US interests in Haiti’s natural resources led to invasion
By Margaret Mitchell Armand, Ph.D.
It is important to recall that American special interest is always at the forefront of its foreign policies to justify interferences in other nations through war and occupation.
In the years before 1791, while enslaved Africans were fighting for its independence, the United States and Europe exported, in descending order of value: sugar, coffee, cotton, indigo, sirup, cocoa, hides, raw and tanned, sea shells and turtle shells, wood (mahogany, logwood, and lignum vitae) and tafia (white rum), bois jaune, bayarondes, goat skins, honey, rum, wax, gum guiacum, peppers, tamarinds, orange peel, and old copper. Gold, platinum, silver, copper, iron, tin, manganese, antimony, sulphur, rock salt were exported as well.
Later, in 1886, an American company from New Hampshire was active in mining this rock salt. Minerals were discovered all over the island and the Encyclopedia Britannica on Haïti asserts that mines of lignite with veins more than four feet thick were found in the northern communes of St. Michel, Dondon, Limonade, Plaisance, Mirebalais, and Lascahobas.
The 1892 United States Government Handbook of Haïti Bulletin No. 62 provided detailed information about Haïti’s mineral resources from their presence on the field. Goddard and Gardner (1947) from the United States Geological Survey took an inventory of Haïti’s resources, accompanied by Haïtian Max Mangonès, who, as special engineer, guided them as to the abundant deposits of manganese oxides and associated bayate dating to the Upper Eocene and Oligocene eras.
The survey conducted during the United States military occupation of Haiti was primarily aimed at searching for commercial deposits of manganese, chromium, and nickel, as these were known to be abundant on the island from the previous survey of 1921-1922.
The United States military regiments got involved in fighting with the “Cacos,” a group of Haïtians revolting against political corruption and United States occupation whom the Marines referred to as bandits or rebels in order to destroy them. Santelli (1976) recounts that American naval forces including the Marines had been sent to Haïti in mid-1915 in order to protect American interests while geological and mineral explorations as well as exploitation was ongoing.
With all these mineral resources available the collaboration with Haiti’s unscrupulous politicians and their accomplices made possible the looting. Today, one-hundred years later Haiti is still under the protectorate (occupation) (mainly United States, France and Canada). Did anything change for Haiti? Then and Now the same story repeats itself.
Margaret Mitchell Armand, Ph.D is a Haitian American scholar and author with a particular focus on human rights and peace building. She is the author of “Healing in the Homeland – Haitian Vodou Tradition” (Lexington Books 2013) She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.