The Haiti Project - History of Haiti (page 2)
The Occupation Years
By 1915, American marines stepped in to calm the situation. The
occupation had both positive and negative effects. Thanks to the
Marines, the infrastructure of the country was enhanced. Paved
roads, houses, hospitals and sewage systems were built. However,
once again the Haitians found themselves in an occupied state
and their rulers were white. This resulted in even greater power
for the lighter skinned Haitians.
When the Americans left in 1934 the country was still in shambles.
There was a constant struggle for power between the Catholic Church
and the followers of voodoo. The United States fruit companies
that settled and developed on lands taken from Haitian peasants
were a source of constant tension. Many leaders came and went
but no one united or moved the nation forward.
In 1957, Francois Duvalier, "Papa Doc", declared himself
"President for life". Fear ruled the nation under Duvalier
and his Tontons Macoutes. Terror reigned under the police repression
of his government. Unfortunately, even that stable, structured
government didn't help the people economically, educationally
or otherwise. With the death of Duvalier, his son Jean Claude,
("Baby Doc") came into power. Life under Baby Doc was
only slightly better for the Haitian people than before. His rule
was tainted with crimes of repression and a plundering of the
riches of the country. Finally, Baby Doc was exiled to France.
After the exile, the country was ridden with mass massacres and
rigged elections. Today, power goes back and forth from one leader
to the next without any positive results for the people. In 1990,
a priest from the slums of Port Au Prince was elected by 67% of
the people. Jean Bertrand Aristide was seen as the first leader
of the people since 1804. The rooster emblem of Aristide replaced
the guinea faun worn by the Tontons Macoutes.
In 1991, a military coup ended the Aristide presidency and he
went into exile. The Organization of American States imposed a
strict embargo against Haiti causing the country great economic
hardship. Many Haitians tried to escape by boat only to suffer
death or relocation to camps at Guantanomo, Cuba.
Today, Haiti is still struggling with poverty and instability.
Elections have failed to produce leadership that can deal with
the many problems of this tiny country. The future of Haiti depends
on the ability of its leaders to discover solutions to bring it
successfully into the 21st century.