The curse of striking gold in Haiti

The news is out of the bag: Haiti has billions of dollars of gold in its ground. Will this gold serve as a curse to make the nation as divided as the Central African Republic or will this gold enrich each citizen with the means put at his disposal so he will become as educated as possible so its endowed genius could come out for his benefit, his family and his nation?

I was speaking recently with an official responsible for environment in the country; I told him Haiti is one of the best candidates to work out a deal with the pension fund of New York City and State to fill the mountains of the country with precious hardwood such as mahogany, ebony and cedar.

Twenty-five years from now, the country will be so rich and the investors will have such a high return on their investment that the only curse is how to protect Haiti from the international predators who will try to divide the north against the south of the country to put a hand on that wealth.

Singapore, without natural resources, and the Central African Republic, with ample natural resources, has proven that the best resource a country has is not its natural resource but its critical mass of highly educated people that this nation has within its midst.

Showing off Haiti, to Jimmy Sherlock, an American friend, has taught me to become an acute observer of the energy of the Haitian people in surviving daily. Without support in infrastructure and in institution-building from past predatory governments, the people have developed significant resilience that has made them extraordinary workers!

The trick will be how to combine this resilience with education and formation so the citizens will strike gold and protect their precious resource (material and spiritual) against international predators that will reduce them to the state of the aboriginal Indians or the citizens of the Central African Republic (remember Bokassa!).

It is significant that this gold discovery in Haiti happens at this time. In my old age of sixty-six years this is the first time since I was six years old that I felt Haiti has a government that is committed to fully defend the interests of the citizens of the country. The nation’s motto that resembles the French rallying cry at its revolution: liberty, equality and fraternity, must be translated into peace, tranquility and liberty.

I am observing today a combination of entrenched-interest actors made up of the old regime dinosaurs and a sector of the press bought by past governments bent on demonizing the Martelly/Lamothe government so peace and tranquility will not be the lot of Haiti.

Haiti was at the same standing economically sixty years ago than most of the countries of the Caribbean. Through dictatorial, military and illiberal democratic regimes it has become a pariah state where its citizens seek by any means at their disposal to leave their country for better pasture abroad.

The earthquake of January 12, 2010, produced a shock that trembled not only the land but also the spirit. This spirit emboldens the people in particular, the downtrodden who took the leap of choosing an irreverent leader but totally determined to change the way business is conducted in Haiti.

Can this government protect the exploration of the gold mine so the country may receive what it is due in return? Initial information indicates that a good deal has been worked out where Haiti would receive one dollar out of every two dollars of revenue after expenses collected by the investors.

The gold mine in Haiti is large and deep — twenty three million ounces, the equivalent of 40 billion dollars, with very promising samples according to Michael Fulp, a geologist based in New Mexico, USA. Gold and Haiti have been bedfellows for centuries. Christopher Columbus, when he landed first in San Salvador, Bahamas, from his extraordinary travel from Spain, was told by the aborigines to continue further down, where he would find Ayity where gold flowed naturally from the rivers.

The Spaniards, in digging for gold in Hispaniola, exterminated not only the culture but also more than one million Arawaks who peopled the island. Dejected by the hard work associated with the search for gold, the Spaniards left for Mexico where mining was easier.

The French who followed the Spaniards with imported slaves from Africa discovered black gold in the production of sugar from sugar cane produced and harvested by the African slaves. It was as such for three centuries, with St Domingue becoming the richest island of the world, transshipping immense fortunes to the European elite.

The revolution of 1804 brought liberty but brought also misery to the mass of former slaves. Haiti was a bad example for a world bent on using slaves as a tool for production. Internal strife led by entrenched international interests that characterizes today the resource rich Central African Republic was also the lot of Haiti for two centuries after its independence.

In 1970, the United Nations in a study found that Haiti was rich in natural resources, especially gold and phosphate. But through a strange connivance of the dictatorial regime with the prestigious international organization that information was kept secret. I remembered visiting the library of the United Nations doing research on Haiti's mining potential; I was told such information could be delivered only with the authorization of the Haitian government.

The cat is now out of the bag, Haiti the pariah of the world is also a Cinderella. Will it be for one day? Or will it be sustainable, the newly found gold serving to make Haiti rich and well developed as Norway is using its black gold to keep the country and its citizens fully protected for the dry days of the future?

The rush to create a critical mass of educated Haitians as initiated by President Michel Joseph Martelly is a sure way to erect a safeguard to protect the newly found gold niche in Haiti. It is the only potion to remove the curse of striking rich!   (Jean H. Charles)

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at:jeanhcharles@aol

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