Liberia: A Short History

Revolutionary Worker #1209, August 10, 2003, posted at

Liberia was founded in 1821 when Officials of the American Colonization Society, backed by the U.S. Navy, took possession of Cape Mesurado from the local De chiefs for the settlement of freed American slaves.

The Americo-Liberian minority imposed a plantation system on the indigenous Africans and controlled the country's politics.

1871--Pressures to modernize led to foreign debt.

Conflicts over territorial claims resulted in loss of large areas of land to Britain and France in 1885, 1892 and 1919.

1909--Bankrupt government was further indebted to foreign powers through international loans.

1926--U.S.-based Firestone Company started rubber production on a large leased area of land. Firestone became the world's largest rubber plantation. Firestone continued to exploit rubber trees in Liberia for over 30 years. In 1951 Firestone's total profit gained, after taxes were paid to the Liberian government, was three times that of the total revenue for the Liberian government.

1944--U.S. used Liberia as base during WW2

1951--Liberia exploited for Iron Ore by U.S.-based "Republic Steel Company."

During this period Liberia, which had been self-sufficient in rice production, became a net importer of rice. In order to satisfy the increased demand for rubber, Firestone recruited and assisted many Liberians, mostly political elites, to invest in rubber. A key effect of the agricultural neglect and consequent increases in demand for rice imports, was that it raised Liberia's dependence on the United States--the single largest source of these imports.

1980--Master Sgt. Samuel Doe took over country in a bloody coup.

1982--Liberia was used as the principal base camp for CIA operations targeting Libya.

During Doe's rule from 1980 until his murder in 1989--Liberia was the recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid, mainly used for military purposes.

1992-1997--Charles Taylor led a civil war and eventually was elected into power during a brokered peace deal under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States.

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