July 16, 2010

« Le Comité pour le Remboursement Immédiat des Montants Envolés » d’Haïti (CRIME) takes credit for a hoax carried out on the occasion of Bastille Day, July 14.

The announcement was a hoax, but the far bigger hoax is how little France, the U.S. and Canada have offered Haiti in earthquake relief, relative to what Haitians are owed in reparations.

There is nothing far-fetched about the calculation that France owes Haiti US$21 billion. And given that the policies of France, the U.S. and others were an important factor in why Haiti’s social and public infrastructure was so woefully lacking, and why the death toll from the earthquake was so high, any comprehensive assessment would put the figure of the West’s debt to Haiti as much higher.

A more comprehensive statement will be forthcoming from CRIME shortly. We believe the historic crimes of France and other colonial powers against the Haitian people must be exposed before the judge of world public opinion.





‘Yes Men’ type hoax draws attention to West’s debt to Haiti

Amidst growing concerns that the international community has failed to follow through on financial commitments to help Haiti rebuild after the earthquake six months ago, a group of activists issued a fake announcement Wednesday implying that the French government would pay Haiti US$21 billion in reparations.

A group calling itself « Le Comité pour le Remboursement Immédiat des Montants Envolés » d’Haïti (CRIME) — a group of French, Canadian and U.S. activists — today took credit for faking the announcement. The hoax was disseminated to the press via a fake news article linking to a video posted on a spoof French government website.

In the video, a person identified as a spokesperson for France’s foreign affairs ministry stated that the French government would reimburse Haiti for the 90 million gold francs that Haiti was forced to pay France, its former colonizer, in compensation for the loss of French slave trade profits after the successful slave revolt which led to Haiti’s independence.

Under Haiti’s democratically elected former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Haitian government had sought to recover this sum, which the government calculated amounted to US$21 billion when adjusted for inflation and a minimal rate of 5 per cent interest. However, the lawsuit was discontinued after Aristide was overthrown in 2004 in a coup d’état backed by France, the U.S. and Canada.

Accounting for inflation and interest since 2004, the figure today stands at closer to US$40 billion, according to Jean St. Vil, a frequent media commentator on Haitian affairs. And according to the Council on Hemispheric Relations, if Haiti were to be compensated for the damages it suffered as a result of the indemnity payment, the figure could be as high as four trillion dollars.

The U.S. also owes Haiti billions of dollars in reparations, according to Bill Quigley, the Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Despite bold proclamations made by the leaders of these same countries after the January 12 earthquake, relatively little aid has been delivered. The sum pledged by the U.S., at $1.2 billion, is only one-half of Venezuela’s commitment. And according to the UN, Haitians are still waiting on over 98 per cent of the US$5.3 billion in reconstruction assistance that governments and international financial institutions pledged to provide Haiti over the 18 months following a March 31 UN conference.

An Update to the release:

July 16, 2010, 6 p.m. EST.

Group takes credit for Haiti reparations hoax

A group of Canadian, U.S. and French activists calling itself the Committee for the Reimbursement of the Indemnity Money Extorted from Haiti (CRIME) is taking credit for a fake announcement on July 14 implying that the French government will pay Haiti 21 billion USD in reparations.

“It is most unfortunate that the Quai d’Orsay has been so ungrateful, and frankly, unco-operative, with our bold initiative to improve the French government’s reputation in Haiti,” stated the group’s spokesperson Laurence Fabre.

“The real hoax is how little France, as well as the U.S. and Canada, have offered Haiti in earthquake relief, relative to what Haitians are owed in reparations,” she added.

The group today issued the following statement to the media:

The French government has stated that it is considering legal recourse against us.

This is very fitting, as it is our concern with crimes that led us to make this false announcement. We are the Committee for the Reimbursement of the Indemnity Money Extorted from Haiti (in French, le Comité pour le Remboursement Immédiat des Montants Envolés » d’Haïti, and in both languages spelling CRIME).

But is a spoof website such a grave crime, compared to is what the French have done in Haiti:

– The forcible capture, commerce, brutalization, torture, murder and enslavement of millions of Africans over more than two centuries

– Expropriating 90 million gold francs from Haiti as an indemnity for lost French slave-trade profits following Haiti’s independence, and saddling Haitians with an illegitimate debt that Haiti paid France for 122 years

– Actively helping to overthrow Haiti’s democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, on February 29, 2004 in large measure because he had the temerity to demand that France reimburse Haiti the “independence debt” with interest amounting to about $21 billion. This was the first time a former slave colony officially requested reparations from a former colonial and slave-owning nation.

– Promising to Haiti through pledged contributions to UN agencies, NGOS and the Red Cross some $180 million, but six months later, not one centime has been delivered to Haiti, according to the UN’s humanitarian aid tracking site Relief Web. Meanwhile the French secretary of state for overseas development traveled via private jet to a conference on aid for Haiti at a cost of $143,000.

We leave it to the court of world public opinion to judge: Who are the real criminals?


UPDATE: as of the afternoon of Friday, 16, the website diplomatiegov.fr was reportedly shut down by the French government. However it will soon be up again at its new home, click here.

And you can still watch the video of announcement on Haiti reparations by clicking here.