HOT TOPICS ▶ Climate Change     Undoing The New Deal     The Real Baltimore     Reality Asserts Itself     United Kingdom    

  February 1, 2010

Haitians will defend their sovereignty Pt.2

Ronald Charles: After Haitian revolution, colonial oppression turned into oppression by its ruling elite
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

TRNN has... made its mark with amazing original reporting on the Middle East and international protest movements. - Caroline Lewis
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


Ronald Charles is a Ph.D. student in Biblical Studies at the Department of Relgion, University of Toronto. He is a poet and a violinist. And he was lecturer at Christianville University College in Haiti, where he translated parts of the Bible into Haitian Creole.


PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay. We're joined again by Ronald Charles. He's a PhD student at the Department of Religion at the University of Toronto, and he used to be a lecturer at the Christianville University college in Haiti. Thanks for joining us. So Pat Robertson says the reason is there's such terrible poverty in Haiti is a deal with the devil, and we've heard something similar to that said by the media, in the sense that it's some unknown metaphysical reason for poverty. If independence doesn't equate to poverty, what does? Why is there such poverty in Haiti?

RONALD CHARLES, DEPT. OF RELIGION, UNIV. OF TORONTO: Oh, well, you really have to go to the beginning of the history of Haiti. And here we have to be very prudent in the way we approach the whole question. And I don't want to portray a romanticizing type of portrait of what happened during the Haitian Revolution. During the Haitian revolution, we did kick the French out, but what happened right after it, when from the outside that was not a good example, because that was the first and, to my knowledge, the only slave revolution around the world. So that was not a good thing to be done. And then you have Haitians from 1803, 1804, until 1860, they did not have any relationship with any big powers in the world. So for the French, for example, to recognize Haiti as an independent nation, we had to pay them a lot of money.

JAY: More or less was money saying you've lost a lot of slaves, and now we're going to repay you for having lost your slaves.

CHARLES: Exactly.

JAY: And a US blockade, I suppose, didn't help any.

CHARLES: No, no, nothing like this. And a couple of years later, the Americans, they came and invaded us in 1915. One of the reasons is that, well, we were to protect Americans' interests in Haiti, and President Wilson, the American president then, he sent all these soldiers, and these soldiers introduced prostitution and so many other things in Haiti. And when you look at the history of the struggle, that was quite interesting time frame in Haitian history, from 1915 to 1934. And then from 1934 to 1956 to '67 you have a lot of difficulties, a lot of unrest in the country. And the Americans, they knew someone who studied with them in the States, and he was quite a quiet guy. So they approached him and they actually put him in power.

JAY: You're talking about Papa Doc.

CHARLES: Papa Doc. And he came in power in '57 with the aid of the Americans, and then the Americans who would support him all the way, because supposedly he was against the Communists. And then in 1971, when he died, his 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, came into power with all his Tonton Macoutes, and then again—.

JAY: Explain who Tonton Macoute—.

CHARLES: The Tonton Macoutes are civilians, but armed by the power, and they have to protect the power. They are the volunteers for the power, and they would do everything or anything to protect the power—kill, whatever. Imagine that.

JAY: Yeah, I don't think people get this, the extent of the viciousness of that regime.

CHARLES: It was very vicious. As a young man growing up in Haiti, I saw, for example, one of my cousins, he got shot here on a day when the Macoutes were celebrating the day of the Macoutes. And they would just go and shoot in the air or just shoot people. That's just the way it is—you celebrate your day. I was quite young. And I realized after Jean-Claude left that my own name was on a list to be eliminated, to be killed.

JAY: How old were you?

CHARLES: I was 15 years old.

JAY: How did you find out about that?

CHARLES: Someone afterwards, he was a Macoute, and then years later he said that my name was on the list.

JAY: And why? What were you doing?

CHARLES: Well, I was just a reader, because I used to read voraciously. Because of that, some people thought that I was Communist.

JAY: So if you could read, it makes you a communist.

CHARLES: Yeah, exactly. So you could read, you could maybe question then. So you're a communist, good to be killed.

JAY: So I think that the key point here is there would have been no Papa Doc without the support of the US.

CHARLES: No. But that's one side. From the Haitian side, you have to understand that from the beginning, also, you have the army, and you have what was called in French the affranchi—the freed men. And they were, like, light-skin. And you have these, the two, the Army and the light-skin, controlling the whole politics of Haiti from the start. So this is why, for example, when the French came back in 1860 with the deal that we had with them and we paid them, they sent teachers not to teach the people, the mass of Haitians, but to teach the children of these light-skin, and probably the big soldiers, the children of the big soldiers. So what you have, you have a pyramid type of society, where at the bottom you have a big mass of people, and the education system was geared to this top. So at the top you would have maybe 5 percent of people knowing, and after studying in Haiti they would be going to France, mainly to study, and come back to Haiti to keep on the political, the social, the economics. They would hold on to everything in Haiti.

JAY: Well, in the next segment of our interview, let's talk about what shape is this elite in now, post-earthquake. Their institutions, their army, their police force, everything is more or less on the ground. So what happens next? So join us for the next segment of our interview with Ronald Charles.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee complete accuracy.


Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at

latest stories

Corbyn Allies in Labour Attacked For Supporting Palestinian Struggle
Are Oil Billionaires Trying to Undermine Our First Amendment Rights?
Chief in Charge of Internal Affairs To Retire from Baltimore Police
Paul Jay: Threats facing Humanity, Russiagate & the Role of Independent Media
Corbyn Smeared as 'Russian Stooge' for Requesting Evidence on Poisoned Spy
West's Anti-Russian Fervor Will Help Putin Win Election On Sunday
Corbyn Calls for Evidence in Escalating Poison Row
Expressions of Afro-Asian Solidarity during the Cold War
Sanders Resolution Against War in Yemen Challenged by Mattis
Senate Expands 'Lobbyist Bill' to Deregulate Real Estate
Economic Benefits of Tax Cuts Should Have Arrived - Where Are They?
Stephen Hawking: Fighter for Progressive Politics
Trump's Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Is Another World Possible? - Leo Panitch on RAI (4/4)
Students Demand Leaders Address the Root Causes of Gun Violence
Far-Right Ministers in Chile's New Government Placed in Sensitive Positions
Israeli Military Strangles Its Own Weapons Manufacturer to Privatize It
Not Without Black Women
Newly Tapped Sec of State Mike Pompeo Comes with Deep Ties to the Koch Brothers
The CIA's New Torturer-in-Chief
Anti-Pipeline Indigenous 'Mass Mobilization' Has Begun
UN Rapporteur: US Sanctions Cause Death in Venezuela
Colombia's Conservatives Make Gains in Congress Vote Amid Fraud Allegations
Wilkerson: Trump Won't Make Peace with North Korea
The Rise of Jeremy Corbyn and Class Struggle in the UK Labour Party - RAI with Leo Panitch (3/4)
Western Governments Whitewash Saudi Dictator MBS as 'Reformer'
US Cowardice Prevents Middle East Peace
Should China Maintain its Non-interference Policy toward Africa?
Bills to Ban Styrofoam and Crude Oil Terminals Pass Baltimore City Council
Elites Impose Education Policies They Would Never Accept for their Children,, The Real News Network, Real News Network, The Real News, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of Independent World Television inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and The Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Web Design, Web Development and Managed Hosting