Haiti Modern History

By | January 31, 2023

Haiti is a country located in North America. With the capital city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti has a population of 11,402,539 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. 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.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: 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 most. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Haiti.

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.

Still mistrust

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 them.

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 continued.

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 1986.

New constitution

Haiti gained a democratic constitution in March 1987 and after some unrest, presidential elections were held in January 1988. University teacher Leslie Manigat was declared victorious.

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 Aristide reinstated.

Aggravated crisis

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 Port-au-Prince.

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 troops.

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 opposition.

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 years.

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.

Armed rebellion

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 soldiers.

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.

Still worried

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.

The earthquake

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 candidacy.

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.

cholera outbreak

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 future.

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 foreign investors.

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 results.

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 relief.

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.

Haiti Modern History