“With the European powers engaged in World War I, President Woodrow Wilson feared that Germany might occupy Haiti and threaten the sea route to the Panama Canal. To protect U.S. interests and to restore order, the president sent 330 marines and sailors to Haiti.
The last marines did not leave Haiti until 1934. To ensure repayment of Haiti’s debts, the United States took over the collection of customs duties. Americans also arbitrated disputes, distributed food and medicine, censored the press, and ran military courts. In addition, the United States helped build about a thousand miles of unpaved roads and a number of agricultural and vocational schools, and trained the Haitian army and police. It also helped to replace a government led by blacks with a government headed by mulattoes. The U.S. forced the Haitians to adopt a new constitution which gave American businessmen the right to own land in Haiti. While campaigning for vice president in 1920, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had served as assistant secretary of the Navy in the Wilson Administration, later boasted, "I wrote Haiti’s Constitution myself, and if I do say it, it was a pretty good little Constitution.”
Many Haitians resisted the American occupation. In the fall of 1918, Charlemagne Peralte, a former Haitian army officer, launched a guerrilla war against the U.S. Marines to protest a system of forced labor imposed by the United States to build roads in Haiti. In 1919, he was captured and killed by U.S. Marines, and his body was photographed against a door with a crucifix and a Haitian flag as a lesson to others. During the first five years of the occupation, American forces killed about 2,250 Haitians. In December 1929, U.S. Marines fired on a crowd of protesters armed with rocks and machetes, killing 12 and wounding 23. The incident stirred international condemnation and ultimately led to the end of the American occupation.“
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