Haiti is a country situated on the western third of the island of Hispaniola and the smaller islands of La Gonve, La Tortue (Tortuga), Grande Caye, and Ile a Vache in the Caribbean Sea, east of Cuba; the Dominican Republic shares Hispaniola with Haiti. Its total land area is 10,714 square miles (27,750 square km) and its capital is Port-au-Prince on the main island of Hispaniola.

A former French colony, it was the first country in the Americas after the United States to declare its independence. In spite of its longevity, it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Repiblik d Ayiti
Rpublique d'Hati
Missing image
Flag of Haiti

Coat of arms
(In Detail)
National motto: L'Union Fait La Force
(French: Union Makes Strength)
Missing image

Official languages Kreyl, French
Capital Port-au-Prince
President Boniface Alexandre (interim)
Prime Minister Grard Latortue
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 143rd
27,750 km²
 - Total (Year)
 - Density
Ranked 92nd
7.5 million (July 2003)
 - Total (Year)
 - GDP/head

$10.6 billion (2002)
Currency Gourde (HTG)
Time zone UTC -5 (no DST)
 - Declared
 - Recognised
(from France)
January 1, 1804
1825 (Fr), 1863 (USA)
National anthem La Dessalinienne
Internet TLD .ht
Calling Code 509


Main article: History of Haiti

1804: Independance

Freed Blacks and mulattos joined with slaves against Napoleonic France to achieve the Carribean's first successful revolution for independance. The largely Black nation remained isolated politically throughout the 19th century, though penetrated economically by international capitalism.

1915: U.S. Occupation

American President Woodrow Wilson sent the first sailors and marines to Port-au-Prince on July 28, 1915. Within six weeks, representatives from the United States controlled Haitian customs houses and administrative institutions. For the next nineteen years, Haiti's powerful neighbor to the north guided and governed the country. During this period the legal government of Haiti was (both technically and effectively) the U.S. Marine Corps. The specific order from the Navy to the invasion commander, Admiral William Deville Bundy, was to "protect American and foreign" interests.

Representatives from the United States wielded veto power over all governmental decisions in Haiti, and Marine Corps commanders served as administrators in the provinces. Local institutions, however, continued to be run by Haitians, as was required under policies put in place during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson.

"Cacos" was the US term for the Haitian rebels who opposed the occupation of the island after the Americans took control in 1915.

Opposition to the Occupation began right after the Marines enterd Haiti in 1915. The rebels, vehemently tried to resist American control of Haiti. In response, the Haitian and American governments began a vigorous campaign to disband the rebel armies.

Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave, the mulatto president of the Senate, agreed to accept the presidency of Haiti after several other candidates had refused on principle.

With a figurehead installed in the National Palace and other institutions maintained in form if not in function, Admiral Caperton declared martial law, a condition that persisted until 1929.

In 1917 President Dartiguenave dissolved the legislature after its members refused to approve a constitution written by United States Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt. A referendum subsequently approved the new constitution (by a vote of 98,225 to 768), however, in 1918. Generally a liberal document, the constitution allowed foreigners to purchase land. Dessalines had forbidden land ownership by foreigners, and since 1804 most Haitians had viewed foreign ownership as anathema.

1918: Rebellion

The occupation by the United States had several effects on Haiti. An early period of unrest culminated in a 1918 rebellion by up to 40,000 former cacos and other disgruntled people. The scale of the uprising overwhelmed the Gendarmerie, but marine reinforcements helped put down the revolt at the estimated cost of 2,000 Haitian lives. Thereafter, order prevailed to a degree that most Haitians had never witnessed. The order, however, was imposed largely by white foreigners with deep-seated racial prejudices and a disdain for the notion of self-determination by inhabitants of less-developed nations. These attitudes particularly dismayed the mulatto elite, who had heretofore believed in their innate superiority over the black masses. The whites from North America, however, did not distinguish among Haitians, regardless of their skin tone, level of education, or sophistication. This intolerance caused indignation, resentment, and eventually a racial pride that was reflected in the work of a new generation of Haitian historians, ethnologists, writers, artists, and others, many of whom later became active in politics and government. Still, as Haitians united in their reaction to the racism of the occupying forces, the mulatto elite managed to dominate the country's bureaucracy and to strengthen its role in national affairs.

The occupation greatly improved some of Haiti's infrastructure. Roads were improved and expanded through the use of forced-labour gangs. This violent form of "corvee labour", with chain-gangs and armed guards permitted to shoot anyone who fled compulsory service, was widely regarded as tantamount to slavery. The education system was re-designed from the ground up; however, this involved the destruction of the pre-existing system of "Liberal Arts" education inherited (and adapted) from the French. It is to be observed that the william bundy Marine corps was even less successful in creating a system of education for Haitians than the contemporary government of the U.S. was in providing access to education for its own Black population. Also, due to its emphasis on vocational training, the American system that replaced the French was despised by the elite. Thus, among the two major infrastructural programs carried out by the government of occupation, the use of forced labour enraged the lower classes of rural Haiti, and the educational "reform" enraged the urban elite.

1922: Louis Borno

In 1922 Louis Borno replaced Dartiguenave, who was forced out of office for temporizing over the approval of a debt consolidation loan. Borno ruled without the benefit of a legislature (dissolved in 1917 under Dartiguenave) until elections were again permitted in 1930. The legislature, after several ballots, elected mulatto Stnio Vincent to the presidency.

The occupation of Haiti continued after World War I, despite the embarrassment that it caused Woodrow Wilson at the Paris peace conference in 1919 and the scrutiny of a congressional inquiry in 1922. By 1930 President Herbert Hoover had become concerned about the effects of the occupation, particularly after a December 1929 incident in Les Cayes in which marines killed at least ten Haitian peasants during a march to protest local economic conditions. Hoover appointed two commissions to study the situation. A former governor general of the Philippines, W. Cameron Forbes, headed the more prominent of the two. The Forbes Commission praised the material improvements that the United States administration had wrought, but it criticized the exclusion of Haitians from positions of real authority in the government and the constabulary, which had come to be known as the Garde d'Hati. In more general terms, the commission further asserted that "the social forces that created [instability] still remain--poverty, ignorance, and the lack of a tradition or desire for orderly free government."

1934: U.S. Withdrawal

The Hoover administration did not implement fully the recommendations of the Forbes Commission, but United States withdrawal was under way by 1932, when Hoover lost the presidency to Roosevelt, the presumed author of the most recent Haitian constitution. On a visit to Cap Hatien in July 1934, Roosevelt reaffirmed an August 1933 disengagement agreement. The last contingent of marines departed in mid-August, after a formal transfer of authority to the Garde. As in other countries occupied by the United States in the early twentieth century, the local (U.S.-trained) military was often the only cohesive and effective institution left in the wake of withdrawal. This sowed the seeds for a sequence of military-backed dictatorships, all attached to American patronage, which would define the next 50 years of Haiti's history.

The Rise of Duvalier

A medical doctor, Franois Duvalier was not allowed to establish his own practice due to racist customs in Haiti (he was black). After securing employment with an American medical project that was fighting widespread tuberculosis, Duvalier had the opportunity to see the poverty that existed in the countryside.

This fueled his interest in politics, and despite the fact that the Haitian government was predominantly mulatto, Duvalier was able to gain a following and joined forces with powerful union leader Daniel Fignole. Together they formed the popular Mouvement Ouvriers Paysans (MOP) party. They continued to gain public support and waited for their moment to seize the power.

Both men wanted to take the top job of President, therefore the party was split and in 1957 Fignole became president of Haiti. His position lasted only 18 days, however, because Duvalier was able to overthrow him and began what was to become a 29-year dynasty.

1957-1986: Duvaliers and Aborted freeport

Duvalier, also known as "Papa Doc," became president in 1957 and dictator in 1964. He was known for his army of sunglasses-clad volunteers, the Tonton Macoute. In 1967 proposals were made to construct a freeport on the Haitian island of Tortuga by a consortium formed in the United States by Don Pierson of Eastland, Texas.

These plans reached maturity in 1971 when a 99-year contract was entered into by Franois Duvalier on behalf of the Haitian government. Although construction of infastructure and a new international airport was commenced, two other events brought about the sudden demise of the whole venture. When Franois Duvalier suddenly died in 1971 his son Jean-Claude Duvalier ("Baby Doc") took over at the age of 19. The advisers soon concluded that Haiti needed a new image to attract economic assistance, tourism, and investment. In 1974 it became known that the freeport had entered into a multimillion dollar contract with the Gulf Oil corporation to advance development on the island. This news prompted "Baby Doc" to expropriate the venture for himself, under prompting from his advisors including his mother, Simone Ovide Duvalier; Defense and Interior Minister Luckner Cambronne; Gen. Claude Raymond, commander of the army, and his brother, Foreign Minister Adrien Raymond; and Minister of Coordination and Information Fritz Cinas. This move by the regency caused the collapse of the freeport venture.

Under the Baby Doc regime some political prisoners were released, press censorship eased, and a policy of "gradual democratization of institutions" was professed. But in fact no sharp changes from previous policies occurred. No political opposition was tolerated, and all important political officials and judges were still appointed by the president. Haiti continued a semi-isolationist approach to foreign relations, although the government actively solicited foreign aid. In 1980 Duvalier married Michle Bennett, who later supplanted his hard-line mother in Haitian politics. In the face of increasing social unrest, however, Duvalier and his wife left the country early in 1986, leaving the entire country in poverty and lacking international commercial development. A six-member council replaced Duvalier when he fled to southern France, where he lived in luxury in Cannes until his wife left him and took his children and most of their cash. He now lives in modest circumstances in Paris.

1986: After Duvalier Regime

After Duvalier fled, US installed a military regime, The National Council of Government (CNG), headed by General Henry Namphy. It was supposed to design a new Constitution and arrange for democratic elections within two years, but didn't step down until 1990, when Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president. Most of his term was usurped by a military coup d'etat, but he was able to return to office in 1994 and oversee the installation of a close associate to the presidency in 1996.

In the late 1970s, a time of increasing militancy against the brutal regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier, Aristide urged change and often found himself at odds with his superiors in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1986, the year Duvalier was driven from power, Aristide survived the first of many assassination attempts. In 1990, when a notorious Duvalierist announced his candidacy for president, progressive-centre forces united to urge Aristide to run for the office. He was elected in Haiti's first free democratic election on Dec. 16, 1990, with an overwhelming 67% of the vote. Aristide's campaign motto, "Lavalas" (Creole for "flood"), became the name for a diverse coalition of parties that symbolized hope for the Haitian people (80% of whom earned less than $150 a year). In his seven months as president in 1991, Aristide proposed raising the minimum wage, initiated a literacy campaign, dismantled the repressive system of rural section chiefs, and oversaw a drastic reduction in human rights violations. A coup on Sept. 30, 1991, led by the military and financed by members of Haiti's elite, declared that such reforms would not be tolerated. The coup's leaders: General Raul Cedras, Colonel Michel Francois, and general Philippe Biamby, were all graduates of the US Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. After three years of exile, a U.S. invasion allowed Aristide to return and resume his presidency on Oct. 15, 1994. The economy was in shambles, infrastructure almost nonexistent, and more than 4,000 people had been killed. Barred constitutionally from immediate reelection, he stepped down in 1996. The old Lavalas coalition fractured, and in November 1996 he launched a new political party, Fanmi Lavalas (Lavalas Family).

2000-2004: Crisis and the post-Aristide era

In May 2000, Haiti held legislative and local government elections. The Family Lavalas Party won over 50% of the vote in nearly all the contests but a dispute arose about the method used to tabulate the percentages for the Senate elections. The OAS and the international community condemned the results for the Senate elections as fradulent. The Haitian government refused to re-calculate the percentages. In response, most of the opposition parties refused to acknowledge the results or take part in second-round run-offs. In the months leading up to the Presidential election at the end of the year, numerous negotiations failed to produce a settlement. Therefore, most opposition groups boycotted the Presidential election. Aristide easily won this election, but due to the earlier dispute, the opposition parties never accepted his victory as legitimate.

Aristide took office on February 7, 2001, but his presidency was mired in controversy, and his government was undermined by the political impasse and the use of armed gangs, called 'chimeres', to enforce his rule. By 2003, the country was deeply divided between pro-and anti-Aristide camps.This finally led to an armed conflict which increased in intensity on February 5, 2004, 200 years after the Haitian Revolution, when an armed rebel group calling itself the Revolutionary Artibonite Resistance Front took control of the Gonaves police station. This rebellion then spread throughout the central Artibonite province by February 17 and was joined by opponents of the government who had been in exile in the Dominican Republic. Aristide was forced to resign and go into exile again (Central African Republic, Jamaica, South Africa).

2004: Hurricane Jeanne



Main article: Politics of Haiti

Haiti is a presidential republic with an elected president and National Assembly. However, some claim it to be an authoritarian government in practice. On 29 February 2004, a rebellion culminated in the defacto resignation of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and it is unknown if the current political structure will remain.

The constitution was introduced in 1987 and is modeled on those of the United States and France. Having been either completely or partially suspended for some years, it was fully reinstated in 1994.


Main article: Departments of Haiti

Haiti is divided into nine departments (provinces):

Missing image
Map of Haiti

Main article: Geography of Haiti

Haiti's terrain consists mainly of rugged mountains with small coastal plains and river valleys. The east and central part is a large elevated plateau.

The biggest city is the capital Port-au-Prince with 2 million inhabitants, followed by Cap-Hatien with 600,000.


Main article: Economy of Haiti

Haiti remains the least-developed country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Comparative social and economic indicators show Haiti falling behind other low-income developing countries (particularly in the hemisphere) since the 1980s. Haiti now ranks 150th of 175 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index.

About 80% of the population lives in abject poverty, making it the second poorest country in the world. 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 job creation since President Ren Prval 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.


Main article: Demographics of Haiti

Although Haiti averages about 270 people per square kilometer, its population is concentrated most heavily in urban areas, coastal plains, and valleys. About 95% of Haitians are of African descent. The rest of the population is mostly mulatto, or mixed Caucasian-African ancestry. A few are of European or Levantine heritage. About two thirds of the population live in rural areas.

French is one of two official languages, but it is spoken by only about 10% of the people. Nearly all Haitians speak Kryol(Creole), the country's other official language. English is increasingly spoken among the young and in the business sector.

Roman Catholicism is the state religion, which the majority professes. Some have converted to Protestantism. Many Haitians also practice voodoo traditions, seeing no conflict with their Christian faith.


Main articles: Culture of Haiti

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Countries in West Indies

Antigua and Barbuda | Bahamas | Barbados | Cuba | Dominica | Dominican Republic | Grenada | Haiti | Jamaica | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Trinidad and Tobago

Dependencies: Anguilla | Aruba | British Virgin Islands | Cayman Islands | Guadeloupe | Martinique | Montserrat | Navassa Island | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Turks and Caicos Islands | U.S. Virgin Islands

Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
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Antigua and Barbuda | Bahamas¹ | Barbados | Belize | Dominica | Grenada | Guyana | Haiti | Jamaica | Montserrat | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Suriname | Trinidad and Tobago
Associate members: Anguilla | Bermuda | Cayman Islands | British Virgin Islands | Turks and Caicos Islands
Observer status: Aruba | Colombia | Dominican Republic | Mexico | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Venezuela
¹ member of the community but not the Caribbean (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy.
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