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|Haiti's legislative machinery has been effectively stalled since June 1997, a year-and-a-half after President Preval's February 1996 inauguration. Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigned in June 1997 and for 18 months the Parliament was unwilling to approve any of the nominations for a new Prime Minister put forward by President Preval. President Preval allowed the Parliament's mandate to lapse in January 1999 effectively leaving the country without a legislative branch of Government. President Preval's last nomination for Prime Minister, Jacques-Edouard Alexis, assumed office in January 1999 and formed a government in March. Alexis has announced that his primary goal is to organize and hold elections to reconstitute Parliament.|
Haiti Government - History
Christopher Columbus lands and claims the island of Hispaniola for Spain. The Spanish build the New World's first settlement at La Navidad on Haiti's north coast.
Spanish control over the colony ends with the Treaty of Ryswick, which divided the island into French-controlled St. Domingue and Spanish Santo Domingo.
For over 100 years the colony of St. Domingue (known as the Pearl of the Antilles) was France's most important overseas territory, which supplied it with sugar, rum, coffee and cotton. At the height of slavery, near the end of the 18th century, some 500,000 people mainly of western African origin, were enslaved by the French.
A slave rebellion is launched by the Jamaican-born Boukman leading to a protracted 13-year war of liberation against St. Domingue's colonists and later, Napoleon's army which was also assisted by Spanish and British forces. The slave armies were commanded by General Toussaint Louverture who was eventually betrayed by his officers Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe who opposed his policies, which included reconciliation with the French. He was subsequently exiled to France where he died.
The Haitian blue and red flag is devised at Arcahie, by taking the French tricolor, turning it in its side and removing the white band. The Battle of Vertières marks the ultimate victory of the former slaves over the French.
The hemispere's second Republic is declared on January 1, 1804 by General Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Haiti, or Ayiti in Creole, is the name given to the land by the former Taino-Arawak peoples, meaning "mountainous country."
Emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines is assassinated.
Civil war racks the country, which divides into the northern kingdom of Henri Christophe and the southern republic governed by Alexandre Pétion. Faced with a rebellion by his own army, Christophe commits suicide, paving the way for Jean-Pierre Boyer to reunify the country and become President of the entire republic in 1820.
President Boyer invades Santo Domingo following its declaration of independence from Spain. The entire island is now controlled by Haiti until 1844.
France recognizes Haitian independence in exchange for a financial indemnity of 150 million francs . Most nations including the United States shunned Haiti for almost forty years, fearful that its example could stir unrest there and in other slaveholding countries. Over the next few decades Haiti is forced to take out loans of 70 million francs to repay the indemnity and gain international recognition.
The United States finally grants Haiti diplomatic recognition sending Frederick Douglass as its Consular Minister.
President Woodrow Wilson orders the U.S. Marines to occupy Haiti and establish control over customs-houses and port authorities. The Haitian National Guard is created by the occupying Americans. The Marines force peasants into corvée labor building roads. Peasant resistance to the occupiers grows under the leadership of Charlemagne Peralt, who is betrayed and assassinated by Marines in 1919.
The U.S. withdraws from Haiti leaving the Haitian Armed Forces in place throughout the country.
Thousands of Haitians living near the border of the Dominican Republic are massacred by Dominican soldiers under the orders of President General Trujillo.
After several attempts to move forward democratically ultimately fail, military-controlled elections lead to victory for Dr. François Duvalier, who in 1964 declares himself President-for-Life and forms the infamous paramilitary Tonton Makout . The corrupt Duvalier dictatorship marks one of the saddest chapters in Haitian history with tens of thousands killed or exiled.
"Papa-Doc" Duvalier dies in office after naming his 19 year-old son Jean-Claude as his successor.
The first Haitian "boat people" fleeing the country land in Florida.
Widespread protests against repression of the nation's press take place.
"Baby-Doc" Duvalier exploits international assistance and seeks to attract investment leading to the establishment of textile-based assembly industries. Attempts by workers and political parties to organize are quickly and regularly crushed.
Hundreds of human rights workers, journalists and lawyers are arrested and exiled from the country.
International aid agencies declare Haitian pigs to be carriers of African Swine Fever and institute a program for their slaughter. Attempts to replace indigenous swine with imported breeds largely fail.
Pope John Paul II visits Haiti and declares publicly that, "Things must change here."
Over 200 peasants are massacred at Jean-Rabeau after demonstrating for access to land. The Haitian Bishops Conference launches a nation-wide (but short-lived) literacy program. Anti-government riots take place in all major towns.
Massive anti-Government demonstrations continue to take place around the country. Four schoolchildren are shot dead by soldiers, an event which unifies popular protest against the régime.
Widespread protests against "Baby Doc" lead the U.S. to arrange for Duvalier and his family to be exiled to France. Army leader General Henri Namphy heads a new National Governing Council.
A new Constitution is overwhelmingly approved by the population in March. General elections in November are aborted hours after they begin with dozens of people shot by soldiers and the Tonton Makout in the capital and scores more around the country.
Military controlled elections - widely abstained from - result in the installation of Leslie Manigat as President in January. Manigat is ousted by General Namphy four months later and in November General Prosper Avril unseats Namphy.
President Avril, on a trade mission to Taiwan, returns empty-handed after grassroots-based democratic sectors inform Taiwanese authorities that the Haitian nation will not be responsible for any contracts agreed to by Avril. Avril orders massive repression against political parties, unions, students and democratic organizations.
Avril declares a state of siege in January. Rising protests and urging from the American Ambassador convince Avril to resign. A Council of State forms out of negotiations among democratic sectors, charged with running a Provisional Government led by Supreme Court Justice Ertha Pascal-Trouillot.
U.S. Vice-President Dan Quayle visits Haiti and tells Army leaders, "No more coups." Assistance is sought from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN) to help organize general elections in December.
In a campaign marred by occasional violence and death, democratic elections finally take place on December 16, 1990. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a parish priest, well known throughout the country for his support of the poor, is elected President with 67.5% of the popular vote. The "U.S. favorite" Marc Bazin finishes a distant second with 14.2%
Duvalierist holdover and Tonton Makout Dr. Roger Lafontant attempts a coup d'état to prevent Father Aristide's ascension to power. The Armed Forces quickly remove him from the National Palace following massive popular protest.
President Aristide is inaugurated on February 7th, five years after Duvalier's fall from power. A Government is formed by Prime Minister René Préval promising to uproot the corruption of the past. Over $500 million is promised in aid by the international community.
In September President Aristide addresses the UN General Assembly. Three days after his return military personnel with financial backing from neo-Duvalierist sectors and their international allies unleash a coup d'état, ousting President Aristide. Over 1,000 people are killed in the first days of the coup.
The OAS calls for a hemisphere-wide embargo against the coup régime in support of the deposed constitutional authorities.
Negotiations between the Washington, D.C. based exiled Government, Haiti's Parliament and representatives of the coup régime headed by General Raoul Cédras lead to the Washington Protocol, which is ultimately scuttled by the coup régime.
U.S. President George Bush exempts U.S. factories from the embargo and orders U.S. Coast Guard to interdict all Haitians leaving the island in boats and to return them to Haiti.
The OAS embargo fails as goods continue to be smuggled through neighboring Dominican Republic. Haiti's legitimate authorities ask the United Nations to support a larger embargo in order to press the coup leaders to step down. The UN pledges to support efforts by the OAS to find a solution to the political crisis.
President Aristide asks the Secretaries-General of the OAS and the UN for the deployment by the United Nations and OAS of an international civilian mission to monitor respect for human rights and the elimination of all forms of violence.
In June Haiti requests an oil and arms embargo from the UN Security Council in order to pressure the coup régime to give up power.
In July, President Aristide and General Raoul Cédras sign the Governors Island Accord, which inter alia called for the early retirement of Gen. Cédras, the formation and training of a new civilian police force, and the return of the President on October 30, 1993. Representatives of political parties and Parliament sign the New York Pact pledging support for President Aristide's return and the rebuilding of the nation.
A contingent of U.S. and Canadian trainers aboard the U.S.S. Harlan County arrives in Haitian waters in October and is recalled because of right-wing demonstrations, setting back the Governors Island agreement. General Cédras refuses to step down as promised.
President Aristide's Justice Minister Guy Malary, responsible for the formation of a civilian police force is shot dead in Port-au-Prince weeks after local businessman and Aristide supporter Antoine Izmery is executed outside of a local church.
The UN calls for "strict implementation" of the embargo against the de facto authorities. The Civilian Mission's human rights observers are allowed to return in small numbers.
In May additional sanctions were levied against the régime through a naval blockade supported by Argentine, Canadian, French, Dutch and U.S. warships.
Tensions increase as human rights violations continue. The Civilian Mission is told by the de facto authorities to leave the country.
The UN Security Council passes Resolution 940 authorizing the Member States to form a 6,000 multinational force and "to use all necessary means" to facilitate the departure of the military régime.
On September 15th, U.S. President Clinton declares that all diplomatic initiatives were exhausted and that the US with 20 other countries would form a multinational force. On September 19th these troops land in Haiti after the coup leaders agree to step down and leave the country.
On October 15th, President Aristide and his Government-in-exile return to Haiti.
In June Haiti hosts the annual OAS General Assembly at Montrouis.
Legislative elections take place that month and in December the presidential contest is won by former Prime Minister René Préval. (President Aristide is precluded by the Constitution from succeeding himself).
In November Prime Minister Smarck Michel steps down and Foreign Minister Claudette Werleigh becomes President Aristide's fourth Prime Minister.
President Préval is inaugurated in February. A Government is formed under Prime Minister Rosny Smarth. Agricultural production, administrative reform, and economic modernization are announced as the Goverment's priorities.
1804 - Haiti becomes independent former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines declares himself emperor.
1806 - Dessalines assassinated and Haiti divided into a black-controlled north and a mulatto-ruled south
1818-43 - Pierre Boyer unifies Haiti, but excludes blacks from power.
1915 - US invades Haiti following black-mulatto friction, which it thought endangered its property and investments in the country.
1934 - US withdraws troops from Haiti, but maintains fiscal control until 1947.
Haiti's economic and social development continue to be hindered by political instability, governance issues, and fragility. With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of US$1,149.50 and a Human Development Index ranking of 170 out of 189 countries in 2020, Haiti remains the poorest country in the Latin America and Caribbean region and among the poorest countries in the world.
The Haitian economy has been battered by multiple shocks since mid-2018. Even before COVID-19 hit, the economy was contracting and facing significant fiscal imbalances. Following a contraction of 1.7% percent in 2019 in the context of the political turmoil and social discontent, GDP contracted by an estimated 3.8% in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the already weak economy and political instability.
Past marginal gains in poverty reduction have been undone by the recent shocks, with current estimates pointing to a poverty rate of nearly 60% in 2020 compared to the last official national estimate of 58.5% in 2012. About two thirds of the poor live in rural areas. The welfare gap between urban and rural areas is largely due to adverse conditions for agricultural production.
Haiti is among the most unequal countries in the region. The Gini coefficient (based on an income aggregate) was 0.61 in 2012, with the richest 20 percent of the population holding more than 64 percent of the total income of the country, compared to less than 2 percent held by the poorest 20 percent.
Haiti has made significant progress in controlling cholera, with no laboratory-confirmed cases since 2019. Despite this progress, improvements in human capital have stalled and, in some cases, deteriorated since 2012. Infant and maternal mortality remain at high levels, and coverage of prevention measures (including vaccination and vitamin A supplementation) are stagnating or declining, especially for the poorest households. According to the Human Capital Index, a child born today in Haiti will grow up to be only 45% as productive as they could be if he or she had enjoyed full education and health.
In addition to the challenges posed by the pandemic and the political stalemate, Haiti remains highly vulnerable to natural hazards, mainly hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. More than 96% of the population is exposed to these types of shocks. Hurricane Matthew, which hit the country in 2016, caused losses and damages estimated at 32% of 2015 GDP, while the 2010 earthquake, that killed about 250,000 people, decimated 120% of the country GDP. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency, intensity, and impacts of extreme weather events, and the country still lacks adequate preparedness and coping mechanisms.
The World Bank Group Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for Haiti was discussed by the Board of Directors in September 2015 and updated in 2018 through the Performance and Learning Review. It is designed to support the country’s efforts to provide economic opportunities for all its people and to combat poverty.
Remaining within the broad parameters of the Haiti CPF, the WBG program was adjusted in 2020 to support the Government of Haiti’s response to COVID-19 crises. These adjustments align with the four pillars of the WBG COVID-19 Crisis Response Approach Paper “Saving Lives, Scaling-up Impact and Getting Back on Track,” which include: 1) saving lives 2) protecting poor and vulnerable people 3) ensuring sustainable business growth and job creation and 4) strengthening policies, institutions, and investments for rebuilding better.
Since April 2020, the Bank has approved several operations and restructured ongoing projects to support the health sector response to save lives, financed social protection measures and cash transfers to protect the poor and vulnerable, as well as initiatives to support food security and livelihoods. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) also provided emergency support to the private sector, for example in the garment sector for production of personal protective equipment for COVID-19 response. In the recovery phase, engagement will focus on strengthening policies, institutions and investments for rebuilding better, with investment operations supporting SMEs and private sector jobs, resilient infrastructure, and digital connectivity.
WORLD BANK GROUP PROGRAM
The World Bank's portfolio in Haiti comprises 20 active projects for a total commitment amount of US$915 million as of April 2021. Of this amount, US$874 million is financing from the International Development Association (IDA), complemented by US$40 million from trust funds that support the implementation of these projects.
The International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, allocated US$260 million for Haiti for the period 2020-2022.
Haiti has received a fast-tracked US$20 million grant to help address the health emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another US$20 million grant was approved as budget support financing aimed at increasing Haiti’s capacity to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and enhance resilience to natural hazards and health-related shocks.
In addition to this new financing, support has been provided to other critical sectors during the pandemic by reprogramming existing resources, including by activating Contingent Emergency Response Components (CERCs). One CERC has allowed funds to be reallocated under an agriculture project to support food security by safeguarding production for upcoming cropping cycles. A second CERC financed through an Urban development project supported emergency cash transfers to ease some of the economic and social challenges for the most vulnerable.
An ongoing education project has helped ensure continuity of the school feeding programs despite school closures, and find new methods of remote learning. The ongoing water and sanitation project has ramped up hand washing and hygiene awareness, particularly in high-risk areas like the border crossing, health centers, and marketplaces. More information about the multisectoral response to the COVID-19 crisis is available here. Going forward, the World Bank is also looking at additional initiatives to support the country’s efforts for economic recovery, resilience, and protecting the vulnerable.
Overall, the urban and resilience sector and the transport sector represents the largest segment of the World Bank portfolio in Haiti, with each 21% of the total financing, followed by the energy and extractives sector at 12%, and the agriculture and food sector with 11% of total financing. Other key areas include, the health, nutrition and population sector with 8%, and the social protection and water sectors, each with 8%. Remaining resources are earmarked for the education, digital development, finance, governance, macroeconomics, and trade and investment, sectors.
In addition, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) supports the private sector in Haiti. As of March 2021, IFC’s portfolio is comprised of 10 projects with an initial commitment of $154m of which US$29 million has been mobilized from other partners. IFC supports private sector projects in Haiti in the areas of energy, beverages, garment manufacturing, financial markets, and hospitality.
While supporting the private sector in mitigating the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and paving the way for a strong recovery, the IFC program aims to increase financial inclusion, create jobs, and facilitate access to sustainable basic infrastructures by making catalytic investments. It also contributes to the development of a competitive and inclusive economy through technical assistance and advisory programs designed to make the business environment more attractive for investors and for micro, small, and medium enterprises.
The Haitian Timeline: A History of Military Dictatorship and Civil Rule (Revised and Expanded)
On the 1st of January 1804, following thirteen years of brutal warfare, Haiti became the first ‘black’ independent republic in modern history. Since then Haiti’s history has been dominated by fractious internal politics, military dictatorships and periods of external interference, mainly by the United States. Massive population growth, along with a lack of resources, has not been helped by a U.S. policy that wavers between the extremes of indifference and repeated forms of interventionism. As a result of these factors Haiti is not only the least developed nation in our hemisphere, but also one of the least understood. The following chronology of the political and military volatility that has troubled the small Caribbean francophone nation since its inception provides some sense of how Haiti’s history still bears relevance today.
1503 – First Africans brought to the island of Hispaniola as slave labor.
1625 – France establishes a colony in the north west of Hispaniola, known as Saint-Domingue.
1670 – France authorizes the use of African slave labor, a practice already widespread in the colony. Many Africans escape to the mountainous regions of the colony to establish free Maroon communities.
September 20th 1697 – Under the Treaty of Ryswick, Spain officially cedes the western third of Hispaniola to France.
1758 – Saint-Domingue, at the time richest colony in the world, executes Maroon leader François Mackandal, after a seven-year rebellion. The colony is home to some 500,000 slaves, 25,000 free blacks and coloreds known collectively as gens de couleur libres (free men of color) and 50,000 whites and produces 45% of the world’s sugar and 60% of the coffee being consumed in Europe. A high mortality rate attributable to disease and cruelty meant that most of the colony’s slaves are African born.
1778 – The first encounter between the nations that would later become Haiti and the United States of America takes place when just under 1000 Haitian gens de couleur libres volunteer to fight alongside American revolutionaries and French troops during the siege of Savannah. Among them is Henri Christophe who would go on to become a noted strategist during the Haitian revolution and a later ruler of Haiti.
February 25th 1791 – Vincent Oge and Jean-Baptiste Chavannes are publicly executed in Cap-Français. The pair had been proponents of equal rights for gens de couleur libres inspired by the French Revolution they began an ill fated revolt.
May 1791 – Revolutionary France grants citizenship to all gens de couleur libres.
August 22nd 1791 – Maroons and enslaved Africans in the north of the colony stage a revolt against the French under the leadership of Jamaican born, Dutty Boukman.
1803 – After the death of Boukman, the revolt is lead by a number of competent strategists including Toussaint L’Ouverture, Andre Riguad, Bauvais, Henri Christophe Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Alexandre Petion and Laplume. With defeat in Haiti imminent, Napoleon abandons his plans for a revived French empire in the New World and instead authorizes the sale of Louisiana. The Louisiana Purchase adds some 828,800 square miles to the United States.
January 1st 1804 – Saint-Domingue is declared independent, under the original Arawak name Haiti, by General Jean-Jaques Dessalines. Following the formal declaration of independence, Dessalines (naming himself Jaques I) repudiates republicanism, preferring Napoleon’s autocratic style of rule.
May 20th 1805 – Dessalines formulates the first constitution of Haiti as an independent country, the Imperial Constitution of 1805. This constitution forbade whites from owning land and restricted the power of the rich gens de couleur, which created friction between Dessalines and notable gens de couleur Petion and Riguad.
Under Dessalines the new Haitian government tries to restart the sugar and coffee industries without slave labor. He enforces a harsh regimen of plantation labour, described by some as caporalisme agraire (agrarian militarism). Dessalines demands that all Haitians work either as soldiers to protect the nation or as laborers on the plantations to generate crops and income. Dessalines pursues tight fiscal regulation, encourages foreign trade, and invites merchants from Britain and the United States to invest in Haiti.
October 17th 1806 – Haiti is on brink of economic collapse as United States and European powers boycott the nation, refusing to grant it recognition and trading rights, least it serves as an example to their own black populations. Dessalines’ economic policies and autocratic style of rule prove unpopular and he is assassinated. After a brief civil war Haiti is divided into a black-controlled autocratic northern kingdom, ruled by Henri Christophe and a mulatto-ruled democratic southern republic, under president Alexandre Petion.
March 31st 1816 – With aid provided by Petion and others, South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar is able to equip an expedition consisting of 6 schooners a sloop, 250 men, mostly officers, and arms for 6,000 troops. Bolivar, after securing the independence of most of South America, reneges on promises to try reconcile U.S. and European policy towards Haiti and instead refuses to recognize Haiti or trade with the nation.
1807-1820– Faced with a rebellion by his own army, Christophe commits suicide, paving the way for gen du couleur Jean-Pierre Boyer to reunify the country and become President of the entire republic in 1820.
1820-1825 – After Boyer unifies Haiti and even occupies the Dominican Republic until 1844. He governs through excluding blacks from power but is finally deposed in a revolt led by Charles Riviere-Herard in 1843, who establishes a parliamentary state based on a new constitution.
3rd July 1825 – A squadron of French ships carrying 500 cannons lays anchor off the Haitian coast and demands a FR150 million indemnity from Haiti for property, i.e. slaves, lost through the revolution, and in return for diplomatic recognition. The indemnity was later reduced to FR90 million (comparable to US$12.7 billion in 2010). Haiti, under threat of reinvasion by France, was left with little choice but to borrow money from American, French and German bankers to pay the sum these financial sources become increasingly influential in the Haitian economy. France only establishes diplomatic recognition to Haiti in 1834, and refuses to officially trade with the nation. The indemnity was not fully paid until 1947.
1825-1847 – With the treasury bankrupt and army and civil servant wages unpaid revolts soon break out and Haiti falls into anarchy with a series of short-lived presidents until March 1847 when General Faustin Soulouque, a commander during the revolution, becomes the nations head.
1862 – After the Emancipation Proclamation and the abolition of slavery, the United States sees Haiti as less of a threat and formally establishes diplomatic relations with Port-au-Prince and allows some trade.
1867 – A constitutional government is established, but successive presidents Sylvain Salnave and Nissage Saget are deposed in 1869 and 1874 respectively. A new constitution is introduced in 1874 under Michel Domingue, resulting in a period of democratic peace and development until 1910.
1910-1911 – The German community, by now well integrated into Haitian society through commerce and marriage, become embroiled in the nation’s politics, as they bankroll many of the country’s coups. In an effort to restrict German influence in what they see as their back yard, the U.S. State Department helps City Bank of New York to acquire the Banque National d’Haïti, the nation’s only commercial bank, the government treasury and guarantor of most of the debt related to indemnity to France.
July 28th 1915 – American President Wilson orders 3000 Marines to Port-au-Prince, after a uprising threatens U.S. business interests on the island. The commander of the U.S. mission is ordered to ‘protect American and foreign’ interests, but the international community is told that the invasion is designed to ‘re-establish peace and order’. The main concern of U.S. policy makers is that Haiti repays its debt to the United States.
1915-1934 – Representatives from the United States wielded veto power over all governmental decisions in Haiti, and Marine Corps commanders served as administrators in Haitian provinces. United States officials supervise all Haitian administrative and financial institutions such as banks and the national treasury. Haiti is forced to spend 40% of the national income on debt repayment to American and French banks, stunting economic growth and exacerbating the effects of the Great Depression in Haiti.
In 1917, President Dartiguenave dissolved the legislature after its members refused to approve a new constitution penned by Franklin D. Roosevelt, then the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. The constitution is eventually approved which allows foreigners, in particular Americans, to purchase land. The Marines initiate an extensive road-building program to enhance their military reach and open the country to U.S. investment. To accomplish this they revive a defunct Haitian law, which required peasants to perform labor on local roads in lieu of paying a road tax.
August 1st 1934 – American troops withdraw from Haiti after a 19-year occupation, but the United States maintains fiscal control until 1947 to ensure debt repayment.
1937- Upward of 35,000 Haitians living in the Dominican are massacred by the Dominican armed forces on the orders of President Trujillo U.S. Secretary of State Hull later declared “President Trujillo is one of the greatest men in Central America and in most of South America.”
January 11th 1946 – President Elie Lescot is overthrown in a military coup d’etat led by Major Paul Eugene Magloire in the wake of economic difficulties on the island. Franck Lavaud, Chairman of the Haiti Military Executive Committee becomes president.
August 16th 1946 – The newly-created Executive Military Committee appoints Léon Dumarsais Estimé president of Haiti for five years.
September 25th 1956 – Physician Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier seizes power in a military coup d’état and is elected president a year later.
December 31st 1956 – Daniel Fignolé is elected President of Haiti but is superseded by a Military Council of Government.
1958 – 1964 – Duvalier begins to violently attack his opponents, driving many of them into exile.
December 31st 1964 – The National Assembly votes to accept the Duvalieriste Constitution, establishing Duvalier as President for Life of Haiti. He then launches a dictatorship with the help of the brutal Tontons Macoute militia.
December 31st 1970 – Thousands of Haitians begin to flee by sea amidst poverty and repression throughout the country. Many arrive in southern Florida.
February 28th 1971 – The National Assembly approves an amendment to the constitution, allowing Duvalier to name his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, as his successor
April 21st 1971 – President for Life François Duvalier dies in Port-au-Prince.
April 22nd 1971 – Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier succeeds his father as “President for Life” of Haiti.
August 27th 1983 – The constitution is amended, creating the position of State Minister, permanently allowing the president to name his preferred successor.
February 7th 1986 – President Jean-Claude Duvalier flees Haiti for Talloires, France following a coup d’etat led by General Henri Namphy.
July 17th 1987 – During a ceremony at the Military Academy, the Haitian Armed Forces swear allegiance to the new constitution of 1987.
February 7th 1988 – Leslie Manigat is “elected” president in a tightly military controlled election, but he is ousted in a coup led by Brigadier-General Prosper Avril, who establishes a civilian front under military control.
January 31st 1990 – President General Prosper Avril declares a state of siege in January.
March 31st 1990 – Prosper Avril is ousted 18 months after seizing power in a coup d’état. A popular uprising forces him to flee the country.
December 16th 1990 – Democratic elections take place. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a priest well known throughout the country for his support of the poor, is elected president with nearly seventy percent of the popular vote.
1991-94 – Thousands of Haitian boat people begin to flee violence and repression on the island. Although most are repatriated to Haiti by U.S. government authorities, many manage to enter the United States as refugees.
January 7th 1991 – Haitian General Herard Abraham crushes Roger Lafontant’s attempted coup d’état.
February 7th 1991 – Aristide is sworn in as president of the Republic of Haiti.
September 30th 1991 – President Aristide is overthrown in a coup d’état headed by soon-to-be promoted Lieutenant-General Raoul Cedras, who installs a harsh military junta.
1992 – Negotiations between the Washington, D.C. based exiled Government, Haiti’s Parliament and representatives of the coup régime headed by General Raoul Cédras lead to the Washington Protocol, which is ultimately scuttled by the coup régime. U.S. President George Bush exempts U.S. factories from the U.S. embargo against the military junta and orders U.S. Coast Guard to interdict all Haitians leaving the island in boats and to return them to Haiti. The OAS embargo fails as goods continue to be smuggled to through neighboring Dominican Republic.
July 3rd 1993 – After a week of talks, Aristide and General Raoul Cedras sign the Governor’s Island Agreement, stipulating the turn over of power from the ruling military to the civilian government.
October 30th 1993 – Haitian Military continues to maintain power over the island. President Aristide is unable to return to Haiti as president, as was stipulated under the Governors Island Agreement. The controversial leadership of the Haitian police and military continues.
September 19th 1994 – The de facto military government is called upon to resign by the U.S. upon which U.S. and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) troops are sent in to occupy Haiti. The United Nations sanctions Operation Uphold Democracy, ordered by President Clinton, which officially begins.
October 15th 1994 – In spite of reluctance by the Clinton administration, a severely limited Jean Bertrand Aristide is reinstated as president of Haiti. In 1994 the Haitian government enters into a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that contains a “medium-term structural adjustment strategy” which “included sweeping trade liberalization measures’. In 1995 when this agreement goes into affect, Haiti’s tariffs on rice imports are cut dramatically from 35% to the current level of 3%. The reduction in tariffs dooms Haiti, which was previously self sufficient in terms of rice, to become the ‘dumping ground’ for rice from the United States. Haiti farmers cannot compete with cheap imports of subsidized rice from the southern United States and many go out of business, leading to massive unemployment.
March 31st 1995 – The U.S. nominally hands over military authority to the United Nations but maintains effective control over the government of the island. Aristide dissolves the Haitian army.
February 7th 1996 – René Garcia Préval assumes the presidency.
February 7th 2001 – Jean Bertrand Aristide is once again elected president of Haiti, but his popularity wanes due to rampant corruption and his inabilities to maintain his authority due to lack of an enforcement mechanism.
December 18th 2001 – Thirty armed men try to seize the National Palace in an apparent coup attempt 12 people are killed in the raid.
January 2004 – Anti-Aristide protests lead to violent clashes in Port-au-Prince, causing several deaths. In February, a revolt breaks out in the city of Gonaives and spread throughout the country. A mediation team of diplomats presents a plan to reduce Aristide’s power while allowing him to remain in office until the end of his constitutional term. Although Aristide accepts the plan it is rejected by the opposition.
February 5th 2004 – Aristide is deposed as president of Haiti following a de facto coup d’etat in which the United States demonstrably was involved. An interim government, led by President Boniface Alexandre, with Gérard Latortue as prime minister is installed.
February 7th 2006 – René Garcia Préval is controversially elected as president of Haiti for a second term.
May 18th 2009 – Former U.S. President Bill Clinton to be appointed UN’s special envoy to Haiti.
January 12th, 2010 – Massive earthquake shatters Haiti, causing over 220,000 fatalities.
The Haitian Timeline was compiled with the help of the BBC, COHA Guest Collaborator Dr Kwesi Sansculotte- Greenidge, and COHA Research Associate Matayo Moshi. Dr. Sanculotte-Greendige is currently a Research Fellow in the Peace Studies Department of the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom.
Dr. Sanculotte-Greendige is currently a Research Fellow in the Peace Studies Department of the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom.
Haiti: A brief history of a complex nation
Located in the Caribbean, Haiti (View: A Map of Haiti) occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola, with the Dominican Republic in the eastern two-thirds. With an area of about 10,714 square miles, Haiti is approximately the size of the state of Maryland. The major cities are: Cap-Haïtien, Jérémie, Les Cayes, Hinche, Gonaïves, and Jacmel. Haiti has two official languages: Haitian Creole and French.
When Columbus landed in the island of Hispaniola on December 6, 1492, he found a kingdom ruled by a cacique, or Taino Indian chief. After the French arrived in the seventeenth century to continue European exploration and exploitation in the Western Hemisphere, the indigenous population was largely exterminated. As a result, Africans (primarily from West Africa) were imported as slave labor to produce raw goods for international commerce. Considered France’s richest colony in the eighteenth century, Haiti was known as “the pearl of the Antilles.” Resisting their exploitation, Haitians revolted against the French from 1791-1804. One of the most important outcomes of this revolution was that it forced Napoleon Bonaparte to sell Louisiana to the U.S. in 1803, resulting in a major territorial expansion of the United States. When Haitians took their independence in 1804, they changed their colonial name from Saint Domingue (the name given by the French) to its Taino name of Haiti, or Ayiti in Kreyòl.
Before the earthquake of January 12, 2010, that killed an estimated 300,000 people, injured over 200,000, and left over 1.5 million homeless, it was estimated that about 3 million people lived in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The 2010 earthquake is believed to be the worst disaster in Haiti’s history. Haiti has a complex, rich, fascinating, and tumultuous culture and history with stories of resistance, revolt, and instability. But one of the fundamental aspects of Haiti is its resilience. In spite of slavery, multiple coups, various occupations, and militarization, Haiti continuously fights to remain strong. Haiti’s very existence is inscribed in its many proverbs such as “Ayiti se tè glise” ("Haiti is a slippery land") and “Dèyè mòn, gen mòn” ("Behind the mountains there are mountains").
Haiti in our backyard
Haiti is not some faraway land disconnected from the U.S. Haiti is the first Black Republic and the second independent country in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, the ties that bind the two countries go back to the time when the U.S. was fighting for its own independence. A group of more than 500 Haitians, known as Les Chasseurs Volontaires de Savannah, fought in the 1779 Battle of Savannah. A monument in Franklin Square in downtown Savannah was erected in October 2009 to commemorate those who fought in that battle.
After the Haitian revolt started in 1791, many Saint-Dominguans eventually settled in Louisiana. In fact, the Louisiana Purchase was a direct consequence of the Haitian revolt. This land deal doubled the size of the U.S., adding to its holdings either in part or whole: Louisiana, Arkansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.
As the first black independent country with a story of a successful slave revolt, Haiti was a ray of hope for African-Americans in the United States during the nineteenth century. Like France, the United States did not recognize Haiti’s independence until 1862, precisely because white Americans worried that Haiti’s existence challenged their slave-driven economy. There were several emigration movements led by leaders such as Martin Delany and James Theodore Holly, who encouraged African-Americans to settle in Haiti. Although the majority of those who moved to Haiti returned to the U.S. due to linguistic and climatic issues, close to 20 percent of free blacks from the northern United States went to Haiti before the Civil War. This migration between Haiti and America forged links between the two countries.
However, when the United States occupied Haiti from 1915-1934, changed Haiti’s constitution, and in many ways further contributed to its ongoing instability, many African-Americans denounced the occupation of a sovereign nation. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), under the leadership of Executive Secretary James Weldon Johnson, wrote a series of letters for The Nation, denouncing American injustice in Haiti. In 1932, the great poet Langston Hughes traveled to Haiti, where he met with one of the foremost Haitian intellectuals of the time, Jacques Roumain. In his 1956 autobiography, I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey, Hughes described his trip to Haiti and his meeting with Roumain. Hughes was very impressed by Roumain and eventually translated his seminal work, Gouverneurs de la Rosée, into English as Masters of the Dew. Before current terms such as "transnationalism" and "Black national consciousness" were being used, such exchanges occurred between African-American and Haitian intellectuals.
The various ties that link Haiti and Louisiana in terms of culinary culture, language, architecture, religion and music persist today.
- Post author: The Haiti Support Group
- Post published: 26th January 2010
- Post category: HSG News Archives / Events & Key Achievements / History / Haitian Civil Society / Politics & Elections
- Post comments: 0 Comments
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The following is an overview of political developments in Haiti from the overthrow of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986 through to 2010.
February 7, 1986 : Popular opposition makes continued support for the Duvalier regime untenable. Washington, Paris and the Haitian military withdraw their support and Jean-Claude Duvalier and his entourage are spirited into exile in France in a US C-130 transport plane. A provisional National Council of Government (Conseil National de Gouvernement, CNG) under General Henri Namphy takes over.
March 1986 onwards : The popular opposition that has deposed Duvalier is emboldened, with marches, strikes, land occupations demanding a purging of the Duvalierists (dechoukaj, uprooting), free and fair elections and economic change. It is not the limited, change-of-face regime that the Haitian military or the Reagan administation in Washington had in mind. Repression intensifies as the Tonton Macoutes, who are officially disbanded, but never officially disarmed, re-emerge to combat then popular threat.
October 1986 : Forty-one delegates are elected to a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution. The CNG appoints a further 20.
March 1987 : New draft constitution in both Haitian Kreyol and French, both of which are now to be official languages, is presented to the CNG. It proposes an elected bicamaral parliament, a directly elected President who will appoint a Prime Minister and judges to the Supreme Court, all of whom are to be approved by parliament. Provides for the decentralisation of power through elected mayors in the provinces and an independent Provisional Electoral Council. Later the same month the constitution is overwhelmingly ratified.
July 1987 : More than 100 members of a peasant organisation demanding land refom are massacred near the north-western town of Jean-Rabel by Tonton Macoutes and peasants in the pay of large landowners (grandons).
August 1987 : The Haitian Catholic hierarchy rescinds an order transferring the Salesian priest Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide from his parish of St. Jean Bosco in the La Saline slum area of Port-au-Prince when 10,000 assemble to protest the decision. It demonstrates Aristide’s growing national profile as one of the leading voices of Ti Legliz (literally, Little Church), the radical, progressive, liberation-theology inspired wing of the local Catholic Church, one of the backbones of the anti-Duvalierist movement.
November 29, 1987 : Elections abandoned after Tonton Macoutes and other Duvalierist elements gun down voters queueing at the polls, most notably at the Ecole Argentina, Ruelle Vaillant in Port-au-Prince where 34 die in a hail of bullets.
January 17, 1988 : What is described as a “tightly controlled” military election is held in which Professor Leslie Manigat is said to have won 50.29% of the vote with less than 10% of the registered electorate turning out. Manigat assumes office in March but lasts just three months before the CNG seizes back power.
June 1988 : General Namphy declares martial law. Attacks on political leaders, church workers and peasant organisers intensify further.
September 198 8 : General Prosper Avril, the former head of the Duvaliers’ presidential guard, overthrows General Namphy in a coup, reflecting the pressure of the pro-change popular movement and constantly shifting alliances between Duvalierists, factions of the military, Tonton Macoutes and the business elite — all of whom now feel seriously threatened. Thirty seven articles of the new constitution are suspended.
September 1988 : More than 100 armed men attack Aristide’s church St. Jean Bosco while he is celebrating mass. Aristide narrowly escapes death but 12 others are murdered and the church is burnt down.
March 1990 : A rising tide of popular protest forces Avril to resign and flee the country. He has lasted 18 months but his successor General Herard Abraham stays just three days: the first military man in Haitian history to surrender power voluntarily. A new provisional government led by Supreme Court Justice Ertha Pascal-Trouillot is formed until elections scheduled for December.
October 1990 :Aristide, now a former Salesian (expelled in December 1988) but still a priest, declares himself a candidate at the last minute but electrifies the country in a lightening campaign at the head of a movement he christens Lavalas, meaning a torrent or flash flood in Kreyol. Promising to cleanse the country of its Duvalierist legacy with a torrent of popular support, he offers a Haitian version of practical liberation theology: popular participation, justice and government accountability all wrapped in the pro-poor policies.
December 16, 1990 : Jean-Bertrand Aristide wins the presidency with the landslide the term Lavalas implies. Final results give him 67.5% of the vote in a UN supervised, monitored and ultimately UN-endorsed poll, defeating the man regarded as the US favored candidate, Marc Bazin, a former World Bank economist, who secures 14.2%.
January 1991 : An attempted pre-emptive coup before Aristide takes power by Tonton Macoute leader Roger Lafontant is foiled when tens of thousands of Haitians take to the streets to defend the election result.
February 7, 1991 : Jean-Bertrand Aristide is inaugurated President. Rene Preval becomes his Prime Minister.
September 30, 1991 : Jean-Bertrand Aristide barely escapes with his life and is forced onto a plane into exile in a coup fronted by army chief Raoul Cedras but perhaps instigated by Port-au-Prince police chief Michel Francois. The coup initiates three years of brutal repression during which Lavalas leaders and the popular, civil society organisations that have been its base are systematically eliminated. An estimated 5,000 activists are killed, tens of thousands flee the country by boat and at least 400,000 are displaced, many of them forced into hiding.
December 1992 : International response to demands to restore constitutional government to Haiti is limited to denunciations despite the mounting death toll and vivid testimony of those fleeing. In December 1992 the UN appoints a Special Envoy, Argentine, Dante Caputo, to negotiate with Haiti’s military rulers. In June 1993, faced with what the UN describes as “intransigence,” the Security Council imposes an oil and arms embargo on the regime.
July 1993 : The move brings Raoul Cedras to the negotiating table and within weeks UN-brokered accords known as the New York Pact and the Governors Island Agreement between the Haitian military and President Aristide are signed after protracted talks in New York. The embargo is lifted as the military pledge to prepare the way for Aristide’s return in October.
September 1993 : The UN Security Council authorizes the establishment and immediate dispatch of a 1,327-strong UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) to “assist in the modernization of the armed forces of Haiti and the establishment of a new police force” as part of the deal. But the advance force of 220 UN military personnel arriving on the USS Harlan County is prevented from landing in Port-au-Prince by riotous armed civilians known as attaches on October 11. The oil and arms sanctions are reimposed the same month.
September 11, 1993 : It is too late for some. Antoine Izmery, a Haitian businessman, pro-democracy activist and a major financier of President Aristide’s election campaign, is killed by a single bullet when 10 men pull him from a mass marking the fifth anniversary of the attack on Aristide’s church, St. Jean Bosco. His brother Georges had been murder by paramilitaries the previous year.
October 14, 1993 : Another bout of serious repression culminates with the assassination of the newly appointed, Aristide-endorsed Justice Minister, Guy-Francois Malory. An organisation calling itself FRAPH, the Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress, led by Emmanuel “Toto” Constant and composed of former Tonton Macoutes, police auxiliaries, moonlighting soldiers with what are later proven to be close ties to the CIA, takes a leading role in both the repression, terror and public opposition to the Governor’s Island accord and Arisitide’s return. Aristide demands a watertight international embargo on the Haitian regime.
November 1993 : Desultory negotations limp on but it is clear the Haitian military are playing for time, even benefitting from the shortages created by the sanctions to monopolise the smuggling of certain goods. Aristide, based in exile in Washington DC, continues to lobby the Clinton administration which seems more interested in extracting commitments on a commitment to neo-liberal, free-market economic policies from Aristide when he is back in power than in halting the extrajudicial killings and disappeareances in Haiti.
April 1994 : Raboteau, a seaside slum in the central city of Gonaives, a key pro-Aristide neighbourhood, is attacked by civilian and paramiliary forces including FRAPH members. House to house searches see at least 26 and maybe as many as 50 killed. Some who flee into the sea are pursued in commandeered fishing boats and shot.
May 1994 : The UN Security Council imposes comprehensive sanctions on the Cedras regime for the first time. Two months later on July 31, the UN adopts a resolution authorizing member states to form a multinational force under unifed command to use “all necessary means” to bring about an end to the illegal regime in Haiti and the prompt return of the legitimate President. The resolution expands the still to be deployed UNMIH’s mandate and raises force levels to 6,000 troops and 900 police.
September 19, 1994 : Lead elements of the 28-national multinational force (MNF), dominated by the United States, land in Haiti unopposed. Operation Uphold Democracy must be the first staged invasion of a foreign state, broadcast live on US network television. With the cameras all in place before the troops hit the beaches, they follow the troops in their search for and seizure of weapons caches.
October 15, 1994 : With the coup leaders, including Raoul Cedras and Michel Francois out of Haiti in negotiated exile, one to France, one to Panama, Emmanual Constant the FRAPH leader opts for New York. Jean-Bertrand Aristide returns to the National Palace in Port-au-Prince. It and every government ministry have been looted and despoiled, with everything from computers to taps stolen.
January 1995 : UN Security Council determines that a “secure and stable” environment exists in Haiti, making the deployment of the UN peacekeeping, monitoring and training force, UNMIH possible. Two months later on March 31, the MNF, effectively the United States, hands over responsibility for Haiti to UNMIH.
March 1995 : The government agrees to the conditions attached to a $31m IMF standby accord and begins the process of negotiating for an Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) as part of a World Bank/IMF backed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). The government begins to slowly introduce what it considers the more politically palatable parts of the programme: tariff reductions, customs reforms and some budget cuts despite growing opposition.
April 1995 : President Aristide begins the process of disbanding the Haitian army. Although never ratified by constitutional amendment, this gradual process is supported by the UN which helps train a new paramilitary police force.The move is ultimately not opposed by Washington. When he leaves office, 10 months later Aristide will claim this as his greatest achievement. Many agree but note that UN forces increasingly fill the void, while cashiered soldiers form paramilitary groups that will play an increasingly disruptive role in Aristide’s second presidential term (2001-2004) and beyond.
June-July 1995 : Lavalas Political Organisation (OPL) wins an overwhelming majority of 2,103 parliamentary, mayoral and town council election seats contested in two-stage elections. Although contested by some opponents — others boycott the polls — the main impact is to substantially reinforce opposition to enactment of the neo-liberal economic agenda of the Prime Minister Smarck Michel in parliament. The Lavalas deputies elected are decidedly more militant than the government. Lavalas is effectively splitting the government increasingly paralysed.
October 1995 : Smarck Michel resigns as the opposition to the neo-liberal economic policies, and by extension the influence of international financial institutions and the presence of foreign troops, intensifies on both the streets and in parliament. The key battleground now is the privatisation of nine state-run industries, including the highly profitable national telephone company. Aristide remains trapped between his popular base, rejecting the reforms, and the international sponsors who have restored him to power, who demand them as the price for loans and aid. His response is to set himself above his government, proclaiming that the country is “not for sale” and he himself has never signed any structural adjustment ageement.
December 17, 1995 : Rene Preval, President Aristide’s close ally and Prime Minister at the time of the September 1991 coup, is elected President with 88% of the vote running on the Lavalas ticket. Despite considerable pressure from his supporters, Aristide had conceded that he should not stay in office for another three years to compensate for the time lost in exile.
February 7, 1996 : Preval is sworn in but inherits a movement and party with increasingly bitter divisions over the issue that dominates all others in the light of the falling living standards of the majority: what price structural adjustment. Loans and aid remain broadly dependent on implementing it, but Haitians once again appear to have emphatically rejected what is colloquially termed “The American Plan” at the polls.
November 1996 : Aristide forms a new party, Fanmi Lavalas (FL), breaking from the OPL which in turn renames itself the Organisation of People in Struggle (OPL), a title carrying, confusingly, the same acroymn. Neo-liberal reforms are the basic division but personal criticism of or support for Aristide gradually comes to dominate the debate.
April 1997 : Elections for one third of the Senate plus local mayors and councillors provide the first contest for the former allies. FL comes out on top in the first round but with just 5% of registered voters participating the disillusion with both parties is clear.
June 1997 : Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigns and two successors proposed by President Preval are rejected by the legislature, confirming the total government gridlock. Preval rules by decree for 18 months before Jacques Edouard Alexis is accepted by parliament as prime minister in December 1988.
January 1999 : Preval dismisses legislators — the entire Chamber of Deputies and all but nine members of the Senate — whose terms had expired as a result of the failure to hold elections due in late 1998. All local elected officials are converted into state employees. The country is now ruled by decree, with a cabinet composed almost entirely of FL adherents, illustrating Aristide’s continued influence.
May 2000 : Parliamentary, provincial and municipal elections finally take place under a rejigged Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). There are no substantive boycotts and voter turnout is put at more than 60%. FL, Aristide’s party, dominates the results with a new right-wing, Protestant Party, MOCHRENA, being the only other group to record significant national support.
June 2000 : The problem this time is the method used to count the vote. Although the electoral rules are subject to interpretation and the CEP uses a method that had been used before, anti FL forces reject the system used, claiming an alternative (essentially the inclusion of spoilt ballots in the total vote count) would have produced percentages that required run-off contests in eight Senate seats awarded to the FL. Run-off elections for the House of Deputies go ahead without opposition candidates who withdraw in protest.
July 2000 : The CEP President flees Haiti and two of its nine members resign as oppostion claims that they failed to investigate irregularites and fraud as well as endorsing the flawed counting methodology grows. International organisations, including the UN, OAS and CARICOM, seek to delay parliament’s seating as part of efforts to agree a compromise. The US and EU threaten to sever all funding.
August 2000 : A parliament totally dominated by FL convenes with the contested Senators taking their seats. Opposition parties coalesce in a new grouping, the Democratic Convergence party whose main initial claim is that the whole election was so fraudulent it should be rerun under a new CEP. From disputed counting methodology in nine Senate seats to complete election rerun in the space of two months: it is the first of many shifts in demands from the DC.
November 26, 2000 : Elections for President and nine seats in the Senate are held. With all major opposition parties boycotting the polls, FL candidates win all the Senate seats and Jean-Bertrand Aristide, constitutionally permitted to run for a second/final term which is not consecutive to his previous term, is overwhelming relected with 92% of the votes cast. Voter participation is disputed. In the absence of international observers, estimates vary but initial figures, deemd the most accurate are about 60%. FL, Aristide’s party now controls 26 of the 27 seats in the Senate and all but 10 of the 83 seats in the lower House.
January 2001 : Negotiations take place between FL and the DC mediated by Haitian lawyers. The DC demand the annulment of both the May and November 2000 elections and a power-sharing government. FL negotiators reject the demands.
February 7, 2001 : Jean-Bertrand Aristide is sworn in for second term as President of Haiti, the first time in Haitian history that a full-term President has handed power to a democratically-elected successor. On the same day, the DC swear in Gerard Gourgue as the “Provisional President of the Government of Consensus and National Union.” Jean Marie Cherestral is approved by parliament as Aristide’s Prime Minister the following month.
April 2001 : OAS mediated negotiations begin with the Democratic Convergence. FL offers to rerun the disputed Senate elections. It steadily becomes clearer that for many, if not most of the opposition, the only concession that will suffice is Aristide’s resignation. Negotiations make some progress but are suspended in July without a final agreement. Ironically, by the end of 2001, seven of the eight Senators at the centre of the dispute have resigned. The term of the eighth expires shortly after that in 2002.
April 2001 : With the Republicans and George Bush now in the White House, US aid freeze policy threats in the face of the election dispute become more formal and multilateral. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) withholds four loans for social development projects in water, health and education worth a total of $146m. The aid flow constraint will continue for the next three years, giving the opposition much more leverage than their voting totals.
July 28, 2001 : Armed men attack three separate police facilities, one in Port-au-Prince, two in the provinces, killing four officers. Presidential spokesmen accuse former army officers of trying to overthrow the government. New moves to disarm militias and crack down on ex-soldiers begin.
December 17, 2001 : Some 30 armed gunmen storm the National Palace in an apparent coup attempt. Twelve people are killed in the raid which is repelled. The government blames former army officers and the opposition. Pro-government groups attack the homes and offices of opposition leaders. One person is killed.
January 2002 : The OAS Permanent Council adopts a resolution calling on the Haitian government to address the political stalemate with the DC, the growing violence and increasing human rights absues. It authorizes the establishment of a special mission to Haiti to facilitate these ends and in March begins working with the government on “strengthening Haiti’s institutions in security, justice, human rights and governance.”
March 2002 : Yvon Neptune, the former President of the Senate, is appointed Prime Minister replacing Cherestral.
April 2002 : A deteriorating security situation is compounded by a rapidly weakening economy — partly a function of the aid constraints — which in turn fuels a deteriorating security situation. Armed gangs, some with political affiliations, start to emerge, particularly in the poorer neighbourhoods of slums like Cite Soleil. Aristide’s regime is accused of arming and paying some of them. They become known as chimeres and are effectively seen as the armed defenders of the regime.
July 2002 : Haiti is accepted as a full member of the Caribbean Commmunity (CARICOM) trade bloc conferring prefential access to key markets and demonstrating improving regional ties with neighbouring states.
December 2002 : A new opposition coalition, the Group of 184, or G-184, declares itself. Led by Andre (Andy) Apaid, a wealthy Haitian-American businessman, it takes its name from the supposed number of groups making up the coalition. It has close ties to two right-wing, anti-Aristide, US organisations, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Haiti Democracy Project (HDP).
January 2003 : G-184 calls a general strike. Its support base — among upper class entrepeneurs, some of the middle class in the media and education — is reflected in the businesses that heed the call.
September 2003 : An armed rebellion against the government erupts in Gonaives when “Cannibal Army” gang leader Amiot Metayer is found dead. His followers blame Aristide, who he had once supported. But, on arrest for arson in May 2002 and subsequent escape from jail in August, he had begun to lead violent desmonstrations against Aristide. Amiot’s brother Buteur becomes yet another implacable Aristide foe and soon becomes a key ally of Chamblain and Philippe (see below) in a small but effective armed rebel movement dedicated to Aristide’s overthrow.
November 2003 : A G-184 demonstration outside the National Palace is met by Aristide supporters who outnumber them. Tear gas is used by the Haitian police to disperse both groups and two G-184 members are arrested for possession of firearms. The following month a combined G-184/DC demonstration tries to break through the Palace gates and perimeter fence. Fearing a coup attempt, Aristide supporters mass. The opposition call publicly for Aristide’s removal, accusing him of tyrannical rule, gross human rights abuses, corruption and drug trafficking.
January 1, 2004 : Haiti marks the 200th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence with President Aristide using the media attention to pubilicise his claim for reparations from France. He wants the 90 million gold francs paid between 1825 and 1947 to France by the Haitian state as compensation for the plantations, machinery and slave work force abandonned after the Haitian army’s victory in the war of independence, repaid. The President and his economists say the equivalent sum in today’s currency is $21.6bn.
February 2004 : A tiny armed opposition, about 50 strong, establishes itself on Haitian soil with the capture of the central plateau town of Hinche after months of hit-and-run tactics against police stations from across the border in the Dominican Republic. The leader is Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a notorious death squad leader who emerged after the Duvalier’s overthrow and became a key figure in FRAPH under Toto Constant. Chamblain has already been convicted in absentia of Antoine Izmery’s murder.
Februrary 5, 2004 : The “Cannibal Army”, now trading under the name of the Artibonite Resistance Front, seizes control of Gonaives from the government.
February 14, 2004 : Guy Philippe crosses the border in the north and within eight days has captured Haiti’s second-largest city Cap Haitien after just a few hours fighting. Philippe, who has received specialist training from the US in Ecuador, was a former police chief in Delmas, in Port-au-Prince, and is quickly granted command of the rebel “army” by Chamblain and Metayer. Philippe’s cv is little better than Chamblain’s. He is wanted for summary executions of alleged gang members as a police officer and is accused of leading terrorist raids across the border in 2001 and 2002.
February 19, 2004 : Washington says it is open to Aristide stepping down, saying his departure could be a way out of the crisis. The statement seems to mark a change of stance from that of US Secretary of State Colin Powell six days previously when he had warned the opposition against ousting Aristide.
February 23, 2004 : Some 50 US Marines are sent to protect US facilities. Washington preses opposition politicians to accept a power-sharing deal.
February 27, 2004 : Rebels calling themselves the “Assailants” take the town of Mirebalais, less than 30 miles from Port-au-Prince and take control of a key road junction.
February 28, 2004 : Aristide leaves the country in the middle of the night and is flown to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. When able to get to media outlets, he claims he was kidnapped and his supporters denounce a coup d’etat. Washington and others claims he chose to resign and leave the country in the face of the rebel march towards Port-au-Prince. Riots erupt as the news of the President’s depature spreads. At least four people are shot by police in the Bel Air area downtown.
February 29, 2004 : Boniface Alexandre, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, is sworn in as President. The UN passes a resolution “taking note of the resignation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as President of Haiti and the swearing in of Boniface Alexandre as the acting President of Haiti in accordance with the constitution.” However, a number of regional governments, including Jamaica, Cuba, Venezuela and all the members of the African Union, refuse to recognise the new regime.
March 2, 2004 : Philippe and his paramilitaries retake control of the former Haitian Army headquarters opposite the National Palace. “The country is in my hands” he declares. The pursuit of Aristide supporters, activists and officials begins. One of the most prominent, the Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, is unable to leave his office as his home is burned and looted. US marines guarding his residence shoot dead two gunmen outside.
March 3, 2004 : With no reference to the Haitian constitution, “a council of the wise” is set up to select a new Prime Minister. Gerard Latortue is designated on March 9, although he is not even living in Haiti at the time. He is sworn in three days later when he arrives in Port-au-Prince from the United States. Canada, the United States, all the members of the European Union and the United Nations, all recognise the new regime.
March 27, 2004 : The provisional government bans Yvon Neptune and 36 other senior Aristide officials from leaving the country as corruption investigations get underway. In June, hearing news of a warrant for his arrest, Neptune surrenders to Haitian police and is held without charge.
April 30, 2004 : The United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the latest version of a UN intervention force, is established with a military component of 6,700 (1,622 police, 550 civilian staff and 1,000 local staff). It is led by the Brazilians and composed mostly of Latin Americans. Its main declared aims are: disarming, demobilisation and reintegration programmes for armed men and the restructure and reform of the Haitian police.
September 15, 2004 : Tropical Storm Jeanne causes floods and landslides in Gonaives and the north-west of the country. Some 1,870 people are declared dead, 884 people missing, presumed dead, and 2,620 injured. The disaster follows another flood in the south just five months previously (May) that killed more than 1,000.
September 30, 2004 : A major Port-au-Prince demonstration demanding Aristide’s return six months after his ouster is shot at by police. Local and international human rights groups report a major surge in killings as reconstituted death squads — mostly former army soldiers, some of whom have established themselves at police stations — wage war on FL supporters and activists in a rerun of the slaughter that followed Aristide’s ouster in 1991. Chimeres or their remnants and other pro-Aristide gangs react, leaving the poor in the most vulnerable areas caught between the two. Extrajudicial killings are put at 60-70 per month.
April 18, 2005 : Yvon Neptune begins a hunger strike to protest his detention without charge. In May he is reported to be “near death” but it is not until September that a formal statement of charges against him appears. They include participation in a massacre in La Scierie, St. Marc. The UN criticises the handling of the case and his treatment.
July 5, 2005 : MINUSTAH makes a major incursion into Cite Soleil. Some months earlier the Brazilian commander of MINUSTAH, General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira had told a congressional commission in Brazil: “We are under extreme pressure from the international community to use violence.” He cited Canada, France and the United States as the sources of the pressure. Ribeiro resigns less than two months later on September 1.
July 21, 2005 : Gerard Jean-Juste a liberation theology priest, a close associate of Aristide, and considered by many to be the leading candidate for the presidency on the FL ticket in the 2006 elections, is arrested for murder but never charged. He is not granted bail until January 2006 and then only for treatment for serious leukemia.
January 7, 2006 : The Brazilian MINUSTAH commander, General Urano Teixeira Bacellar is found dead in his hotel room. He is replaced ten days later by General Elito Carvalho de Siquerira.
February 2006 : Elections, delayed four times since October 2005, finally take place and see Rene Preval, Aristide’s former Prime Minister and President from 1996-2001, win office at the head of a new political grouping Lespwa (Kreyol for Hope). However the poll is marred by another voting dispute over the same issue: counting methodology. Preval is close to the 50% plus one needed to avoid a run-off after the initial count. If the suspiciously large number spoilt ballots are not included in the total he has won outright if they are not, there will be a second election. Mass protests, successfully demand the former, as supporters suspect another attempted fraud. Preval’s closest rival the Christian Democrat Leslie Manigat has just 12% in the final vote count.
April 2006 : Run-off elections determine the composition of parliament. It looks splintered and incohesive. Lespwa does not have a majority in either House and the affliations of those who do support it are in many cases tenuous. The three main parties, themselves split into factions, are: OPL, FL and Lespwa.
June 2006 : New government takes office with Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis now confirmed. Edmond Mulet of Guatemala takes over as the civilian head of MINUSTAH.
July 28, 2006 : Yvon Neptune is released after two years in jail without trial but only on “humanitarian and health grounds.” His release draws attention to the fact that hundreds of other supporters and officials of the Aristide administration remain in jail, uncharged and untried.
September 2006 : Launch of a UN-run scheme to disarm gang members in return for grants and job training, a belated recognition social activists say that the key problem in areas like Cite Soleil is poverty and destitution.
January 2007 : After the carrot, the stick is wielded again. UN troops launch another tough new offensive in Cite Soleil smashing through armed roadblocks and barbed wire barricades designed to keep them out. Four are killed and six injured in exchanges of gunfire. In February there is another attack: 700 UN troops flood the Cite, with major gunbattles following.
August 2, 2007 : UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon arrives in Haiti to assess the role of UN forces amid a growing international outcry about killings and abuses during UN operations and questions about its role. MINUSTAH announces it has arrested 800 alleged gang members in the previous three months. President Preval says if Haitians were asked if they wanted the UN forces to leave “they would say, yes.”
April 2008 : Major riots protesting the price of food with five deaths reported. The immediate cause is the worldwide spike in the price of basic grains, illustrating graphically for the first time the price ordinary Haitians have paid for the reduction and elimination of import tariffs on foodstuffs and the consequent collapse of indigenous staple production of crops like rice. Eighty per cent of Haiti’s rice is now imported 15 years before only 20% had been imported. The government anounces an emergency plan to cut the price of staple foods in a bid to halt the unrest but parliament votes to dismiss Prime Minister Alexis on April 12 saying his plan is “too little too late.”
May 2008 : The US and World Bank announce a total of $30m extra in food aid for Haiti.
May 2008 : Brazil agrees to boost its contribution to the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti in response to appeals for Rene Preval for more help in combatting a wave of kidnappings for ransom.
June 2008 : Michelle Pierre-Louis is nominated as Haiti’s second-ever female Prime Minister by President Preval following parliament’s rejection of his two previous nominees.
August-September 200 8 : More than 800 people are killed and hundreds left injured as Haiti is hit by a series of devastating tropical storms and hurricanes. Storms Fay, Gustav and Hanna all hit the north and center of the country within days of each other, with Gonaives, the centre of which is completely flooded, worst hit.
September 5, 2008 : Michelle Pierre-Louis succeeds Jacques-Edouard Alexis as Prime Minister but her programme and cabinet line-up which have to be approved by both houses of parliament are fiercely contested. She requires a second vote to get a one vote majority for approval in the Senate.
May 2009 : Former US President Bill Clinton is appointed the UN Secretary General Special Envoy to Haiti. Clinton declares his intention to work with the Haitian people and the government, not just to repair the damage of the previous year’s storms but to “lay the foundations for the long-term sustainable development that has eluded them for so long.”
July 2009 : The World Bank and IMF cancel $1.2bn of Haiti’s foreign debt to the multlateral institutions, some 80% of the total, after judging that the country has met economic reform and poverty reduction conditions.
August 2009 : Bill Clinton announces the appointment of Paul Farmer the world renowned doctor and developing world public health expert as his deputy. Farmer is the founder of a leading Haitian health NGO, fluent in Kreyol and the author of the seminal work The Uses of Haiti.
October-November 2009 : Jean-Max Bellerive becomes Prime Minister after the Haitian Senate passes a motion of censure against his predecessor, Michelle Pierre-Louis. The MINUSTAH force is reinforced: it is now up to 6,940 soldiers and 2,211 police officers.
October 2009 : Clinton leads a delegation of 500 businessmen to Haiti proclaiming “this is the right time to invest in Haiti.” There are, in fact, by the second half of 2009 some tenuous signs of economic improvement and stability in Haiti.
4.53pm January 12, 2010 : A 7.1 Richter scale earthquake epicentered just to the west of Port-au-Prince devastates the capital, Leogane and Petit Goave. As the death toll mounts — it still unofficially lies between 230,000 and 305,000 — it becomes clear that this is the most deadly natural disaster the world has seen since 1945, the death toll hugely inflated by the overcrowding, lack of planning and urban migration that have plagued Port-au-Prince for 30 years. A massive response by international relief agencies and NGOs succeeds in preventing a second disaster in the form of epidemics or hunger but aid agencies have no hesitation in describing it as the most complicated relief effort they have ever engaged in.
January 14, 2010 : It becomes clear that 96 UN personnel including the UN mission chief Hedi Annabi of Tunisia have died in the earthquake, hampering the international community’s response. US troops and engineers take over the damaged airport and port and amidst a fierce controversy about priorities, military versus humanitarian, relief supplies and personnel begin to arrive by air, road from the Dominican Republic and eventually, through the heavily damaged port.
January 30, 2010 : The scale of the disaster finds expression in firmer figures. Some 1.5 million Haitians are homeless, relief agencies say, living in tents, makeshift shelters or under tarpaulins, at least 4,100 have had emergency amputations after being pulled from the rubble. The main priority is a race against the onset of the rains, then the hurricane season that follows.
February 2010 : The Haitian government launches a Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PNDA) which the following month becomes a glossy, comprehensive reconstruction plan. There is plenty of input from multilateral funding agencies and major donors but Haitian civil society organisations (CSOs) and even foreign non-governmental agencies (NGOs) at the forefront of the relief effort complain bitterly of their almost total exclusion from the consultation process.
March 31, 2010 : A high profile one-day international donors conference to secure pledges for the reconstruction of Haiti is held at the UN in New York. The Haitian government plan — published the previous day for the first time — secures pledges of $5.3bn over the next two years with a further $4.6bn to follow making a total of $9.9bn from over 100 national donors and multilateral funding agencies such as the World Bank and IDB.
June 2010 : Haiti’s Interim Reconstruction Commission meets for the first time in Port-au-Prince and approves projects worth nearly $50m in the context of receipt of less than $150m of the $5.3bn pledged in March. Co-chaired by Bill Clinton and the Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, it is composed of 50% foreign donor representatives and 50% Haitians representing various sectors. However, the only CSO representatives are non-voting members.
June 30, 2010 : UN force is bolstered further to 11,578 troops and police with 1,253 local staff. There is widespread criticism that the UN and the Haitian police are doing nothing to boost security in the camps in the face of hundreds of reported rapes and assaults.
July 12, 2010 : The sixth-month anniversary of the earthquake brings another bout of media scrutiny. Rubble clearing let alone reconstruction has barely started while a mere 3,170 hurricane-proof shelters, a key priority, have been erected. However despite incredibly squalid and confined conditions in the camps, epidemics have been avoided, even two months into the rainy season.
August 8, 2010 : At least 20 candidates register to run for President in elections the Haitian government and the UN remain committed to running on November 28. They include Wyclef Jean, the internationally renowned American-Haitian rap singer, two former Prime Ministers, Yvon Neptune and Jacques Edouard Alexis, Leslie Voltaire, former minister and government liaison to the UN, Charles Henry Baker, a textile factory businessman and key Aristide opponent in 2003-04 and Michel Martelly (“Sweet Mickey”), a well-known popular musician and entertainer with links to ex-Duvalierists.
An Anatomy of Corruption: Haiti
This article was originally published by Democracy & Society Online, a publication of the Center for Democracy and Civil Society of Georgetown University on November 21, 2018. It is reprinted here with permission.
The past decade has convincingly brought to a close a period of global democratic growth and consolidation underway since the late 1970s—Samuel Huntington’s “third wave.” We have instead now witnessed 12 years of democratic decline. This is fueled by the resurgence of expansionist authoritarianism armed with a vision strategically eager to compete with the norms and institutions of democracy worse, there is also a measurable decline by established democracies in their commitment to democratic governing principles—in the aggregate, this is Larry Diamond’s “democratic recession.”
One alarmingly systemic feature has emerged across all regions of the world: the inability of governments to deal with the hopes, let alone the fears of its citizens. Much of this can be associated with poor governance, which has in turn energized a revolt against real and perceived injustice and inequality. This corrosion of democratic values has translated into frustrations at both the political and policy levels. Many feel that they have no voice and see elites at a loss to connect satisfactorily with an electorate, or in a perverse way, fantasize that populist and authoritarian leadership is genuinely interested in giving them a voice.
Democracy is in trouble—yet, democratic governance has achieved important gains over the past year—see the recent elections in the Maldives, where a united opposition was able to oust a president condemned internationally for serious human rights violations in Armenia earlier this year, weeks of mass demonstrations and civil disobedience against the entrenched regime led the opposition leader to be elected as prime minister by parliament and in Zimbabwe, elections in late July provided another signal event in a post Mugabe regeneration of freer politics. Objectively, these transitions each face uncertain odds, but they suggest the inherent risk that all undemocratic and corrupting regimes face: popular will, freely expressed.
Admittedly, in many other cases, the emergence of a democratic political process remains arduous, even with considerable international engagement. Nonetheless, encouraging if halting developments can emerge, underscoring the political energy of organized mass movements motivated by a shared vision to overcome injustice, instill greater transparency, and strengthen democratic governance. Exhibit A: Haiti, whose government was recently forced to come to grips with a deep and expanding scope of governmental corruption.
The latter is highlighted by the misuse of at least $3 billion in funds over the past decade sourced through Venezuela’s PetroCaribe discounted oil initiative. The government’s changing attitude emerged in the wake of national demonstrations on October 17, and a more violent explosion on November 18. This political dynamic was itself preceded by an even more violent explosion that engulfed Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, in early July. The trigger was an ill-advised and mishandled change in public subsidies for the price of fuel–in effect, an increase at the fuel pump. But most observers, and notably Haiti’s political community, attributed the violence more as a reflection of the dysfunctional state of Haitian governance.
A network of corruption permeates all sectors of public governance, the magnitude of which is confirmed by Transparency International’s 2018 Index ranking Haiti as the second most corrupt country in the hemisphere after Venezuela. This impacts all sectors of political and economic activity, such that the 2018 Global Competitiveness Report Index, measuring the quality of institutions and the ensuing human capital and economic ecosystem, ranks Haiti second from the bottom out of 140 countries. These statistics reflect a perennial challenge for succeeding governments despite a significant commitment by a wide spectrum of the international community—notably the United States—since the late 1980s. The current government of President Jovenel Moïse is no different. It started off badly with the president himself being accused of money laundering even before his inauguration in February 2017, and then muddied the waters further by subsequently firing the head of the government unit investigating the allegation.
The sheer scale of the PetroCaribe scandal was ultimately difficult to hide and provides an illustration of the role that civil society can play in pushing political leadership toward corrective action. In the past two decades, Haitian civil society has been robust yet also divided and often no match for the outsize chicanery of successive governments and its allies. Nonetheless, with a focus on transparency and credibility in governance, an anti-corruption movement has emerged pursuing both a quasi-legal strategy through Haiti’s overburdened and somewhat opaque administrative court process (an approximation of the Government Accountability Office in the United States, and more), while simultaneously dovetailing with a parliamentary effort to investigate the allegations of mismanagement of PetroCaribe funds and outright corruption. Although considerable partisanship was thrown in for good measure, this resulted in a 686-page parliamentary report issued in 2017, which targets Moïse’s predecessor (Michel Martelly) generally, and specifically, individuals in his government, as well as several of them who transitioned to the current government.
The succession of three major public protests (July, October, November) have significantly altered the political equation for Moïse: it first forced the ouster of his ineffective prime minister (Jack Guy Lafontant) then, in the wake of the October protests, his successor, Jean-Henry Céant, announced plans to establish an independent commission to pursue the findings of the parliamentary PetroCaribe report. Several top advisers to the president, targeted in the parliamentary report as well as by public opinion, were also dismissed from the government. The November protests place even greater pressure on the government. Where this all leads is uncertain.
These developments highlight civil society’s demands for better governance from its national leaders—it sheds light on the interaction between democracy and markets and the practical implications this has on national development. In the Haitian context, this draws attention to the varying roles played by the private sector, often maligned by critics domestically and abroad. This sector of civil society represents wildly differing levels of economic activity—from the street market vendor, to the small-scale business, to the larger, international market-driven, cosmopolitan entrepreneur—as well as differing levels of social and political engagement. Nonetheless, collectively, this community faces Haiti’s culture of corruption in a direct way—it is intertwined with business activity. There is no mystery that some elements collude the system toward illicit profitable arrangements, in tandem with allies in the government bureaucracy. But this lack of transparency in markets and governance ultimately affects all Haitians.
If the PetroCaribe scandal is notable for its sheer scale, then the illicit commercial trafficking that characterizes the Haiti-Dominican Republic (DR) border provides a strikingly more granular window on the challenges facing the business community—and the lawlessness that permeates layers of Haiti’s administrative machinery. To put it in visual terms, a fleet of trucks and cars crisscross the Haiti-DR border daily representing a significant volume of transactions, portions of which remain unrecorded—mostly to Haiti’s detriment.
The absence of effective cross-border trade controls at all of the official land border crossings has become institutionalized by entrenched interests on both sides of the border. So, this is not Haiti’s problem alone, but the collusion affects it more dramatically—it undermines industries and production in Haiti, distorts market prices and depreciates the national currency, and limits the potential for foreign investment. The loss of revenue for the Haitian government alone is estimated to be as much as $400 million a year. This is not only an inexcusable loss for a government trying to deal with perennial budget deficits but undermines its efforts to demonstrate to the donor community that the scope of progress since the 2010 earthquake is sustainable only with continued international support.
Fortunately, this has begun to attract attention, in part because this is an issue whose resolution is within reach as well as being necessary for Haiti’s democratic development. Constructing a cross-border trade regime to internationally accepted norms is also possible because both countries in practice already apply those norms to their trading relationships with the rest of the world.
Céant has shown concern, traveling to the border regions, which when combined with a potentially more hard-nosed political approach to the PetroCaribe scandal, are useful ingredients to address these core policy challenges. But much more is needed from Haiti’s political leadership. Anger over public corruption is high and ready-made for political mischief. Unlike the recent development in the Maldives and Armenia noted earlier, the issue here is not entrenched political leadership but protected economic interests combined with unsteady governance. In this regard, in the absence of other effective political actors, notably political parties, there is useful space for Haiti’s civil society activism—including by the private sector—to provide constructive engagement to address Haiti corruption challenges. This also points to avenues of support from the international community.
Georges A. Fauriol is a senior associate with the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He also teaches in the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University, and is vice president, Program Operations and Evaluation at the National Endowment for Democracy.
Commentary is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).
© 2018 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.
Behind the Intervention
The winter of 1990 marked a historic moment for Haiti, as Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president with an overwhelming majority in the nation’s first-ever democratic presidential election.
Aristide promised change and challenged the elites. However, the hope he and his government represented was cut short by a military coup, led by Raoul Cédras in 1991. The coup, which started after Haiti’s civilian and military elite rejected the new policies, forced Aristide into exile just seven months after the presidential elections.
The military junta led what U.S. President Bill Clinton called a reign of terror, raping civilians and killing around 5,000 Aristide supporters over the next three years. Then, in April 1994, paramilitaries in a group led in part by Louis-Jodel Chamblain murdered at least 15 supporters of Aristide. Many of the victims were “tortured and made to lay in open sewers before being shot,” TIME later reported.
Back in the U.S., the Congressional Black Caucus had been pushing President Bill Clinton to intervene, but he was wary of doing so. Less than a year earlier, in October 1993, 18 U.S. soldiers were killed in the Black Hawk Down battle in Somalia during a peacekeeping mission, and humanitarian crises were also ongoing in Bosnia and Rwanda. But in light of the atrocities, Clinton in 1994 decided that the time had come. During the President&rsquos Radio Address on Sept. 17, 1994, he spoke of America&rsquos interest in helping to &ldquorestore democratic government in Haiti.” Attempts to make change via diplomacy had failed. &ldquoThe dictators rejected all of our efforts, and their reign of terror, a campaign of murder, rape, and mutilation, gets worse with every passing day,” he said. “Now we must act.&rdquo
Clinton told the public during his address that he had sent former President Carter, Gen. Colin Powell and Senator Sam Nunn to Haiti that morning in a last ditch attempt to &ldquoprovide a peaceful, orderly transfer of power.&rdquo
But the junta’s leaders didn’t believe the U.S. would actually invade, says Robert Fatton, a Haitian-born historian who is now a professor in political science at the University of Virginia. One reason for that belief, he says, was that at least one key member of the junta was on the CIA payroll in order to feed the CIA intelligence of the situation in Haiti. Emmanuel Constant was the leader of one of the “death squads” that went after Aristide’s supporters in Haiti during the military coup. Washington officials confirmed that he was on the American intelligence payroll after the coup ousted President Aristide, TIME reported in 1994.
&ldquoThey believed that they were immune and that Clinton was playing politics, and that they could stay in power and eventually things would be resolved without the return of Aristide,&rdquo says Fatton. &ldquoAfter all, they were on the payroll of the CIA. How do you negotiate with people who are actually being paid by the people who want the change?&rdquo
The junta’s leaders at first refused the diplomatic negotiation efforts. &ldquoBut then Clinton gave the order [for the military intervention],&rdquo Fatton says. &ldquoThis is when Colin Powell turned to junta leaders and said &lsquoThe troops are coming, the planes are up.&rsquo&rdquo
Haiti Government, History, Population & Geography
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation
signed, but not ratified: Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban
Geographynote: shares island of Hispaniola with Dominican Republic (western one-third is Haiti, eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic)
Population: 6,780,501 (July 1998 est.)
0-14 years: 43% (male 1,465,735 female 1,422,260)
15-64 years: 53% (male 1,733,636 female 1,881,367)
65 years and over: 4% (male 138,678 female 138,825) (July 1998 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.51% (1998 est.)
Birth rate: 32.84 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)
Death rate: 14.17 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.61 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1 male(s)/female (1998 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 98.98 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 51.4 years
male: 49.33 years
female: 53.58 years (1998 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.67 children born/woman (1998 est.)
Ethnic groups: black 95%, mulatto plus white 5%
Religions: Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3% (1982)
note: roughly one-half of the population also practices Voodoo
Languages: French (official) 20%, Creole
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 45%
female: 42.2% (1995 est.)
conventional long form: Republic of Haiti
conventional short form: Haiti
local long form: Republique d'Haiti
local short form: Haiti
Government type: republic
National capital: Port-au-Prince
Administrative divisions: 9 departments, (departements, singulardepartement) Artibonite, Centre, Grand'Anse, Nord, Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, Ouest, Sud, Sud-Est
Independence: 1 January 1804 (from France)
National holiday: Independence Day, 1 January (1804)
Constitution: approved March 1987, suspended June 1988, most articles reinstated March 1989 in October 1991, government claimed to be observing the constitution return to constitutional rule, October 1994
Legal system: based on Roman civil law system accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age universal
chief of state: President Rene Garcia PREVAL (since 7 February 1996)
head of government: Prime Minister Rosny SMARTH resigned June 1997 currently no prime minister ratification of a new prime minister held up in political gridlock stemming from controversy over the 6 April 1997 elections
cabinet: Cabinet chosen by the prime minister in consultation with the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term election last held 17 December 1995 (next to be held by December 2000) prime minister appointed by the president, ratified by the Congress
election results: Rene Garcia PREVAL elected president percent of voteRene Garcia PREVAL 88%, Leon JEUNE 2.5%, Victor BENOIT 2.3%
Legislative branch: bicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale consists of the Senate (27 seats members serve six-year terms one-third elected every two years) and the Chamber of Deputies (83 seats members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: Senatelast held 25 June 1995 with reruns on 13 August and runoffs on 17 September (election held for nine seats 6 April 1997 results disputed and runoffs postponed indefinitely) Chamber of Deputieslast held 25 June 1995 with reruns on 13 August and runoffs on 17 September (next Senate and Chamber elections to be held November 1998)
election results: Senatepercent of vote by partyNA seats by partyLavalas Political Organization 7, Lavalas family-leaning 7, independent 2, non-active members 2, vacant 9 Chamber of Deputiespercent of vote by partyNA seats by partyLavalas Political Organization (OPL) 32, antineoliberal bloc 24, minor parties and independents 22, vacant 5
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation)
Political parties and leaders: Lavalas Family (FL), Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE National Lavalas Political Organization (OPL), Gerard PIERRE-CHARLES National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD), Evans PAUL and Turneb DELPE National Congress of Democratic Movements (KONACOM), Victor BENOIT Movement for the Installation of Democracy in Haiti (MIDH), Marc BAZIN National Progressive Revolutionary Party (PANPRA), Serge GILLES Movement for National Reconstruction (MRN), Rene THEODORE Haitian Christian Democratic Party (PDCH), Fritz PIERRE Assembly of Progressive National Democrats (RDNP), Leslie MANIGAT Mobilization for National Development (MDN), Hubert DE RONCERAY Movement for the Organization of the Country (MOP), Gesner COMEAU and Jean MOLIERE Open the Gate Party (PLB), Renaud BERNARDIN Union of Patriotic Democrats (UPD), Rockefeller GUERRE Generation 2004, Claude ROUMAIN Alliance for the Liberation and Advancement of Haiti (ALAH), Reynold GEORGES Haitian Democratic Party (PADEMH), Clark PARENT National Alliance for Democracy and Progress Haiti Can (Ayiti Kapab), Ernst VERDIEU
Political pressure groups and leaders: Roman Catholic Church Confederation of Haitian Workers (CTH) Federation of Workers Trade Unions (FOS) Autonomous Haitian Workers (CATH) National Popular Assembly (APN) Papaye Peasants Movement (MPP) Popular Organizations Gathering Power (PROP)
International organization participation: ACCT, ACP, Caricom (observer), CCC, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, LAES, OAS, OPANAL, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant) mission led by charge d' affairs
chancery: 2311 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:  (202) 332-4090 through 4092
FAX:  (202) 745-7215
consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York, and San Juan (Puerto Rico)
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Timothy Michael CARNEY
embassy: 5 Harry Truman Boulevard, Port-au-Prince
mailing address: P. O. Box 1761, Port-au-Prince
telephone:  22-0354, 22-0368, 22-0200, 22-0612
FAX:  23-1641
Flag description: two equal horizontal bands of blue (top) and red with a centered white rectangle bearing the coat of arms, which contains a palm tree flanked by flags and two cannons above a scroll bearing the motto L'UNION FAIT LA FORCE (Union Makes Strength)
Economyoverview: About 75% of the population lives in abject poverty. Nearly 70% of all Haitians depend on the agriculture sector, which consists mainly of small-scale subsistence farming and employs about two-thirds of the economically active work force. The country has experienced little or no job creation since President PREVAL took office in February 1996, although the informal economy is growing. Failure to reach agreements with international sponsors have denied Haiti badly needed budget and development assistance. Meeting aid conditions in 1998 will be especially challenging in the face of mounting popular criticism of reforms.
GDP: purchasing power parity$7.1 billion (1997 est.)
GDPreal growth rate: 1.1% (1997 est.)
GDPper capita: purchasing power parity$1,070 (1997 est.)
GDPcomposition by sector:
services: 43% (1995)
Inflation rateconsumer price index: 17% (1997 est.)
total: 3.6 million (1995)
by occupation: agriculture 66%, services 25%, industry 9%
note: shortage of skilled labor, unskilled labor abundant (1982)
Unemployment rate: 60% (1996 est.)
revenues: $284 million
expenditures: $308 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY96/97 est.)
Industries: sugar refining, flour milling, textiles, cement, tourism, light assembly industries based on imported parts
Industrial production growth rate: 2.5% (1995 est.)
Electricitycapacity: 153,000 kW (1995)
Electricityproduction: 315 million kWh (1995)
Electricityconsumption per capita: 48 kWh (1995)
Agricultureproducts: coffee, mangoes, sugarcane, rice, corn, sorghum wood
total value: $90 million (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: light manufactures 53%, coffee 17%, other agriculture 17%
partners: US 76.3%, EU 19.8% (1996)
total value: $665 million (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: machines and manufactures 34%, food and beverages 22%, petroleum products 14%, chemicals 10%, fats and oils 9%
partners: US 65.0%, EU 13.9% (1995)
Debtexternal: $781 million (1995 est.)
recipient: ODA, $NA
Currency: 1 gourde (G) = 100 centimes
Exchange rates: gourdes (G) per US$1 (end of period)㬍.311 (December 1997), 17.311 (1997), 15.093 (1996), 16.160 (1995), 12.947 (1994), 12.805 (1993)
Fiscal year: 1 October㬚 September
Telephones: 50,000 (1990 est.)
Telephone system: domestic facilities barely adequate, international facilities slightly better
international: satellite earth stationק Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 33, FM 0, shortwave 2
Radios: 320,000 (1992 est.)
Television broadcast stations: 4 (1987 est.)
Televisions: 32,000 (1992 est.)
total: 40 km (single track privately owned industrial line)closed in early 1990s
narrow gauge: 40 km 0.760-m gauge
total: 4,160 km
paved: 1,011 km
unpaved: 3,149 km (1996 est.)
Waterways: NEGL less than 100 km navigable
Ports and harbors: Cap-Haitien, Gonaives, Jacmel, Jeremie, Les Cayes, Miragoane, Port-au-Prince, Port-de-Paix, Saint-Marc
Merchant marine: none
Airports: 14 (1997 est.)
Airportswith paved runways:
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (1997 est.)
Airportswith unpaved runways:
914 to 1,523 m: 5
under 914 m: 6 (1997 est.)
Military branches: Haitian National Police (HNP)
note: the regular Haitian Army, Navy, and Air Force have been demobilized but still exist on paper until/unless constitutionally abolished
Military manpowermilitary age: 18 years of age
males age 15-49: 1,490,464 (1998 est.)
Military manpowerfit for military service:
males: 807,330 (1998 est.)
Military manpowerreaching military age annually:
males: 75,448 (1998 est.)
Military expendituresdollar figure: $NA notemainly for police and security activities
Military expenditurespercent of GDP: NA%
Disputesinternational: claims US-administered Navassa Island
Illicit drugs: transshipment point for cocaine and marijuana en route to the US and Europe