« AnteriorContinuar »
ports about 2,000,000 people, giving it 196 inhabitants to the square mile. It is, thus, one of the most thickly populated of American states. Commercial development has been hindered by the plague of revolutions and by their accompaniment—bad financial management. The monetary system is nominally based on the gourde, of a value of $.965 gold. But no gold has ever been coined and the silver pieces which were issued have vanished. The actual currency is United States gold which stays in the country, due to the fact that all export taxes and a percentage of the import dues must be paid in that medium. Supplementing the gold currency there are fluctuating irredeemable paper bills of the value of one, two and five gourdes.
The most important commercial product is coffee. Cocoa holds second place. Other articles figuring prominently in the exports are cotton, cabinet and dye woods, honey, hides, and orange peels.
It is not to be expected that public records will be accurately kept in times of such continuous civil disturbances as have been the lot of Haiti. During revolutions the import customs are whatever the local authorities will accept and the government is regularly cheated of a large portion of its just return from the export tax on coffee. As a consequence, trade statistics are often unobtainable and always unreliable. In some years the best estimates of the value of Haitian export trade are alleged to be gotten by adding up the declared imports from the island into other countries
1 The coffee exports reached 78,512,559 pounds in 1914. In that year 6,088,084 pounds of cocoa were sent abroad.
rather than by taking the locally compiled figures. Reliable estimates of value are not reported.
Due to her recent revolutions the foreign trade is now not only not increasing but undergoing a decline. With war raging, the coffee plantations were neglected. Our consul at Port-au-Prince reported in June, 1915, “Nearly all of the male population has been recruited into the army, and in consequence but few have been left to till the soil. Agriculture has been at a complete standstill.
The United States does not figure largely in the export trade. We have not learned to appreciate Haitian coffee. The value of shipments to this country has decreased over 40 per cent. since 1902. On the other hand, we play a more important rôle in the import trade, about three-fourths of which nominally comes from the United States, though our consuls report that the figures for countries other than our own represent about a 50 per cent. discount from the real value of the goods. In this import trade France holds second place.
Commerce Reports, Supplement, June 19, 1915. Imports fell steadily from a value of almost $10,000,000 in 1912 to $7,612,792 in 1914. Exports also suffered. The total foreign trade in 1914 is estimated at $19,415,684. See also Daily Consular and Trade Reports, April 15, 1914, and Haiti, General Descriptive Data (pam.), Pan-American Union, Washington, 1915.
Commerce Reports, Supplement, June 19, 1915.
THE RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES WITH
A REVIEW of the revolutions of the Central American republics is wearisome and serves to emphasize a single conclusion, that self-government is not a guaranty of liberty, that the right of a nation to rule itself may degenerate into the practice of continuous flagrant misrule. No attempt is here made to follow the devious path of Central American politics even since the beginning of the present century, except as it leads to an understanding of the problems confronting the United States, or shows the motives governing its foreign policy.
Up to the beginning of the twentieth century, the attention of the United States in Central America centered around the possibility of constructing through the territory of these republics a trans-isthmian canal, and around the maintenance of the Monroe Doctrine. These influences have continued to maintain interest in this group of states, but they have been modified and accentuated by the rapid expansion of American overseas commerce, by the entry of the United States into the field of world politics, as a result of the Spanish-American War, and by the increased dependence upon its Navy which accompanied these developments. The United States has come to dominate the Central American market; it is the chief buyer of Central American produce; American capital is invested there to a greater extent than that of any other country. Moreover, the holdings of the United States in Panama make it on the lookout that no political developments shall take place in Central America that would jeopardize the security and usefulness of the waterway; and, finally, the United States is now, as formerly, solicitous that nothing shall occur there which might call in question those broader policies now connected with the Monroe Doctrine.
Central American problems present elements of unusual complexity. Geographical and racial divisions make more difficult the questions usually arising in tropical countries. Though the states are comparatively small, they have not the elements of unity usually present in such communities. With the exception of Salvador, all the republics face both the Atlantic and Pacific. Communication between the sections marked off by the continental divide is difficult, and railways are just beginning to bring a feeling of political unity between regions which, though under the same flag, have heretofore been highly contrasted in race-feeling and economic interests. The low-lying swampy east coast of Nicaragua, for example, has little in common with the comparatively high Pacific region. The inhabitants of the east coast are largely Indian; those of the west coast, to a greater degree, are Spanish. The characteristic industry of one section is the growing of bananas, the prosperity of the other depends upon the coffee trade. The economic bonds of the east coast are chiefly with the United States, from which also almost all the capital for internal development has come; the west coast is connected markedly with Europe. Similar contrasts can be drawn in the case of Guatemala and Honduras.
1 In this chapter the words “Central America" are used as excluding Panama which is treated elsewhere.
Racially, the republics are in striking contrast to each other. The predominantly Spanish civilization of Costa Rica bears little resemblance to the seven-eighths-Indian Nicaragua. The boundaries of the states do not coincide with the natural barriers which cross the region-a circumstance which has helped to foster plans of conquest on the part of factional leaders. In the long perspective of
years, there is no reason for a group of states in Central America; it is a region of political divisions where there should be political unity. That the various attempts at confederation have failed is an excellent example of the way in which particularistic sentiment, based on local patriotism, may establish standards inconsistent with the plain dictates of logic. Geographical, racial and political divisions all have contributed to keep Central America a boiling pot for the century of its independence. Confronted there by problems of such complexity, it is not to be wondered at that the statesmen of the United States have looked upon those in which we are concerned as involving serious responsibilities, assumed of necessity rather than opening opportunities to be welcomed.
Had there been any design on the part of the United States to adopt an aggressive policy in this region, the