in Haiti, dealing with a nightmare of a situation. With that in mind, I just wanted to take the time to understand their perspective and share what I learn here for whatever it is worth. 

Before I continue about Haiti, I will say one more thing about immigration. In my opinion, under the idea that I have commonly written about on the independence of nations, rather than individuals trying to escape their country to come to ours, why do they not stay and stand up for their own country and their own people? If you are inspired by the ideals of freedom and the independence of free market capitalism, why not try to build those ideas into your own nations? I know we and I, as an American, have a lot of work to do here on that front ourselves. My hope is that America First will inspire nations around the world to all want the same. Freedom. Independence. Prosperity. Growth. Merit. Truth. That is how we stand against communistic globalism. 

It seems to me that Haiti may be in the same sorts of troubles as many other nations around the world are seeing today. It is facing communistic globalism, systemic manipulation through the consolidation of wealth and resources, corruption, violence, crime, division, fake news, double speak and yes, even illegal immigration. Back to the thought of the good people stuck in the middle, these are the things that they are facing every single day. Much like here and now, but much much worse than here and today. Haiti is a microcosm of what happens when everyone on the outside is reaching inside to tear you apart. The pain of good people gets lost in the real world chaos and media spin.

One video of one man eating one leg and suddenly the common narrative seems to be that everyone in Haiti is in a cannibal gang and they are all coming for the streets of America. I wish to counter that train of thought with understanding to the best of my ability. Cannibalism is gross, violence is awful, gangs are stupid and maybe some good people caught in the middle of all that madness just want to see peace, independence and order in the country that they want to love. I believe they are a forgotten mass of Haiti right now with those who only want for that to be what happens. That’s the meat of the story, and all the media hype is just the sauce. Haiti has become a horror show, but I still see hope for the nation and the people too. 

Before I dive into a quick history of Haiti, let me say that before a few weeks ago I had zero understanding of Haitian history. As a poor white writer from Texas, my ignorance on the matter should be understandable as well. I remember the earthquake and the televised concert to raise money, but I never looked into their history or any of their modern politics. I had no idea of the corruption of the times during my existence or at any time before. The first time I looked into their story was after Jovenel Moise, the former President of Haiti, was assassinated back in July of 2021. I was living in Florida at the time and remember talking to some of my coworkers about it happening and what that meant for the people of Haiti. After a time the story faded from the news and, up until recently, I didn’t think of their people again. 

Over the past few weeks, Haiti has taken center stage as a flashpoint for potential chaos, conflict and disorder. I first heard again about Haiti when gangs executed a prison break to oppose Ariel Henry, the unelected guy who stepped up and took power after Moise was assassinated only to never hold another election and never step down until just a few days ago when he was forced to do so. Not only this, but after I first saw news of that I also heard a report that Ariel Henry had flown to Kenya to request a military police force from Kenya to come to Haiti and crack down on the population to restore his vision of order. This idea was backed by the United Nations. Why was the UN and the unelected fake President of Haiti Ariel Henry trying to get foreign troops from Kenya to police Haitians? This seemed absurd to me, so I chose to learn about Haiti and understand for myself what was happening there. 

I’m on no high horse here and this isn’t a moral plea. This is me being curious to learn and sharing that understanding as I discovered for myself a mere perspective on their history. Knowing some great people from Haiti, I find myself disagreeing with the assessment of events from the perspective of many Americans that I respect. I want to share with those Americans that underneath the headlines and the hype in Haiti is a people in a struggle for independence against corruption, crime and maybe even communistic globalism. I find their story interesting as a history of horror and hope. 

Before I go back in time to the beginning of Haiti, allow me to share a quick quote by our current American President Joe Biden who said in 1994 that, “If Haiti just quietly sunk into the Caribbean, or rose up 300 feet, it wouldn’t matter a whole lot in terms of our interest”. The Clintons came in after that big earthquake and some say that they made everything worse, but I’ll get to that. American leadership doesn’t seem to have much of an outlook on Haiti unless it is for our benefit. While I can understand that view, I disagree with that still under the thought of the independence of nations. I want America to be America. Why can’t Haiti just be Haiti? And every other country the same?

In 1697, at the end of the Nine Years War, what was formerly the island of Hispaniola was split apart into two regions, with France keeping the West and Spain holding the East sides of the island. While Spain ultimately restricted slavery on the island, France took the opposite approach and vastly expanded their usage of slavery to almost unfathomable numbers. The French brought 800,000 slaves into the small island, outnumbering the French 16 to 1, ultimately causing a revolt against France in 1804 that led to the establishment of the first black Republic. It was a horrible slaughter, but the people of Haiti took their own independence and liberated themselves for a time. While Haiti was created and while it still stands today as a nation, their taste of true independence didn’t last long. 

By 1825, France had come back to project power over Haiti, giving them two choices. Either return to war or pay for all of the damages France faced in the last war. Haiti didn’t have the money to pay France, so the bank of France gave them a loan which would begin over a century of imagined debts with increases of interest rates imposed over a people. 

The last payments to France were in 1888, after which the debt was sold to CitiBank, who funded a US invasion of Haiti in 1915 and who continued to take payments from Haiti until 1947. On the west side of the island, the Dominican Republic became a country in 1821 after declaring independence from Spain and furthermore defined its land from Haiti as an independent nation in 1844. A century later, a civil war in the 1960’s against communism led to maintaining the Republic and establishing a functioning economy. Haiti saw no such success. In the 60’s Haiti was ruled by US backed dictator Francois Duvalier, or Papa Doc. He died in the 71’ followed by his son Baby Doc until 1986. By 1990 Haiti had its first democratic elections, but after a year the military overthrew that leader and started a Haitian refugee crisis into America. This triggered President Bush and the United Nations to kick off Operation Uphold Democracy, where military intervention was authorized in 1994. These actions were carried forward when Bill Clinton became President. 

By 2003, in a state of absolute poverty, Haiti began demanding that France pay 21 billion dollars in reparations for damages done in the past. Reparations are never a good idea in my opinion unless they are established immediately at the end of whatever cause is in question, and are always destined to backfire otherwise. This is what happened to Haiti, and it would be the same for any movements of reparations here in America or anywhere else around the world. Digging up history for a profit will never bring wealth or success to a people, only by hard work and a functioning economy can that occur. So here, they made this mistake that ultimately resulted in a US UN backed government coup ending in decades of foreign occupation under the guise of security and economic operation. 

During this time Hilary Clinton stepped into power to help destroy their country under the guise of saving it. In the 1970’s, Haiti was self-sufficient in food supply, importing less than 20% of all the food resources that it consumed. This was apparently unacceptable to globalism, so Bill Clinton coerced Haiti to drop their rice tariffs from 50% to 3% in 1994 opening the doorway to change the food base for how Haiti functioned independently. The 2009 establishment of a minimum wage also led to further economic destabilization. By the time the earthquake struck in 2010, Haiti was economically ruined. In the event, over 200,000 people died, 300,000 injured with nearly 100,000 homes destroyed. With Obama as President, Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State with power over USAID and Bill Clinton in charge of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), the Clinton Foundation stepped into Haiti like an aftershock that would never stop quaking. In the process, they redefined relief in the region by replacing humanitarian aid with business decisions. These “intended” “long term solutions” quickly failed under the leadership of the Clintons, coming to a close around 2012. Most of the money was said to have never made it to Haitian pockets and business failed, all under the banner of the “build back better” slogan. Funny how that one is still in use today. I wonder if we’ll still be hearing “build back better” vs “make it great again” in another 30 years from now. Time Magazine once called this period of time in Haiti a “compassionate invasion” of the United States. 

Hurricane Matthew blasted Haiti in 2016 a month before the first Presidential election in years. This was the last time Haiti would have an election for the people to vote for who they wanted their leader to be. They elected Jovenel Moise, who remained the President until his assassination in 2021, leading to the reign of Ariel Henry. Reports exist that show his assassination has US intelligence links and that some worked for a Miami based security firm called CTU Security. Foreign intelligence from the US, UN and many of our allies has been within Haiti for centuries. 

This brings us through a quick history lesson to the horror in Haiti that we see today. Foreign influences seek to divide and conquer an already broken people to the point where some people got tired of it all and made a mess. Haitians just want Haiti to be Haiti, but the corruption and decay is causing the most able to attempt to escape the island, the good poor to be stuck in the middle, all while the rich sold out to foreign influence and the angry poor broke off into warring gangs that only unified under the leadership of this character commonly called “Barbeque”. 

Barbeque’s real name is Jimmy Cherizier, who was a former police officer in Haiti who turned against the government due to his perception of their corruption and for allowing foreign influences to take power over the Haitian people. He claims the violence will stop whenever Ariel Henry steps down and the people are allowed to elect their own President without foreign interference. In a documentary shared by Dan Cohen about Barbeque, he claims Barbeque is the right leader for the Haitian people. In one interview, you can even see him wearing a Masonic G compass chain around his neck, which I am still not certain how to digest that visual information. I cannot tell if the man is a gangster or a revolutionary. The difference matters. When that first video appeared online of the man taking a bite from a leg in the road, a disgusting video, I thought that it was a video of Barbeque himself. I think that was a common reaction of people online, but I am not sure that it is the case that Barbeque is the one in the video. I may be wrong as I didn’t want to find and watch it again to take a closer look. Once was enough. Regardless, the nickname isn’t fitting when accusations of cannibalism start flying around and obviously somebody was eating somebody. As said, there is certainly horror happening in Haiti. While the name doesn’t sound good on the surface, he says himself in interviews that the name comes from the fact that he used to help his family with selling food at the market as a street vendor. Maybe the name comes from something as simple and genuine as that, or maybe the name comes from him cooking people. I do not know if Barbeque is a good guy or a bad guy, but I never like to see violence or destruction. I am not trying to make excuses for the man as I genuinely do not know the truth here, I’m just open to all information that comes. In the documentary, Barbeque says himself that he is not a gang member, and that if he was he would shoot himself in the head. He says he was a police officer, who only stepped down when he realized that laws were only made for poor people. 

Apparently there was said to be between 70 and 200 gangs all fighting for power in Haiti, until Barbeque stepped in with the G9 movement and allegedly brought everyone together to force the stepping down of Ariel Henry from power. When Henry left the country to convince Kenya and the UN to provide military police support, the gangs and the people of Haiti decided that was a red line that had been crossed. They broke out the prisoners from the prisons and took over an airport. Ariel Henry couldn’t come back and was furthermore rejected by Kenya as they found the move to be unconstitutional. 

Barbeque recently said in an interview that, “Today, we are taking the occasion to tell the international community to give Haiti a chance. Because of what is happening in Haiti now, we Haitians have to decide who is going to lead the country and what model of government we want. We are going to figure out how to get Haiti out of the misery it is in now. Today it is clear that the people who live in the shanty towns are the ones who know what they are going through. It is the Haitian people who are going to take their destiny into their own hands. Haitian people will pick the person to govern them”.

Jimmy Cherizier, or Barbeque, isn’t the only choice for a future leader of Haiti. There are several other people ready to take the seat of power if the opportunity arises to do so. None have unified the gangs as much as Barbeque, and none that seem willing to step up are what I would think the US or UN would like to see be in that position. Guy Philippe is another former police officer who ran for Senate in 2016 and won. After the election he was arrested on drug charges, extradited to the US, then recently released back to Haiti. Johnson Andre is a rapper with as much or more popularity amongst the people of Haiti than Barbeque, but is just as much involved in crime in the region as the others. Joseph Wilson is another contender, who is another popular gang member known for his belief in Voodoo. None seem to be the best options and Ariel Henry certainly doesn’t seem to think so.

Henry announced last week that he would be resigning from his position as soon as a “Presidential Panel” consisting of 7 members who support the United Nations were organized to select the next ruler to stand until they can organize a system to allow another election. Sounds like a bunch of nonsense fooey to me and I can certainly see how the people of Haiti aren’t in support of the idea. After decades of foreign occupation, failed relief projects and billions of dollars spent, wasted or stolen, you can’t blame the people of Haiti for not wanting to return to foreign occupation of their land without any say or true vote in the matter. Haitian American writer Jemima Pierre said this of his announcement, joking that “how could he even resign if he was never elected?”. Monique Clesca, a nonviolent democracy leader in Haiti seeking peaceful leadership for the people of Haiti still calls for peaceful revolution to “break the government that is killing us”. Henry may be stepping down, but the people of Haiti, not the gang members, obviously see the faults of the past and do not wish to repeat those things moving into the future. Something better has to be done, but the good people stuck in the middle seem at a loss for a way to halt the horror. 

The United States, Europe and other ally nations have evacuated non essential personnel from their embassies. The CARICOM Trading Block has been organizing meetings with officials from the US, France, Canada, Brazil, and even Mexico, but no people that the people of Haiti support were included in any of their conversations. Again, foreign governments seem to be making the same mistake that they have been making for decades rather than just letting the people attempt to make leadership decisions for themselves. That’s true independence and democracy, right?

Now the US Marines have been deployed to protect the US Embassy. Ron DeSantis is setting up additional security to protect from any illegal immigration coming into Florida from Haiti. Aid from the US is already set to be pouring in with at least 33 million dollars and potentially more. Hunger and starvation are widespread across the region, with the UN claiming that 4 million people are in need of food. Police in Haiti have continued to crack down on gangs to no avail, as upwards of 80% of the island is said to be in gang control. The Dominican Republic is currently in a funding frenzy to build a border wall built with technological defenses in line to protect itself from illegal immigration and continues to deport anyone caught crossing the line. In 2023, an estimated 70,000 fled from Haiti to enter the United States, with that number set to increase in the days ahead without preventative measures. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is still begging Kenya to send military police so that nobody else has to get involved as a bad visual for those who want to control the region. To him, Kenya is best to deal with this situation for reasons you can probably deduce for yourself. Silly. Two thirds of the population is under 24 years old, certainly more susceptible to the influence of gangs. More than half the population exists without electricity. Violence in the region continues as the people hope for peace and prosperity. Ariel Henry hasn’t returned to Haiti, is said to be under FBI protection and has been offered asylum in the United States. No one has been selected yet to replace him as Haiti continues to collapse. Jimmy Cherizier is nowhere to be found since Henry announced that he would be stepping down. With no military and a weak police force, law and order cannot exist. The void will be filled with gangs or foreign forces unless the good people of Haiti stand up to establish their own vision of future order. 

So I’ve shared my thoughts on the history of Haiti and I have shared my thoughts on the horror that is happening there now, but what about my thoughts on any hope for the future? Despite all of this chaos and madness, I believe that the people of Haiti might just need space to become successful or to fail by their own will. They don’t want foreign influence, they don’t want foreign troops in the streets and they don’t want rigged elections. The people of Haiti want functioning independence to decide the future for themselves. They want freedom and they want to be left alone. 

Just look at the American Revolution. Sometimes it takes the chaos of destruction to create a foundation strong enough to build a future of lasting order upon. With the idea of the independence of nations, this is my hope. That somehow, someway, the people of Haiti will be given the space to decide their future for themselves. 

About The Author

Jacob Machine

9 albums, 3 books & 2 movies. Come check out my new daily show on X @ jacobmachine3 Enjoy your weekend!



    JM: hey, like your stuff, 80%, but the 20% —- you can do better. I will read this one later and can’t wait to learn about the place my neighbor went to for aid so many years, so many times. He was a good reverand. And unlike your boss, I love the backgrond about your life that led you there. I think it’s amazing how life gives us opportunities, sometimes forced, sometimes asked for, to see that the unknown is not scary and mean, but open, friendly, and sharing.

    I know what you mean about proximity breaking down barriers; people are nice everywhere. I knew nothing bout Italy till I met my FIL and know I am Genoa strong and hate the French as in the Genovese way….. Just kidding, but it is the stereotype as the Italians are still pissed given the Italian riveria is better (according to Italians….). He told the funniest joke which I guess not is not PC, but;

    French wine is enjoyed round the world as some of the best, Italian wine is not. The French sell the best and drink piss. The Italians drink fine wine and sell piss. Since he was sommelier at the hottest clubs in NYC in his time, and actually saved Frank Sinatra’s voice once, great story, I think he is an expert on this, for his time.

    BUT —- yes, Joe said that way back in 1994; got anything current that doubles down on that?????

    More important, you as the fine journalist you attempt to be must consider there may have been context to that? Especially since it is a recent resurface on the blogsphere —– I mean if I view Trump in 94, golly — he was demeaning women saying he goes ballistic if dinner not on the table when he comes through the door. But — context JM, context.

    Try SNOPES: **

    Can’t wait to read the rest, don’t expect comments, don’t know, don’t care, but willing to learn.

  2. Charles

    Haiti has a history of of being ungovernable and the arm pit of the Islands. The best thing to do is let them continue to riot and basically ignore Haiti. Foreign intervention always ends in failure. They do not want to be civilized or orderly.

  3. Tom

    Too long to read. Jacob, can you come up with an edited version?

    I did a missions trip there and helped build a small Christian school there in 2000. It was bad back then, it looks worse now. When I was there Haiti was 70% Catholic, 30% Protestant, and 100% Voodoo! My heart goes out to the American missionaries trapped there, they are in danger.