A street in Port of Prince

A street in Port of Prince

The problems of politically integrating Haiti into cooperation initiatives with other Caribbean and international governments have historically been a response to the policy (open or hidden) of isolating Haiti that was adopted by many European powers and the United States. This isolation was open and explicit during the years after the Haitian Revolution in 1804, ranging from a lack of recognition for its sovereignty to the requirement that it compensate the French government for the events of the Revolution.

More immediately, despite all of the above, problems of integrating Haiti have also come from the high level of political instability and the security situation in the country. Much of its history in the 20th and 21st centuries has been marked by coups, dictatorships, internal revolts, military occupations by the United States, rigged elections, corruption, high crime rates, poverty and illiteracy. An additional problem is the destabilizing effect of natural disasters that have hit the area, including an earthquake and hurricane in 2010. The internal struggles principally emerged from two factions whose opposing interests date to the era before the Revolution: blacks and mixed-race people.

The country was occupied by the United States military from 1915 to 1934, followed by a long period of political instability and coups until 1957. Later, from 1957 to 1986, a dictatorial government was established by the Duvalier dynasty (François “Papa Doc” Duvalier from 1964 to 1971 and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier from 1971 to 1986) and its secret police, the Tonton Macoutes. A period of alternating between democratic elections and coups, including the military overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide on September 30, 1991, followed. Despite diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis, including an embargo imposed by the Organization of American States, Aristide was never reinstated to power (accused of corruption) and the “provisional” government was replaced by a democratically elected government in 1996. René Préval won that election with 87.9% of the vote, with only 28% of the population participating in the election. Aristide returned to power in 2000 in an election that was questioned both by the opposition and by the international community, which considered it to be fraudulent. The United States, the European Union and the Inter-American Development Bank suspended financial aid to the country in 2002 until democracy was restored. The economic situation and corruption led to protests and disturbances against Aristide and he was eventually overthrown in 2004. In 2006, elections were held to replace the provisional government that arose after the fall of Aristide. The winner was Réne Préval.
This prolonged period of political instability has put Haiti in conflict with the international community and has reduced the opportunities for the country’s integration into that community. In 2010, the country suffered two natural disasters, an earthquake on January 12, 2010, followed by the passage of Hurricane Tomas on November 5, 2010. The government collapsed due to its inability to confront the dual crises and some analysts believe that a huge effort will be needed for the country to survive.

Author: Luis Galanes
Published: June 09, 2012.

Related Entries

This post is also available in: Español


The Puerto Rico Endowment for the Humanities welcomes the constructive comments that the readers of the Encyclopedia of Puerto Rico want to make us. Of course, these comments are entirely the responsibility of their respective authors.