Blavity Fam, you may have seen images circulating the internet depicting the violent and deadly protests that have recently occurred in Haiti. Swarms of Haitian workers shut down the capital of Port-au-Prince on Monday, July 9, following the government's announcement of increased fuel prices.The Haitian government had long subsidized fuel prices but raised them on Friday to free government funds to comply with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)'s austerity measures.

“I ask for your patience because our administration has a vision, a clear program,” Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant said in a televised announcement according to TeleSurv. Shortly after announcing the new measures, the prime minister put a temporary halt to what would've been a 38 percent gasoline price increase, 47 percent diesel price increase and 51 percent kerosene price increase.

According to The Globe Post, the protests may have incited a comprise, as IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice confirmed the organization agreed to restructure conditions imposed on the Haitian government during a briefing on Thursday. Calls for the resignation of many high-ranking government figures may have also led to the speedy about-face. 

This whole ordeal can't just be reduced to anger over gas prices, though. The price increase was merely the spark that ignited the powder keg. There's quite a bit to unpack, so we're here to offer some background.

Unfortunately, as often is the case with many significant protests, there was a lot of misinformation going around, but Twitter user @AdoreAmanda_ had time today. Citing long-term frustrations over poverty, a horrible education system and corruption, she broke it all the way down. 

As the Council on Foreign Relations notes, Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere with more than half of its population living below the poverty line. The country also heavily relies on foreign aid. Natural disasters and ineffective humanitarian relief management have also negatively affected its economy, especially regarding tourism.

Almost immediately after its independence in 1804, Haiti entered extreme debt. After the country's slaves won freedom for themselves in a war with France, France refused to acknowledge it as a country until Haiti paid France the full worth of all those newly freed slaves. Forbes reports Haiti agreed to pay France $22 billion in today's dollars in 1825 literally at gunpoint following France's establishment of a naval blockade of the island country.

At the time, Haiti was poised to become one of the wealthiest countries in the West thanks to its plentiful natural and agricultural resources. But it then spent the next 122 years paying as much as 80 percent of its revenues to France for its "stolen slaves."

While it struggled to get out from under this crippling debt, the United States spent nearly two decades destabilizing the country politically during World War I and the lead up to World War II. President Woodrow Wilson invaded the country in 1915, claiming it was necessary to keep out the German forces, then instituted a policy of segregation, slavery and fake news that led to several rebellions, the deaths of at least 15,000 Haitians and the forced dissolution of a series of governments hostile to the U.S. presence.

The U.S. pulled out in 1934, leaving a power vacuum that was eventually filled by dictator Francois Duvalier. 

Haiti was still under a mountain of debt when hit by the devastating 2010 earthquake. Following the disaster, Haiti was primarily forgiven of its obligations but had to borrow roughly $2.6 billion to rebuild with its coffers drained from years of paying debtors.

“For an entire century, Haiti geared its economy to paying back the French debt and missed out on industrialization, education and development of its government and democratic institutions,” noted Brian Concannon, founder and executive director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. “It really couldn’t develop.”

The IMF's measures were supposedly meant to help Haiti accelerate its development, and Rice has said the organization still wants Haiti "to move as quickly as possible” in carrying out reforms. However, there is no definitive timeline yet. 

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