Ruins of Camp Gerard near les Cayes Haiti

Haiti History

Middle America

Historically, Haiti has played a special role. It is one of the oldest independent states on the American continent and the only republic to emerge from a successful slave rebellion. From the beginning, his story is varied and marked by violence. Since its independence in 1804, no fewer than 32 military coups have taken place in Haiti.

Colonization by the Spaniards

When Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1492, he named it Hispaniola, Little Spain. At that time the island was populated by an estimated one million Tainos. After 50 years of Spanish rule, their number had dropped to a few hundred. Those who did not fall victim to the massacres by the colonizers were exploited by the Spaniards as slaves in search of gold. The rest died of infectious diseases brought in by the conquerors, which the immune system of the indigenous population was unable to cope with. When the Tainos were almost exterminated, the Spaniards began slaves from 1501 import from Africa to make up for labor shortages. The search for gold on Hispaniola turned out to be unproductive; so the Spaniards moved on to mainland South America. Hispaniola lost its importance as a colony for the next hundred years and became a hideout for pirates.

Colonization by the French

According to businesscarriers, Haiti is a country located in Caribbean sea.After Spain ceded the western part of the island in the peace treaty of Rijswijk in 1697 to the French, who now called the colony Saint-Domingue, the country developed into the richest colony in the world, the pearl of the Antilles. The inhuman treatment of slaves by the colonizers triggered the general slave revolt in 1791, in the course of which the excesses of violence on both sides continued to rise. After three cruel years, on February 4, 1794, the abolition of slavery in the French colonies was decided by the French National Convention. Under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Alexandre Pétionthe former slaves fought for their independence along the lines of the French Revolution. They did not allow themselves to be stopped by Napoleon’s troops or by Louverture’s arrest. After Jean-Jacques Dessalines finally managed to reach an agreement between the warring black groups and the gens de couleur, the French troops were defeated in the Battle of Vertières.

On January 1, 1804 Dessalines declared after his victory over the French in the city of Gonaives, the independence of the Republic of Haiti. The starting position of the new nation-state must, however, be described as extremely bad. For one, the influential colonial powers France and the United States of America refused to recognize the new nation. Since their own prosperity was based on the plantation economy and thus on the principle of slavery, they feared that the Haitian conditions could spill over to their nations. Thus Haiti was forced into isolation in terms of foreign policy.

On the other hand demanded France in return for the recognition of Haiti as an independent state in 1825 an amount of compensation of 150 million francs. The sum was later reduced to 90 million francs. It was not until 1947 that Haiti was finally able to pay off this amount using loans. The high national debt immediately after independence is often seen as the beginning of Haiti’s external economic dependence.

Ruins of Camp Gerard near les Cayes Haiti

Haiti in the 19th century until 1986

In the period from 1843 to 1915 the country was ruled by 21 different governments, only two of which survived the full term of office. This illustrates the extent of the political instability and power struggles of the many political groups. The various groups within the small elite of Haiti took turns taking control of the government, which they viewed as a lucrative source of income. Haiti was then occupied by the United States from 1915 to 1943, as they feared for their own safety on the mainland. During this time, through the building of schools and missionary work, an educated black middle class was formed, which could also become politically active. From this middle class went

Francois Duvalier (Papa Doc), who was elected president in 1957 and ruled as a cruel dictator. In 1971, the then 19 year old Jean-Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc) inherits his father’s office. Due to his inability to deal with economic issues, he shaped the economic, political and social structure in such a negative way that Haiti is still struggling with the consequences today.

The creation of today’s state

After Jean-Claude Duvalier’s escape in 1986, General Henri Namphy initially took over power for the time being. In 1987 Haiti was given a democratic constitution and free elections were being prepared, but these had to be canceled due to ongoing riots and assassinations. After a transitional phase in which General Prosper Avril and then Ertha Trouillot take over power, Jean Bertrand Aristide, a former priest, is elected President of the Republic of Haiti on February 7, 1991. Aristide declares the fight against corruption and mismanagement to be his goal. After less than eight months, however, he was replaced by General Raoul Cédras in September 1991 overthrown who installs a military government. This is the beginning of a politically and economically difficult time for Haiti, during which the population is exposed to international economic sanctions and the terror of their government. Under pressure from the USA, Aristide was allowed to return to the presidency in 1994. In 1995 Haiti was placed under a UN mandate to protect public security.

After Aristide’s term of office, René Preval is elected President. The following election in 2001 is again won by Aristide. However, voices are being raised about possible electoral fraud and the opposition is boycotting the elections. International aid to the country is then stopped under pressure from the USA, which significantly limits the government’s options for action. There are also repeated clashes between supporters and opponents of Aristides. 2004, the year of the 200th anniversary of independence, reached the resistance against Aristide, who has now become a multimillionaire, reached its peak. His opponents accuse him of corruption, mismanagement and his dictatorial style of leadership. On February 29, Aristide is taken out of the country in an American military machine. On the same day, the USA, France and Chile send troops to Haiti. After a two-year transition period, elections will be held in 2006, with René Préval emerging as the winner. However, his election victory is not undisputed, there is suspicion of election fraud. Nevertheless, Preval is declared the winner by the election commission with 51.15% of the vote and can thus begin his second term.