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.
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
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.