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"A week in the life of -

Haiti Cherie"

a photo book project...


"Country Data"

"Travel Tips"

"Passport and Visa requirements"

"Electrical requirements"

"Public Holidays in Haiti"

"Springbreak in Haiti"

"Points of Contact"

Background Notes

OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Haiti



Area: 27,750 sq. km. (10,714 sq. mi.); about the size of Maryland.
Cities: Capital--Port-au-Prince (1995 est. pop. 1.5 million).
Other cities--Cap Haitien (est. 65,000).
Terrain: Coastal plain with steep mountains.
Climate: Warm, semiarid; high humidity in many coastal areas.


Nationality: Noun and adjective--Haitian(s).
Population (est., 1998): 7.5 million.
Annual growth rate: 2.3%, 2-3% anticipated in 1998 (IMF).
Ethnic groups: African descent 95%, African and European descent 5%.
Religions: Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 10%; voodoo practices widespread.
Languages: French (official), Creole (official).
Education: Years compulsory--6.
Attendance: 6 to 11 year-old children - elementary school: 73%
secondary school: 15%
Adult literacy: 35%.
Health: Infant mortality rate - 74/1,000.
Life expectancy - 55 yrs.
Work force (est. 3 million)
Agriculture: 66%. Industry and commerce: 20%. Services: 14%.


Type: Elected government.
Independence: 1804.
Constitution: 1987.
Branches: Executive--president.
Legislative--Senate (27 seats), Chamber of Deputies (83 seats).
Judicial--Court of Cassation.
Administrative subdivisions: Nine departments.
Political parties: Numerous, but the most prominent are
the Organization of the Struggling People
(OPL - formerly the Lavalas Political Organization)
and the Fanmi Lavalas Party founded by former President Aristide.
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years of age.


GNP (1997): $3.0 billion (unadjusted for inflation).
GNP growth rate (FY 1997): 1.1%; 2-3% expected growth in 1998 (IMF).
Inflation (FY 1997): 17%.
Per capita GNP (est.): $400.
Natural resources: Bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, marble.
Agriculture (44% of GNP): Products--coffee, sugarcane, rice, corn,
cacao, sorghum, pulses, fruits, vegetables.
Industry (12% of GNP): Types--apparel, handicrafts, electronics, food
processing, beverages, tobacco products, leather goods, furniture,
printing, chemicals, steel, cleaning products, toiletries.
Services (44% of GNP): Types--commerce, government, tourism.
Trade (1997): Exports (to U.S. $188 million)--apparel, mangos,
essential oils, toys/sporting goods, electrical.
Major market--U.S. (historically about 75%).
Imports (from U.S. $500 million)--rice, wheat flour, motor vehicles,
soybean oil, machinery, sugar, petroleum.
Major supplier--U.S.(about 65%).
Exchange rate: About Haitian gourdes 17=US $1.


Haiti is densely populated, with approximately 250 people per square
kilometer (650 per sq. mi.). About 95% of the Haitians are of African
descent; the rest of the population is mostly of mixed African-Caucasian
ancestry. A few are of European or Levantine stock. About 70% of the
people live in rural areas.

French is one of two official languages, but it is spoken by only about
10% of the people. All Haitians speak Creole, the country's other
official language. English is increasingly spoken among the young and in
the business sector.

The state religion is Roman Catholicism which most of the population
professes. Some have been converted to Protestantism by missionaries
active throughout the country. Haitians, however, tend to see no
conflict with voodoo traditions of African origin co-existing with
Christian faiths.

Although public education is free, private and parochial schools provide
perhaps 75% of educational programs offered. Only 63% of those enrolled
will complete primary school; on average, it takes 16 years to produce a
single graduate of the six-year cycle. Though Haitians place a high
value on education, most families cannot afford to send their children
to secondary school.

Recent large-scale emigration to the U.S., and secondarily to Canada and
Caribbean neighbors, has created what Haitians refer to as the Tenth
Department. About one out of every six Haitians lives abroad.


The Spaniards used Hispaniola (of which Haiti is the western part and
the Dominican Republic is the eastern part) as a launching point to explore
the rest of the Western Hemisphere. French buccaneers later used the
western third of the island as a point from which to harass English and
Spanish ships. In 1697, Spain ceded the western third of Hispaniola to
France. As piracy was gradually suppressed, some French adventurers
became planters, making Saint-Domingue--as the French portion of the
island was then called--one of the richest colonies of the 18th century
French empire.

During this period, African slaves were brought to work the sugarcane
and coffee plantations. In 1791, the slave population--led by Toussaint
L'Ouverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe--revolted and
gained control of the northern part of Saint-Domingue.

In 1804, local forces defeated an army deployed by Napoleon Bonaparte,
established independence from France, and renamed the area Haiti.
The defeat of the French in Haiti is widely credited with contributing to
Napoleon's decision to sell the Louisiana territory to the United States
in 1804. Haiti is the world's oldest black republic and the second-
oldest republic after the United States in the Western Hemisphere.
Haitians actively assisted the American Revolution and independence
movements of several Latin American countries.

Two separate regimes (north and south) emerged after independence but
were unified in 1820. Two years later, Haiti conquered Santo Domingo,
the eastern, Spanish-speaking portion of Hispaniola. In 1844, however,
Santo Domingo broke away from Haiti and became the Dominican Republic.
With 22 changes of government from 1843 until 1915, Haiti experienced
numerous periods of intense political and economic disorder, prompting
United States military intervention in 1915. U.S. military forces were
withdrawn in 1934 at the request of the elected Government of Haiti.

From 1986--when the 30-year dictatorship of the Duvalier family ended--
until 1991, Haiti was ruled by a series of provisional governments. In
1987, a constitution was adopted that provides for an elected bicameral
parliament, an elected president who serves as head of state, and a
prime minister, cabinet of ministers, and supreme court appointed by the
president with Parliament's consent. The Haitian Constitution also
provides for the election of mayors and administrative bodies
responsible for local government.

Aristide and the 1991 Coup d'Etat

In December 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a charismatic Roman Catholic
priest, won 67% of the vote in a presidential election that
international observers deemed largely free and fair. Aristide took
office in February 1991, but was overthrown by dissatisfied elements of
the army and forced to leave the country in September of the same year.
It is estimated that between 300 and 500 Haitians were killed in the days
following the September coup, and 3,000 in the following three years.
The coup created a large-scale exodus from the country; in fact,
the U.S. Coast Guard rescued a total of 41,342 Haitians from 1991 to 1992,
more than the number of rescued refugees from the previous 10 years

From October 1991 to June 1992, Joseph Nerette, as president, led an
unconstitutional de facto regime and governed with a parliamentary
majority and the armed forces. In June 1992, he resigned and Parliament
approved Marc Bazin as prime minister of a de facto government with no
replacement named for president. Bazin sought to negotiate a solution
with exiled President Aristide and to end the economic embargo and
diplomatic isolation of Haiti imposed after Aristide's ouster. In June
1993, Bazin resigned and the UN imposed an oil and arms embargo,
bringing the Haitian military to the negotiating table.

Transition to Democracy

President Aristide and Gen. Raoul Cedras, head of the Haitian armed
forces, signed the UN-brokered Governors Island Agreement on July 3,
1993, establishing a 10-step process for the restoration of
constitutional government and the return of President Aristide by
October 30, 1993. As part of this process, Robert Malval was sworn in as
Prime Minister on August 30, 1993. The military derailed the process and
the UN reimposed economic sanctions. Malval resigned on December 15,
1993, but remained as acting Prime Minister for 11 more months. The
political and human rights climate continued to deteriorate as the
military and the de facto government sanctioned repression,
assassination, torture, and rape in open defiance of the international
community's condemnation.

In May 1994, the military selected Supreme Court Justice Emile
Jonassaint to be provisional president of its third de facto regime. The
UN and the U.S. reacted to this extraconstitutional move by tightening
economic sanctions (UN Resolution 917). On July 31, 1994, the UN adopted
Resolution 940 authorizing member states to use all necessary means to
facilitate the departure of Haiti's military leadership and restore
constitutional rule and Aristide's presidency.

In August 1994, Haiti had parallel governments, the illegitimate
military-backed Jonassaint regime that controlled the government
apparatus in Haiti, and the constitutional government, whose members,
like President Aristide, were in exile or who, like acting Prime
Minister Malval, were blocked from carrying out their duties.

In the weeks that followed, the United States took the lead in forming a
multinational force (MNF) to carry out the UN's mandate by means of a
military intervention. In September, with U.S. troops prepared to enter
Haiti in a matter of hours, President Clinton dispatched a negotiating
team led by former President Jimmy Carter to discuss with the de facto
Haitian leadership the terms of their departure. As a result, the MNF
deployed peacefully, Cedras and other top military leaders left Haiti,
and restoration of the legitimate government began, leading to
Aristide's return on October 15.

Current Conditions

Elections for parliament and local government offices were held
successfully between June and October 1995, although they were delayed
by seven months and marred by serious administrative problems and some
violence. President Aristide's Lavalas party and its affiliates swept
into power at all levels. In the December 1995 presidential election,
with Aristide barred by the Haitian Constitution from succeeding
himself, prominent Lavalas figure Rene Preval (who was Aristide's first
prime minister in 1991) overwhelmed his 13 opponents by garnering 88% of
the vote and took office the following February. Territorial elections
designed to decentralize political power were held in early April 1997.
The government of Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigned on June 9, 1997.
He continued in caretaker status until November 1997.

With the situation in Haiti gradually stabilizing, the international
security presence has been reduced. The MNF, which at one time had more
than 20,000 troops in Haiti, gave way in March 1995 to a UN peacekeeping
mission (UN Mission in Haiti) under U.S. leadership, including about
6,000 troops. By mid-1996, the UN forces no longer included any U.S.
military personnel, and the UN Special Mission in Haiti (UNSMIH) had
been scaled back to about 600 troops under Canadian leadership, as well
as 300 international police monitors from six different countries. The
UNSMIH mission, originally set to expire at the end of November 1996,
was extended through July 31, 1997. The United Nations Transition
Mission in Haiti (UNTMIH) replaced UNSMIH to November 30, 1997. The 12-
month UN Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH) was established by
the Security Council and began operations on December 1, 1997, after the
conclusion of UNSMIH. Its 300 authorized civilian police (CIVPOL) are
divided into two groups. Up to 160 CIVPOL mentors, including 30 U.S.
police officers, are tasked with bringing the Haitian National Police
(HNP) to levels of operational competence required before UN specialized
agencies, including the UN Development Program (UNDP), can assume
responsibility for further long-term institutional development. The
remaining 140 CIVPOL are Argentine gendarmes who, as part of a special
police unit (SPU), are on call to ensure the safety of CIVPOL from
situations where HNP may not be able to do so. MIPONUH does not have a

military element.

The judicial system in Haiti is still weak and remains a high priority
for international donors. USAID programs focus on improving
administration in prosecutors' offices and the courts, establishing a
case-tracking system, legal aid, and training for judges, court, and
prosecutorial staff. International and Haitian officials are cooperating
to investigate several high-profile murders that may have been
politically motivated, including the murders of opposition politicians
Antoine Leroy and Mireille Durocher Bertin. The U.S. Government helped
the Government of Haiti set up a Special Investigative Unit within the
Haitian National Police, and the investigation of several of these
crimes is in progress. Steps have been taken to end the culture of
impunity that has dominated Haiti for decades. The Office of Inspector
General of the Haitian National Police investigates complaints against
police officers, and around 200 have been dismissed. Training continues
in an effort to build the fledgling National Police into a non-
political, fully professional force committed to the rule of law.

Principal Government Officials

President--Rene Preval
Prime Minister--vacant
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Fritz Longchamp
Ambassador to the U.S.--vacant (Louis Harold Joseph, Charge d'Affaires)
Ambassador to the OAS--vacant (Louis Harold Joseph, Acting)
Ambassador to the UN--Pierre Lelong

The Embassy of Haiti is located at 2311 Massachusetts Ave., NW,
Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-332-4090).


Haiti's economic reform agenda under President Preval includes
trade/tariff liberalization, modernization (understood to mean
privatization) of state-owned enterprises, measures to control
government expenditure and increase tax revenues, civil service
downsizing, and financial sector reform. Structural adjustment
agreements with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Inter-
American Development Bank, and other international financial
institutions are aimed at creating necessary conditions for private
sector growth. The government did show commitment to economic reform
with the implementation of sound fiscal and monetary policies and the
enactment of a "modernization" (privatization) law, along with the
creation of the privatization council (CMEP), and the launching of its
ambitious plan to privatize nine parastatals. The state-owned flour mill
has been privatized, and privatization of the cement plant is in
progress. Much of the population expected more immediate results from
tough reforms. The views of former President Aristide, still popular,
also influence discussions of economic reforms. President Aristide has
been skeptical of economic reform, but he remains a popular figure in
Haitian politics.

External aid is essential to Haiti's future economic development. Haiti
is the least-developed country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the
poorest in the world. Comparisons of social and economic indicators show
that Haiti has been falling behind other low-income developing countries
(particularly in the hemisphere) since the 1980s. Haiti's economic
stagnation is the result of earlier inappropriate economic policies,
political instability, a shortage of good arable land, environmental
deterioration and continued use of traditional technologies.

"Country Data"

"Travel Tips"

"Passport and Visa requirements"

"Electrical requirements"

"Public Holidays in Haiti"

"Points of Contact"

"HaitiPhoto © 2000"