Reparations madness, cont’d: almost 200 years after a slave revolt won Haiti’s independence, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide “has launched a controversial campaign to get France to repay its former colony billions of dollars in restitution. And he has already sent Paris a bill, down to the very last cent: $21,685,135,571.48.” A legal adviser to the Aristide administration is considering taking the case to international court (Jacqueline Charles, “Aristide pushes for restitution from France”, Miami Herald, Dec. 18; Henry Samuel, “You owe us $21,685,135,571.48″, Daily Telegraph (UK), Oct. 8; “The sad bicentennial of a once fabulous sugar colony”, The Economist, Dec. 18). No word yet on whether any reparations will be offered in the opposite direction for the 1804 massacres during which newly emergent strongman Jean-Jacques Dessalines ordered the slaughter of almost the entire French population resident in Haiti, an estimated 20,000 persons. (Update: another side of the story from Tunku Varadarajan, who argues that the government of France really was “first a brutal colonizer, and then a usurious bully”.)
In other news, the highly popular videogame “Vice City”, part of the Grand Theft Auto series, has drawn fire from New York and Florida officials “and from the government of Haiti, which has threatened to sue the game’s manufacturer, New York-based Rockstar Games, its parent company, Take 2 Interactive Software Inc., and the game’s distributors. A Miami lawyer representing the Haitian government said the game violates the hate crime laws of Florida and other states. ‘It’s the kind of thing that has no business being sold because it’s not just a game,’ attorney Ira Kurzban told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. ‘It’s a teaching device for young kids and high school students. What is it teaching them? Violence, hatred and racism.’” (“Haitian, Cuban Leaders Denounce ‘Grand Theft Auto’”, WTVJ South Florida, Dec. 16). More on videogame lawsuits: Sept. 26 and links from there.