Feature

Payback time

The week's news at a glance.

Cap-Haitien

Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide demanded this week that France return $21.7 billion, the equivalent of the sum that his country paid nearly two centuries ago for formal recognition of its independence. Haiti won its freedom in 1804 after a slave revolt, but France threatened to reclaim its former colony by force. Haiti paid the massive indemnity to end the dispute. “The main reason we’re so poor today is that we had to pay France that money,” said Leslie Voltaire, a member of Aristide’s cabinet. The government has launched TV and radio ads touting the public works it could do with the money. Laennec Hurbon, a Haitian sociologist, said that Aristide was making France “a scapegoat for his own ineptitude and corruption.”

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