The United States gained complete control over Haitian finances, and the right to intervene in Haiti whenever the U.S. Government deemed necessary. The U.S. Government also forced the election of a new pro-American President, Philippe Sudré Dartiguenave, by the Haitian legislature in August 1915. The selection of a President that did not represent the choice of the Haitian populace increased unrest in Haiti.Following the successful manipulation of the 1915 elections, the Wilson administration attempted to strong-arm the Haitian legislature into adopting a new constitution in 1917. This constitution allowed foreign land ownership, which had been outlawed since the Haitian Revolution as a way to prevent foreign control of the country. Extremely reluctant to change the long-standing law, the legislature rejected the new constitution. Law-makers began drafting a new anti-American constitution, but the United States forced President Dartiguenave dissolve the legislature, which did not meet again until 1929.
One of the stories my grandfather’s oldest son, my uncle Joseph, used to tell was of watching a group of young Marines kicking around a man’s decapitated head in an effort to frighten the rebels in their area. There are more stories still. Of the Marines’ boots sounding like Galipot, a fabled three-legged horse, which all children were supposed to fear. Of the black face that the Marines wore to blend in and hide from view. Of the time U.S. Marines assassinated one of the occupation’s most famous fighters, Charlemagne Péralte, and pinned his body to a door, where it was left to rot in the sun for days.
As the journalist Jonathan Katz details in his book on Haiti's long, miserable experience with foreign aid and intervention, the Americans left behind a new template for inequity and misrule.
"After the United States left in 1934, their successors continued bolstering [Port-au-Prince's] control over rural politics, expropriating peasant land for factories that produced commodities for the United States and stifling dissent using the army the Americans created," Katz writes.
In 1933, Smedley Butler, a former general in the U.S. Marine Corps, spoke with uncommon venom about the role his troops played in Haiti and beyond:
I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism ... I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street.
"During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket," concluded Butler. "Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints."
Related on WorldViews