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Haiti Corrupt Government

Essay by   •  March 13, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,594 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,299 Views

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The Haitian government has been plagued with corruption from the beginning of its existence. Haiti has been faced with many foul leaders and thus brought times of despair for the Haitian people. The empowerment of poor leadership has led to a country that "has never known a period free of tyranny, repression, political conflict, racial animosity, and economic hardship" (Haggerty). Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, is a place where "kidnappings and street crime are rampant, and the undermanned police force is rife with corruption" (Williams).

The island of Hispaniola was founded by Christopher Columbus in 1842 and claimed for Spain. The island was neglected by its mother country due to the lack of minerals on the island. The French came to Hispaniola in 1586. They saw the island as a strategic location to ambush Spanish ships full of gold.

In the Treaty of Ryswick, Spain gave to the French the western third of the island and Haiti was born. Haiti quickly became a very valuable asset to the French. Now under "French rule it became one of the wealthiest of the Caribbean communities" (Haiti). By the mid-eighteenth century the island was accountable for "about 60 percent of the world's coffee and about 40 percent of the sugar imported by France" (Haggerty). The only downfall was the great number of slaves imported from Africa to the island.

There were anywhere from five to seven-hundred thousand slaves on the island by 1791. The slave population, fed up with the way they were treated, led a revolt against the French. The rebellion left an "estimated 10,000 blacks and 2,000 whites dead and more than 1,000 plantations sacked and razed" (Haggerty). This was the first and only successful slave rebellion and is the reason for the ethnic background of Haiti today.

Following the rebellion Haiti declared it's independence from France. There were then many different leaders who were overthrown or even assassinated. One of the main generals during the revolution, Jean Dessalines, became the emperor in 1804 only to be assassinated two years later. Next was Jean Boyer who reunited Haiti (Haiti). Boyer's army conquered the Dominican Republic and for twenty-two years the island was one.

In 1957, a former physician, Francois Duvalier, known by his followers as Papa Doc, was a candidate for the presidency of Haiti. Being the military favored candidate, "the military went on to guide the campaign and the elections in a way that gave Duvalier every possible advantage" (Haiti). These events lead to a downward spiral of an already devastated Haitian government.

Papa Doc manipulated the current government to his own desires. He created a new constitution, "replaced the bicameral legislature with a unicameral body and decreed presidential and legislative elections. Despite a 1957 prohibition against presidential reelection, Duvalier ran for office and won with an official tally of 1,320,748 votes to zero" (Haggerty). Seven years later Duvalier appointed himself president for life.

Duvalier created various military groups that would ensure his role as dictator of Haiti would not be threatened. One of these groups was the Presidential Palace army, whose sole purpose was to maintain his power. A secret police force the Tontons Macoutes, a Creole term for bogyman, was also created. These "bogymen" had the ability to make those that were not in favor of Duvailer disappear. The Tontons became more powerful than the army of Haiti and thousands fell to them. Both leaders and supporters of the opposition went into hiding or exile.

In January of 1971, Francois Duvalier named his son Jean-Claude as his successor. Three months later, the day after the death of Papa Doc, Jean-Claude (aka Baby Doc) became president for life at the age of nineteen. At such a young age and having no experience in politics Jean-Claude left most of the "administrative matters in the hands of his mother" (Haiti). In the heir of Baby Doc through "various fraudulent schemes" (Haggerty), he created a tobacco monopoly and lined his own pockets with hundreds of millions.

In the 1980s civil disorder broke out due to Baby Doc's inability to increase the well being of the country. Six years later armed invasions forced Jean-Claude and his family to flee to France in exile. The Lieutenant General at the time seized power and the hope for democracy soon faded. Gangs of thugs and corrupt soldiers ruled the streets, killing many innocent people and postponing any attempt for a presidential election.

A Roman Catholic priest by the name of Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president of Haiti in late 1990. Political prisoners were set free and Duvailer's Tontons were disbanded. There was much hope for the government under the new presidency, but due to the lack of confidence from the military, Aristide was overthrown in 1991.

In September of 1994 the Clinton administration planned for a military invasion of Haiti. The purpose was to force the military dictatorship out of power and place Aristide back as president. As a last resort to war, Clinton sent a team headed by former US president Jimmy Carter, to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis. Carter succeeded in the negotiations and Aristide was peacefully restored to power.

After being out of office for three years Aristide was faced with two major problems. One was the poor economy and the other was the violent street gangs that had taken over since the lack of authority. Very little was accomplished to improve the economy and disband these gangs. Aristide later stepped down as president because the constitution would not allow two consecutive terms. Aristide's successor in office was Rene Preval. Preval took office in 1996 and became "Haiti's second democratically elected president in the country's 191 year history as an independent nation" (Haiti). Aristide was again appointed to office in late 2000 after many attempts by Preval to postpone elections.

Aristide remained in office for the next four years. During this time many questioned his effectiveness as a leader. "Amid charges that he funded armed gangs and tolerated widespread corruption, Aristide fled to South America in February 2004"

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