In 1825, France illegally extorted an “independence debt” from Haiti that amounts to $21 billion in today’s dollars. In effect, Haiti was forced to pay for its freedom. The crushing burden of the debt is the principle historic cause of Haiti’s underdevelopment, and is directly responsible for today’s grinding poverty in Haiti. France continues to resist pressure to repay the colossal independence debt. In August of 2010, a hundred prominent academics, authors, and human rights activists signed on to an open letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, arguing that the case for repayment was “morally, economically, and legally unassailable.” France dismissed the petition, pointing to its record of delivering other aid to Haiti, but did not address the legitimacy of the debt.

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