Lecciones de una isla dividida

CAMBRIDGE: A setecientas millas de la costa de Florida se encuentra uno de los lugares más pobres del mundo. La Española fue la primera parada de Cristóbal Colón en el Nuevo Mundo. Apenas a hora y media de vuelo al sur de Miami, podría esperarse que la isla fuera un paraíso tropical y lugar favorito para las empresas “offshore” de los Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, la realidad es más cruel.

En la Española cohabitan dos naciones. Haití, en el lado occidental, es el país más pobre en América. Al este, a la República Dominicana le va mejor, con un ingreso promedio equivalente a seis veces el de Haití. Sin embargo, también experimentó horrores políticos y económicos hasta la década pasada. Con el regreso al poder del Presidente Jean-Bertrand Aristide en febrero, el largo ciclo de pobreza y violencia de Haití podría terminar, pero sólo si ese país y los Estados Unidos entienden las lecciones de la terrible historia de La Española.

La pobreza de La Española tiene raíces coloniales. Los europeos colonizaron las islas del Caribe como plantaciones de azúcar, con un acarreo despiadado de millones de esclavos africanos que trabajaban y morían jóvenes en esas plantaciones. La Española sufrió lo peor de la deforestación, la erosión de los suelos y el colapso de la productividad agrícola, sobre todo del lado haitiano.

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