Haiti History  

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HAITI

Haiti occupies part of the island of Hispaniola, which was 'discovered' by Columbus in 1492. The indigenous tribe, the Arawaks, were either murdered, worked to death, or killed off by European diseases against which they had no defenses. The french got control of the western third of the island in 1697 because French pirates so relentlessly beleaguered the area. Slaves made the region economically advantageous to the French. A slave revolt, however, resulted in abolition of slavery. Independence was declared in 1804, but political stability would be a long time coming for the country. From the mid-1800s through the mid-1900s, the US began to exert considerable influence in Haiti. For nearly two decades, in fact, Haiti was under US military occupation (1915-194). In 1957, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier seized control and commenced a repressive rule of the country. His son, Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc") came to power in 1971. under the Duvalier's most of the better-educated and wealthy citizens fled to more hospitable locales. Consequently, Haiti was left both impoverished and with the most illiteracy in the Western Hemisphere. In 1986, Baby Doc was deposed by the military which tried to empower a series of repressive and incompetent governments. In 1990, democratic elections were held. Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest, won but was overthrown in another military coup. The US gave Aristide support in the form of suspending aid to Haiti, which only worked to further hurt the most impoverished in the population. The military junta proceeded to kill at least 3,000 of Aristide's supporters. In 1994, the US invaded Haiti and restored Aristide to power. In 1995, elections were held with 28 parties vying for votes. It was the first peaceful presidential election since independence. US troops were withdrawn in 1999.