Haiti Recent History

In October 1950 Paul Magloire was elected who proved to be very capable in resolving some problems including the main one, that of pacification between whites and negroes, then universal suffrage and the development of some economic and social projects, making use of the aid of the United Nations and the United States.

However, since he was guilty of using strong manners and undemocratic systems, Magloire was forced to resign on December 12, 1956. Thus began a very black and turbulent period for Haiti, due to the power struggles, riots and strikes.

Then a Military Council headed by General Antonio Kebreau managed to restore order, called new elections that were the prerogative of the doctor Francois Duvalier.

He strengthened relations with the US, granting them the installation of some missile plants on the island in exchange for aid to reorganize their armed forces. Using foreign funding as well, he developed a program of economic improvements.

Haiti’s relations with Cuba deteriorated when a number of Cuban political refugees occupied the territory in 1959. According to Abbreviationfinder, the government also attempted the expulsion of the Catholic archbishop Francois Poirier, but the attempt failed. It was in August 1959, a month later, however, the expulsion of six senators accused of anti-government actions took place.

Meanwhile, Duvalier, whom everyone called “Papa doc” created his own special militia, which was called “Tonton Macoutes” and which terrorized the population, forcing intellectuals into exile.

In 1961 he dissolved the Parliament and in 1964 he was elected President for life. He triggered real religious persecutions and expelled many bishops and priests for whom he was excommunicated by the Pope. And since Duvalier had been the absolute lord in all areas of power, at his death on April 22, 1971, a dangerous vacuum occurred of power. A few months earlier, however, a constitutional amendment had been approved which allowed the rise to power of his twenty-year-old son Jean Claude Duvalier who immediately promised radical reforms. This did not happen and repressions continued.

For the first time since 1804, the year of the proclamation of independence, Olivier Guichar, French Minister for Tourism, went to Haiti. He visited Port au Prince, the capital, in late July 1973.

Haiti Recent History

Jean Claude Duvalier, or “Baby Doc”, availing himself of the powers conferred on him by the lifetime presidency inherited from his father, called elections in both 1979 and 1984, with the participation of government candidates only. No progress occurred for a long time, indeed, economic conditions worsened. There are many causes that have magnified the misery of the country: the demographic increase, the insufficient allocation of arable land, the mortalities in the various morbidity, the continuous deforestation with consequent environmental degradation and, last but not least, illiteracy, 85%, also caused by the confusion created by bilingualism: the elite of the population spoke French but the great mass used Creole.

The situation got worse and worse and in November 1985 numerous protests began, first of all only students, then of the whole population, which forced JCDuvalier to flee to France (January 1986) while power was assumed by a council, the “National Council of Government, headed by General H. Namphy.

The CNG immediately allowed the formation of various parties and declared that it would bring the regime back to constitutionality by 1988; this did not happen, there was an open conflict between the masses and the army and meanwhile the economic situation had become unsustainable and unemployment had reached unacceptable levels.

In March 1987 with a “referendum” a new Constitution was approved which decreed “Creole” as a national language, alongside French; recognized some fundamental freedoms; it limited the presidential powers in a bicameral Parliament, where access was forbidden, at least for ten years, to those who had been linked to the past regime.

In November 1987, new elections were called which, however, were suspended a few hours after the opening of the polling stations due to unrest that broke out between the armed forces and the “Tonton Macoutes”.

In 1988, with a low turnout, the conservative L. Manigat was elected who after only four short months of government was dismissed by General Namphy. The latter dissolved the Parliament, annulled the Constitution, allowed the “Tonton Macoutes” atrocities and massacres and in the end he himself was overthrown by a coup that brought General P. Avril to power.

The unrest continued and a state of siege was proclaimed in January 1990.
In March Avril was forced to resign and power passed into the hands of Supreme Court judge E. Pascal Trouillot.

In December 1990-January 1991 new elections led to the presidency JB Aristide, a Catholic priest, who in February 1991 was able to install the first democratically elected administration.

On 30 September 1991 Aristide was defenestrated by a coup d’état carried out by General R. Cedras, who then entrusted the presidency to the judge of the Supreme Court J.Nerette.

In 1992 a new provisional government was formed headed by the conservative ML Bazim, who assumed the office of Prime Minister, leaving vacant that of President of the Republic.

But the international isolation of Haiti did not end with the governmental conduct of Bazin, moreover officially recognized only by the Vatican City State.

The economic sanctions, decreed by the Organization of American States, remained and even the United Nations imposed a commercial embargo in 1993. All this forced the government of Haiti to accept negotiations which included, among other things, the return to office of President Aristide and guaranteed freedom and impunity for the coup leaders. However, as the latter disassociated themselves from these proposals, the United Nations Security Council made the embargo even harder in May 1994 and then prepared, by any means, to restore civilian rule in the country.

In September of the same year, the United States was forced to send a military contingent to Haiti in order to prevent the mass exodus of the Haitians to Florida. And all this happened without any resistance being encountered.

On 15 October Aristide returned to power, under US protection, after formally committed to leaving office at the regular deadline, already scheduled, of February 1996. Aristide formed a government by surrounding himself with members of the Organization Politique Lavalas, loyal to him (from Lavalas = avalanche). The guidance of this training was entrusted to the entrepreneur S. Michel. He immediately replaced the heads of the armed forces and the police, while reducing the staff. Then, as a guarantee of prompt restoration work, also through the privatization of state-owned enterprises, he managed to obtain the much-needed financial aid from international institutions.

Naturally he had to apply rigid measures which were not at all appreciated by the masses who, although initiating protests and conflicts also within the government, however, in the legislative and administrative elections of June 1995 assigned the victory to the government party of Aristide.

In October of the same year, considering Michel’s actions unsatisfactory, he dismissed him and replaced him with Mrs. C. Werleigh, former Foreign Minister.

For foreign policy, relations with the Dominican Republic deteriorated in February 1996, where over 300,000 Haitians worked for the harvesting of sugar cane, but treated harshly by employers. Instead, those with Cuba, who had been interrupted for over 30 years, re-connected.

Also in that February 1996 he assumed the office of President R. Preval, already elected in December 1995. In the following March he appointed Prime Minister R. Smarth who resumed and continued the economic policy of his predecessor Michel. In November Aristide founded a new movement which he called “Fanmi Lavalas”, that is “Avalanche Family”, and since there were evident disagreements between him and Preval, there were immediately falls in the social climate of the country which soon returned prey to protests that went on for a long time. Until in June 1997, despite the fact that Smarth had already started an agrarian reform, this tense atmosphere forced him to resign. Preval attempted some substitutions in the government but all were rejected by the Parliament until in December 1998, even with considerable political instability, JE Alexis was succeeded.