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Haiti

Yearbook 1997

Haiti. According to Countryaah, Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigned in early June after several months of strikes and violent protests targeting his financial plan. This was based on guidelines drawn up by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and foreign donors. Smarth promised to remain until he had appointed a successor. In July, the president appointed economist Eric Pierre as prime minister, but his election was rejected by the Chamber of Deputies a month later.

When no successor took office at the end of October, Smarth decided to step down definitively and he advised his 14 government ministers to follow his example. No new prime minister was appointed during the year.

1997 Haiti

1957-85 Duvalier dictatorship

The country's army (Garde d'Haiti) plays an active role in political life, bringing down Presidents E. Lescot (1941-1946), D. Estime (1946-1950) and P. Magloire (1950-1957). In 1957, the Army and the United States support the appointment of François Duvalier as President. He has a past as a doctor.

Traditionally, the country's ruling elite, who were mulattoes, had suppressed the part of Haitian culture that had African origins. Duvalier now recognized the importance of this culture, not to strengthen it in Haitian society but to use it to strengthen its own power. He eventually based his power on two pills. First and foremost, voodoo is a belief system that is based on a magic-demonic universe consisting of elements from Catholicism, popular black magic, fetishism and a number of elements from African religions. The other pillar to support the Duvalier regime was the so-called tonton macoutes (over 30,000 "voluntary members of the national security forces") that gave the government a terrorist monopoly on the use of physical and psychological violence.

Throughout the Duvalier family, for more than 30 years, the country was ruled and controlled by the army, the citizenship, the church and the state bureaucracy, all closely linked to the United States. In 1964, Duvalier - or Papa Doc as he would like to be called - appointed himself president for life. Upon his death in 1971, his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc) inherited the presidency.

During the 1960's, Haiti became a major producer of sugar and coffee, but was also the only Latin American country to be among the world's 25 poorest.

In the early '80's, the days of the Duvalier regime were being talked about. Internationally, it was isolated due to the permanent reports of human rights violations and internally the opposition grew stronger. Duvalier therefore postponed elections for 1984, but 61% of the population chose to boycott the election. Opposition grew stronger, organizing in parties and trade unions while making the regime increasingly straining for the United States.

The suppression increased in 1985 and it was estimated that the Baby Doc regime over the previous 14 years had committed 40,000 murders. A wave of demonstrations and strikes overturned over the country, and Duvalier eventually chose to flee in a plane provided by the United States Air Force. He went to France and was granted temporary asylum by the French government.

A national government council headed by General Henri Namphy assumed government power and promised "free and direct" elections in late 1987. At the same time, opposition leaders criticized that the same men of the old regime were continuing in power.

The dictator's escape did not slow down popular mass mobilization, and the massive lynching aimed at members of the tonton macouts forced the government to disband this repressive corps.

In October 1986, the government postponed elections to elect a constitutional assembly, but only 10% of the 3 million eligible Haitians participated. Still, a new constitution was drafted and on March 29, 1987, it was put to a referendum and passed with 99.81% of the vote. The Constitution stated that Haiti was a parliamentary democracy, that the president should be elected for a 5-year term and that the prime minister should be nominated by parliament.

The parliamentary elections were to be held in November 1987, but a few hours before the polling stations were to open, they were sabotaged by the military and former members of tonton macoutes. The election had to be suspended and was first held in January 1988. In a tense political situation, the government's own candidate, Leslie Manigat, was elected president, but already in June he was overthrown by a coup d'etat led by General Namphy. Only three months later - in September - a group of lieutenants and soldiers overthrew General Namphy and installed General Prosper Avril at the presidential post. He had been the military's gray eminence during the Duvalier dictatorship.

 

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