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Haiti Introduction - 2024


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The native Taino - who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when Christopher COLUMBUS first landed on it in 1492 - were virtually wiped out by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola. In 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island, which later became Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean but relied heavily on the forced labor of enslaved Africans and environmentally degrading practices. In the late 18th century, Toussaint L'OUVERTURE led a revolution of Haiti's nearly half a million slaves that ended France's rule on the island. After a prolonged struggle, and under the leadership of Jean-Jacques DESSALINES, Haiti became the first country in the world led by former slaves after declaring its independence in 1804, but it was forced to pay an indemnity of 100 million francs (equivalent to $22 billion USD in March 2023) to France for more than a century and was shunned by other countries for nearly 40 years. On 12 July 1862, the US officially recognized Haiti, but foreign economic influence and internal political instability induced the US to occupy Haiti from 1915-1934. Subsequently, Francois "Papa Doc" DUVALIER and then his son Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" DUVALIER led repressive and corrupt regimes that ruled Haiti in 1957-1971 and 1971-1986, respectively. President Jovenel MOÏSE was assassinated on 7 July 2021, leading the country further into an extra-constitutional governance structure and contributing to the country’s growing fragility. On 20 July 2021, the Government of Haiti installed Ariel HENRY - whom President MOÏSE had nominated shortly before his death - as prime minister.

On 29 February 2024, a significant escalation of gang violence occurred on the 20th anniversary of the overthrow of former President ARISTIDE and after the announcement that Prime Minister HENRY would not be holding elections until August 2025. After several days of fighting, armed gangs stormed the country’s two largest prisons in the capital and freed approximately 4,000 prisoners. Prime Minister HENRY’s return from an overseas trip was diverted to Puerto Rico when the airport closed due to gang violence. With control of much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, gang leaders called for the ouster of HENRY’S government. On 12 March 2024, Haiti’s continued violence, HENRY’S inability to return to the country, and increasing pressure from the international community led Prime Minister HENRY to pledge to resign effective when the new transitional presidential council appoints a new interim prime minister. Since January 2023, Haiti has had no sitting elected officials.

The country has long been plagued by natural disasters. In January 2010, a major 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti with an epicenter about 25 km (15 mi) west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Estimates are that over 300,000 people were killed and some 1.5 million left homeless. The earthquake was assessed as the worst in this region over the last 200 years. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti’s southern peninsula in August 2021, causing well over 2,000 deaths; an estimated 500,000 required emergency humanitarian aid. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, as well as one of the most unequal in wealth distribution.

NOTE: The information regarding Haiti on this page is re-published from the 2024 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Haiti 2024 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Haiti 2024 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 04 May 24, Copyright © 2024 ITA all rights reserved.