Haiti, beyond the murder of Jovenel Moïse: a history of poverty, coups and assassinations

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The ungovernability of Haiti – one of the few countries in the world that has not received the vaccine against covid-19 so far – is an old problem and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, who was riddled with bullets in his own residence at dawn Wednesday was not the only assassination against a political leader in the history of the Caribbean nation.

After a violent revolution against France, led by Toussaint-Louverture, Haiti declared its independence in 1804 and became the first black republic. Since then, the country plunged a social and racial divide that lasts to this day.

Assassinated presidents

Jean-Jacques Dessalines, another of the leaders of the revolution, was the first ruler of Haiti when he proclaimed himself emperor. He adopted different policies of repression against the white and mulatto population. An estimated 3,000 people died. In 1806, just two years after coming to power, Dessalines was assassinated in a popular rebellion.

Cincinnatus Leconte, great-grandson of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, ruled Haiti between August 15 and August 8, 1912. He died after an explosion in the National Palace. Although there was talk of an accident, there were always rumors that it was a premeditated event.

A similar fate suffered the also president Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, who in 1915 barely held the position for four months. After implementing a whole series of authoritarian measures, ordered the execution of more than 150 people in a penitentiary, a fact that caused the uprising of the population. He took refuge in the French Embassy, ​​but the rebels broke into the building and assassinated him. His body was dismembered.

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23 coup attempts

Haiti has been a country marked by misery, violence, natural tragedies and political instability. And in the 20th and 21st centuries it has been no different. Between 1945 and 2019, no less than 23 coup attempts have been carried out, among which 15 have materialized.

One of the most defining moments was when Francois Duvalier, known as ‘Papa Doc’, declared himself president for life. His Presidency is remembered as a reign of terror because of the secret police – known as the Tontons Macoutes -, which eliminated the enemies of the regime. In 1986, amid a popular uprising, he fled to France. He was succeeded by his son Jean-Claude Duvalier, ‘Bébé Doc’, who used the same heavy hand as his father.

In 1990, Jean Bertrand Aristide became the first president to be democratically elected and was overthrown by a coup in 1991. After going into exile, he returned to the country seven years later. He returned to the presidency in 2001 and in 2004, under US pressure, he resigned and left Haiti.

US expansion in the region

The 20th century is marked by the expansion and influence of the United States in the Latin American region, from which Haiti did not escape. Washington intervened in the Caribbean country on three occasions (1915-1934, 1994-1995 and 2004).

US leaders justified these interventions by claiming that they sought the value of democracy, respect, and social values ​​in this nation. However, there are many analysts who affirm that their presence in Haitian territory aggravated the situation in the country.

“Haiti is an experimental laboratory in which the needs of the population are not taken into account”

After the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, US troops landed in the country. A few months later, the Security Council resolved to replace them with a delegation of UN peacekeepers, which remained until 2017 and which, in addition to failing to stabilize the country, was not without controversy with serious allegations of sexual abuse.

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In the opinion of a journalist and political analyst, Alexandre Anfruns, Haiti “was occupied by the UN and a coalition of countries”, which carried out “a real invasion.” Also, consider that the nation “it is an experimental laboratory in which the needs of the population are not taken into account“.

In January 2010, an earthquake made things even worse when it swept through much of Haiti. One catastrophe in which between 100,000 and 316,000 people died, according to different estimates.

More recently, the country has suffered a deep crisis of violence exacerbated by territorial struggles between gangs and armed gangs that are vying for control of the poorest neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince.

Economy and society

In this context, the economic development of the country has not been possible. The nation –with great inequalities between the countryside and the city– has a population of 11.26 million people and, according to the world Bank, 60%, or 6.3 million people, are still poor and 24%, or 2.5 million, are in extreme poverty.

“The economic situation in Haiti must be analyzed taking into account the historical perspective. It is not a poor country by chance. Has been purposely impoverished and, in particular, through the exploitation of structures of neocolonialism “, says Anfruns.

The nation’s GDP – ranked 170 out of 189 for its human development index – contracted by 3.8% in 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic, which exacerbated the already weak economy and political instability.

A panorama that has pushed many Haitians to emigrate mainly to the neighboring country, the Dominican Republic, but also to the United States, Canada and France, the former metropolis.

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The political scientist reiterates that there is a “purpose behind” and that there are “countries involved so that the people do not develop and so that the Haitian elites serve US imperialism.”

In his view, the interim prime minister of Haiti, Claude Joseph, “is in close contact” with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, “a person who has been trained under the cover of the CIA.”

“The elite who are currently taking the reins after the assassination [de Moïse] it is going to maintain the same policy that is plunging the people of Haiti into extreme poverty, “he concludes.

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