PRESIDENT: Michel Martelly (May 2011 - 2016)
POPULATION: 8.3 million
KEY EXPORTS: Refugees
|Sixty people die in capsized boat fleeing to Turks & Caicos. Despite farmer protests, World Bank forces Haiti to allow imports of U.S. rice, which is subsidized.
|Failed coup attempt; supporters of Pres. Aristide burn buildings in revenge. Opposition radio host Brignol Lindor was killed by a mob.
|Sec. of State Colin Powell says Haiti needs to do more to protect dissidents if it wants more U.S. aid.
|Supporters of President Aristide violently overwhelm protesters, and several people were injured.
|Three members of U.S. Congress meet with Pres. Aristide, as businesses protest his authoritarian rule. Chief of Haiti's anti-drug task force is arrested after a ton of cocaine was found in an airplane.
|The head of the national police force resigns, in response to pressure from the OAS.
|Opponents of Pres. Aristide launch more armed attacks, using former army troops.
|Insurrection begins in several towns, U.S. blames Aristide for crisis. Rebel leader Guy Philippe takes control of Port au Prince at end of month, Aristide flees into exile in Morocco.
|Over 1,000 die in massive floods after days of heavy rains. Deforestation resulted in more soil erosion and mudslides.
|Hurricane Jeanne killed at least 1,500 people. Looting is rampant.
|Fewer than half of planned 8,300-man U.N. peacekeeping force have arrived; former Haitian soldiers in militias provide "security."
|Several hundred Haitian militiamen handed in their weapons to U.N. peacekeepers.
|Secretary of State Rice made a trip to Haiti, urging all parties to abide by democratic norms as the November 20 elections approach.
|Because of poor security, elections planned for November were repeatedly postponed until January.
|Dominican Republic demanded an apology from Haiti after crowds threw stones at Pres. Leonel Fernandez during a visit to Haiti.
|After repeated delays due to lack of security, elections are held, and Rene Preval, a supporter of Pres. Aristide, is eventually declared the winner.
|Rene Preval is inaugurated president, for the second time. A nearby prison riot mars the occasion.
|Earthquake of 7.0 magnitude wrecks most of Port au Prince and kills at least 80,000 people.
Like the other islands in the Caribbean Basin, the indigenous population inhabiting the island of Hispaniola was almost wiped out by the conquering Spaniards, who brought African slaves to work on the sugar cane plantations beginning in the 17th century. Haiti became the second independent country in the Western Hemisphere when former slave Toussaint L'Ouverture defeated the French occupation army in 1804. At the time, all of Hispaniola was a single colony, but the eastern two-thirds of the island seceded from Haiti in 1844, becoming the Dominican Republic. For the next century and a half, Haiti remained a backward country with a stagnant economy based on exports of sugar. U.S. military forces occupied Haiti from 1915 until 1934. In 1957 Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier was elected president, but he gradually became a dictator. Upon his death in 1971, his son Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier assumed control, but was finally forced to resign in February 1986. After a series of provisional governments, democratic elections were held in December 1990, and Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a young Catholic priest, was elected president. His reform policies angered the traditional elite class, and he was forced to resign the following September. The resulting social turmoil led to a massive refugee wave of "boat people" fleeing to Florida. The Clinton administration put pressure on the military regime to step down and allow new elections, and with U.N. authorization, preparations for an invasion began. Finally, the generals backed down and Aristide returned to power under special arrangements. His political ally Rene Preval succeeded him in 1996. Aristide was elected president again in 2000, but an uprising broke out in early 2004, and he was forced to resign and flee the country. He is currently living in exile in South Africa.
Haiti exhibits a unique mixture of French and African cultural traits. French is the official language, but most people speak a creole dialect of French. The vast majority of the people adhere to the Roman Catholic religion, but the faith is combined with much voodoo superstition passed along by their African ancestors. There is a sharp social divide between the light-skinned elite class and the impoverished black majority. Neither side trusts the other, which makes political compromise almost impossible.
In most of Latin America, class divisions have impeded the development of a pluralistic, peaceful democracy, and the extreme conditions in Haiti present the worst example of this. The few elections that were held in Haiti during the 20th Century generally meant little, as the real power was wielded by those with property. One of the only institutions that was allowed to operate was the Catholic Church, and the desire to rectify social injusice made the leftist Liberation Theology a very appealing alternative. Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a leading exponent of this movement, which allows for very little compromise. That compounds the inherent difficulty of reaching any kind of consensus among the main social groups in Haiti.
|Front for Hope (L'Espwa / L'Espoir)
|Fusion (Merging of Haitian Social Democratic Parties)
|Struggling People's Organization (OPL)
|Democratic Alliance (Alyans)
|National Front for the Reconstruction (FRN)
|Pres. Rene Preval
|S: 11 / CD: 23
|S: 5 / CD: 17
|S: 4 / CD: 10
|S: 1 / CD: 10
|S: 0 / CD: 12
|S: 9 / CD: 27