Haiti has been characterized by economic
mismanagement and political repression since the
mid-1950s, periodically pure terror. The decline began
during the Duvalier family's almost 30-year
dictatorship, but even later attempts to create a
democratic society have been ravaged by corruption,
military coups and political chaos. In addition, Haiti
was hit in 2010 by one of the world's most difficult
earthquakes in modern times.
Doctor François Duvalier took power in 1957 and was
elected president with the support of the military.
However, Haiti's elite continued to control the
country's economy. Papa Doc, as Duvalier was called,
stayed in power with the help of his own security force,
Tonton macoutes, and with the support of the church and
the bourgeoisie. With Tonton macoutes and a clever use
of the voodoo religion, the Duvalier family terrorized
their real and imagined opponents right up to 1986.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Haiti. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
By the mid-1960s, tens of thousands of Haitians had
been murdered or moved abroad because of the regime's
repression. The United States withdrew its aid to Haiti
for a few years, but for fear that the country would
ally itself with Communist Cuba, the United States never
completely ceased to support Duvalier.
Under Papa Doc's rule, a wealthy sugar and coffee
producer was transformed into one of the world's poorest
countries. Haiti was the only country in the world that
did not experience any real economic growth during the
1950s and 1960s, when the world economy expanded the
Papa Doc survived all coup attempts and was succeeded
in his death in 1971 by his then 19-year-old son
Jean-Claude, called Baby Doc.
Jean-Claude Duvalier continued his father's
disobedience and methods of terror. During his time in
power, over 40,000 Haitians are estimated to have been
murdered. Baby Doc was supported by landowners and the
black middle class. In the 1970s, a slight economic
improvement was noticed, thanks to the resumption of aid
by the United States after a ten-year hiatus. Higher
prices for the country's export goods and a development
of the manufacturing industry also contributed.
The first demonstration of 20 years was held in 1984.
The opposition had now allied themselves with the
progressive movement within the Catholic Church. A
series of protests followed and Duvalier began to lose
control. The United States then tried, in vain, to
persuade him to leave the country. In January 1986, Baby
Doc introduced a state of emergency and hundreds of
people were killed. But now the country's military
leaders also began to try to persuade Duvalier to go
into exile and in February the whole family fled with US
aid to France. In the fully loaded world, they are
believed to have taken most of Haiti's cash assets with
With the United States' approval, a provisional
council of military and civilians, led by Army Chief
Henri Namphy, took power. Tonton macoutes were dissolved
and freedom of speech restored, but the promised
democratization otherwise failed and the violence
The political turmoil frightened both donors and
tourists. The economy deteriorated rapidly during the
1980s. Domestic production was subject to fierce
competition when import restrictions were lifted in
Haiti gained a democratic constitution in March 1987
and after some unrest, presidential elections were held
in January 1988. University teacher Leslie Manigat was
President Manigat immediately got into trouble when
he tried to put an end to the army's involvement in drug
smuggling. After only a few months, Manigat was deposed
by Representative General Namphy, but he was forced to
resign in September 1988 following a revolt by a group
of young soldiers. The revolt leader Prosper Avril
became new president. His promised reforms failed,
violence continued, and in the early 1990s he fled the
country, following pressure from the United States.
In a UN-supervised presidential election in December
1990, radical priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide won with 67
percent of the vote and took office a few months later.
International aid to Haiti resumed.
Aristide was a leader in Lavalas, a radical movement
among small farmers and residents of the townships. The
old elite was troubled by promises of social reforms and
the fight against corruption and drug trafficking. After
less than eight months, Aristide was overthrown by a
group of militants who rejected his plans to reduce the
army's influence. Hundreds of people were killed in
connection with the coup and Aristide fled overseas. All
international aid was withdrawn and the United States
and the OAS introduced financial sanctions to try to get
The military coup shattered all hopes of an economic
upturn. A trade block was introduced and exacerbated the
economic crisis. Poverty in the countryside worsened,
leading to increased pressure on the capital
After several failed attempts to reach an agreement
with Aristide, the military-backed transitional
government, army and parliament agreed to appoint a new
prime minister. The post was left vacant pending new
negotiations with Aristide. The sanctions and political
violence exacerbated the crisis in Haiti. Tens of
thousands of Haitians managed to escape to the United
States in overcrowded boats, while many others were
forced to turn or drown.
In June 1993, the UN imposed an oil and arms embargo
on Haiti, but political violence increased further. The
violence was mainly the army-backed militia Fraph.
Around 5,000 supporters of Aristide and other opposition
parties were estimated to have been assassinated before
the United Nations in July 1994 gave the go-ahead to a
US-led invasion of Haiti in order to oust the military
government. In September, 21,000 American soldiers
landed and shortly thereafter hundreds of soldiers
arrived from other countries.
Aristide will return
When the invasion began, the regime's leaders left
the country and Aristide returned as president. His most
important action was to dissolve the army. However, many
weapons were in circulation and crime increased as well
as political violence. Therefore, the US military
trained a new police force of 6,000 men. In the spring
of 1995, a UN force (Unmih) gradually replaced the US
Despite continued violence and growing public
dissatisfaction with the transitional government, the
Aristide- friendly party alliance Lavala's political
organization (OPL) won great support in the
parliamentary elections in 1995. The opposition
boycotted the election. The constitution did not allow
Aristide to stand for re-election in the December
presidential election that year, but did win Lavala's
candidate René Préval. For the first time in Haiti, a
democratically elected president handed over power to
another elected head of state.
However, the government alliance split in the fall of
1996. Aristide and the new party he formed, the Lavalas
Family (FL), opposed the economic austerity program that
foreign lenders required and criticized the OPL for
having failed their voters. The planned parliamentary
elections in 1998 were postponed and Préval dismissed
the parliamentarians whose term in office had expired -
that is, all but nine senators. Then he and the
government ruled the country through decrees.
Political violence worsened in 1999. Youth gangs, for
or against Aristide, as well as rival drug gangs ravaged
the streets. At the same time, many US-trained police
were deeply involved in drug smuggling.
The aid is stopped
In the end, parliamentary elections were held, in May
2000. Aristides party FL won by a wide margin. After
cheating was revealed in the vote, a new round of the
Senate election was held, but it was boycotted by the
Unrest also edged the presidential election in
November. It was boycotted by an opposition alliance
formed with strong backing by Republican forces in the
United States with the sole aim of removing Aristide.
International observers' organizations also chose not
to. Aristide, who was now re-elected, won by an
overwhelming margin and took office in February 2001.
But the opposition did not recognize either the
president or the parliament. Despite international
mediation, the conflict could not be resolved.
International aid was stopped for the second time in ten
Now came political and economic paralysis and a new
wave of violence that developed into a riot. In December
2001, a group of armed men broke into the presidential
palace in Port-au-Prince. The attackers were driven away
but in retaliation, FL supporters went out into the
streets and looted and set fire to the homes and offices
belonging to the opposition. The situation was becoming
increasingly chaotic, while the economy was rapidly
deteriorating. Struggles between political and criminal
groups became increasingly common, not least in the slum
area Cité Soleil in the capital.
The lavish 200th anniversary of Haiti's independence
in January 2004 was boycotted by most Haitian and
foreign invited. At the same time, unrest in northern
Haiti grew into an armed uprising, and in late February,
all of northern Haiti was controlled by rebels
consisting of the Fraph militia and former police and
President Aristide, with the support of the police
force and loyal street gang, had no opportunity to stop
the insurgents. As these approached Port-au-Prince and
all mediation attempts failed, the United States and
France declared that Aristide had become an obstacle to
a peaceful solution. On February 29, Aristide departed
and was taken to the Central African Republic. He later
stated that he had been forced to leave Haiti against
his will, which the US has denied.
At the same time as Aristide left Haiti, the United
States and France landed with the UN's military approval
to prevent the capital of Port-au-Prince from being
taken by the rebels. The Prime Minister resigned and
diplomat Gérard Latortue was set to lead an interim
government to prepare elections.
UN force Minustah
In June 2004, the US-led troops were replaced by a
new UN peacekeeping force, Minustah. The force was led
by Brazil and dominated by Latin American countries.
Prime Minister Latortue sought contact with leaders
of the rebels and hired hundreds of insurgents as police
officers. At the same time, a hunt had begun for members
of FL. The many Haitians who supported the overthrown
president now lost all confidence in the transitional
government, and the fighting intensified between, on the
one hand, the national police force and supporters of
the rebels and, on the other, armed groups supporting
FL. During the fall, hundreds of people were killed,
most of them in Port-au-Prince slums.
In 2005, the UN force became more active and drove
the rebels away from some cities, but in the capital's
slums, violence and legal uncertainty increased. In the
fighting, even purely criminal groups participated in a
fight for control of drug smuggling. Hundreds of
kidnappings were another source of income.
In February 2006, a postponed presidential election
was held, since the electoral authority decided to hold
only one round of elections to avoid unrest. Winner was
the former President Préval, who jumped by Aristides
party FL and formed the Front of Hope (Lespwa). Lespwa
also won the parliamentary elections which were held in
rounds during the year.
The government tried to curb the contradictions that
still remained after two years of fighting between
supporters of the overthrown Aristide and rebel groups.
Several arrested FL members were released. The UN force
Minustah and the police together tried to fight the
extensive gang crime, without much success.
Violent protests against rising prices for some basic
commodities led to the resignation of Prime Minister
Jacques-Édouard Alexis, who took office in 2006. Only
after four months was Michèle Pierre-Louis appointed as
his successor, but she was fired by the Senate after
only one year. Both Alexis and Pierre-Louis were
considered to have received the elite of society when
they tried to fight corruption. In the fall of 2009,
Jean-Max Bellerive became new Prime Minister.
On January 12, 2010, Haiti was shaken by the
strongest earthquake in two centuries. The epicenter of
the quake was only a mile from Port-au-Prince. Data on
how many people died varied between 50,000 and 300,000.
The injured were significantly more than that and over a
million Haitians became homeless. Several countries
deployed disaster assistance and rescue efforts. But
relief work was delayed because most of it ceased to
function in the country.
The disaster led to a postponement of parliamentary
elections and the extension of President Préval's term
of office by a few months.
Eventually, in November 2010, presidential and
parliamentary elections were held at the same time, even
though the country was still in chaos.
When the results of the presidential election were
presented, protests erupted. According to the Election
Commission, the second round of elections would stand
between former president's wife Mirlande Manigat and
Jude Célestin, candidate for the Préval party, now
called Inite (Unity). But there was very little
difference between Célestin and the third, popular
musician Michel Martelly, and his followers questioned
the result. Independent election observers also claimed
that there was no doubt that Martelly received more
votes than Celestin.
Martelly wins the presidential election
After making an assessment of the election results on
behalf of the government, OAS recommended that Martelly
replace Célestin in the second round of elections. The
UN and the US government also supported the
recommendation and Inite eventually withdrew Célestin's
In the second round of elections in March 2011,
Martelly won by two-thirds of the votes cast. But in the
parliamentary elections, which were also completed in
March, Inite was by far the largest, while Martelly's
party Repon's Peyizan (roughly Lantbora's answer) only
got three seats. This meant that the president was
having difficulties, including getting a prime minister
approved. After several rejected candidates, one who was
approved but soon jumped off and months of tug of war,
one of Martelly's closest business contacts, Laurent
Lamothe, was appointed head of government in May 2012.
At the end of 2012, the government requested new
emergency aid from abroad after Hurricane Sandy hit
Haiti and destroyed over half of this year's harvests.
The UN also appealed for additional funds to combat the
cholera epidemic that erupted in the country following
the earthquake disaster. At the same time, claims were
made in Haiti for damages from the UN for the cholera
outbreak, as everything pointed to the spread of UN
troops from Nepal. Before the outbreak, Haiti was
completely free of cholera. However, the UN rejected all
claims for compensation, which resulted in a lawsuit
against the World Organization being filed in a New York
court in the fall of 2013. Over 8,000 Haitians had then
died of cholera.
President Martelly's weak parliamentary support led
to a political deadlock. This stalemate, compounded by
disagreement over the state and electoral laws, resulted
in a third of the seats in the Senate being unoccupied,
as did many places in the municipalities. Parliamentary
elections to be held in 2014 had to be postponed in the
Gradually, protests against the government and the
president grew stronger, and finally Prime Minister
Lamothe resigned. One month later, in January 2015, the
mandate of the sitting National Assembly expired. Haiti
now stood without both the head of government and the
legislative assembly. A new prime minister was soon
appointed, but the opposition remained critical and did
not recognize the government.
The recovery after the 2010 earthquake continued to
slow. Around 80,000 people still lived in tent camps
five years after the disaster. Large parts of the
billion amounts promised in aid had not been disbursed.
The uncertain situation in the country also frightened
The presidential election has failed
Despite this, two elections were finally held for the
National Assembly and the first round of the
presidential elections, in August and October 2015. The
hopes were high that the country would now find a way
out of the long political lockdown. After the New Year,
Haiti also got a functioning parliament again, although
some seats were vacant due to invalidated election
With the presidential election things went worse. The
second round would stand between Jovenel Moïse, who had
Martelli's support, and Jude Célestin, who was
petitioned from the second round in 2011. However,
because of violent protests and accusations of cheating,
the election was postponed only once, and just before
the next date in January 2016 Célestin jumped off. The
election has now been postponed indefinitely.
When Martelli's term expired in February, after a
long debate, Parliament succeeded in appointing Senate
President Jocelerme Privert as interim president. The
presidential election was postponed several times, and
in the end it was decided that it should be rescheduled
from the beginning.
But the election had to be postponed again when
Hurricane Matthew pulled over Haiti in October 2016. The
hurricane's progress became a bleak reminder of the poor
country's problems with natural disasters and deep
political crisis. The weather demanded the lives of over
500 people and caused enormous havoc. Hundreds of
thousands of people were again in need of emergency
In November, last elections were held both for the
presidential post and for parts of the parliament. In
the presidential election, Moïse and Celestin were again
in first and second place. Accusations of electoral
fraud appeared immediately and unrest broke out on the
streets. The protests increased when the Election
Commission announced that Moïse had secured the victory
already in the first round of elections.
Although the leading opposition candidates continued
to question the election results, Jovenel Moïse took
office as new president in February 2017.