Bloomberg reports that Citigroup’s history in Haiti is remembered as both among the most spectacular episodes of U.S. dollar diplomacy in the Caribbean and as an egregious example of officials in Washington working at the behest of Wall Street. It’s also a story marked by military intervention, violations of national sovereignty and the deaths of thousands.
In the early 20th century, the National City Bank of New York, as Citigroup was then called, embarked on an ambitious and pioneering era of overseas expansion. Haiti emerged as one of National City’s first international projects. In 1909, Speyer & Co. invited National City President Frank A. Vanderlip to join in the purchase of a moribund American-controlled railway concession in Haiti.
Vanderlip agreed and the purchase turned out to be a“small but profitable piece of business” for the bank. But Vanderlip wasn’t interested in the acquisition for its short-term returns. He thought the stock would give National City a 'foothold' in the country that could lead to a risk-free and profitable reorganization of the Haitian government’s finances.
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