Haiti’s history of violence and disasters


Port-au-Prince (Reuters) – Haiti became Latin America and the Caribbean’s first independent state of the colonial era and the first Black-led republic when it threw off French rule in the 19th century.

But it has suffered cycles of violence, invasion and repression for most of its subsequent history, as well as natural disasters including an earthquake in 2010 that killed as many as 300,000 people.

Here are some key events in Haiti’s history:

1492 – Spain colonizes the island of Hispaniola after the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Two hundred years later Spain cedes the western half to France. Plantations worked by slaves of African origin produce sugar, rum and coffee that enrich France.

1791 – Former slave Toussaint Louverture leads a successful revolt and in 1801 issues a constitution. The revolution is often described as the world’s first and only successful slave rebellion.

1801-1809 – Under slave-owning President Thomas Jefferson, the United States cuts aid to Louverture and pursues a policy to isolate Haiti, concerned the Haitian revolution would inspire slaves in southern U.S. states.

1803 – Napoleon Bonaparte’s failed attempt to retake Haiti ends his dream of an expansive French empire in the Americas. Haiti’s victory leads France to agree to the Louisiana Purchase, a bargain deal that doubles the size of the United States.

1804 – Haiti becomes independent under former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who is assassinated in 1806. The United States does not recognize Haitian independence until 1862.

1825 – France recognizes Haitian independence but imposes harsh reparations on its former slaves for lost income. The loans Haiti takes with French banks to cover the debt, and subsequent interest, are only fully repaid in 1947.

1915 – The United States invades Haiti, withdraws in 1943 but keeps financial control and political influence.

1937 – In the worst incident of long-standing rivalry with neighboring Dominican Republic, thousands of Haitians in a border area are massacred by Dominican troops on the orders of dictator Trujillo.

1957 – Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier takes power with military backing, ushering in a period defined by widespread human-rights abuses.

1964 – Duvalier declares himself president-for-life. His dictatorship is marked by repression, enforced by the feared Tonton Macoutes secret police.

1971 – Duvalier dies and is succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude, or “Baby Doc.” Repression increases. In the following decades, thousands of Haitian “boat people” flee by sea to Florida, many dying on the way.

1986 – Popular revolt forces Baby Doc to flee Haiti to exile in France. Lieutenant-General Henri Namphy takes over.

1988 – General Prosper Avril takes over from Namphy in a coup.

1990 – Avril declares a state of siege amid protests but resigns ahead of elections under international pressure.

1990 – Former parish priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a leftist champion of the poor, wins Haiti’s first free election. He is ousted in a coup in 1991.

1994 – U.S. troops intervene to oust the military regime and Aristide returns. U.N. peacekeepers deploy in 1995 and Aristide protege Rene Preval is elected president.

1999 – Aristide is elected president for a second term despite disputed results.

2004 – Political unrest forces Aristide to flee. The country descends into violence.

2006 – Preval wins election.

2008–2010. Protests triggered by food shortages, a cholera outbreak and electoral disputes.

2010 – An earthquake kills up to 300,000 people. Despite an international relief effort, the country is all but overwhelmed, exacerbating political, social and economic problems.

2011 – Michel Martelly wins second round of presidential election.

2012-14 – Frequent anti-government protests fueled by corruption and poverty. Demonstrators demand Martelly resign.

2016 – Hurricane Matthew kills more than 850 people and leaves tens of thousands homeless.

2017 – Jovenel Moise, a banana exporter-turned-politician, is declared winner of 2016 presidential election.

2019 – Moise steadily amasses power and rules by decree after Haiti fails to hold elections due to political gridlock and unrest.

2021 – Moise is shot dead after gunmen open fire with assault rifles in his private residence on July 7.

2021 – A 7.2-magnitude earthquake strikes western Haiti on Aug. 14, likely causing high casualties and widespread disaster, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

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