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Economy of Haiti

Over the past 5 years, the Haitian economy has grown slowly. Economic growth averaged 2.3% per year in 2005-2009, up from minus 0.7% in 2000-2004. Despite this recent improvement, Haiti remains the least-developed country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Comparative social and economic indicators show Haiti falling behind other low-income developing countries (particularly in the hemisphere) since the 1980s. Haiti now ranks 146th of 177 countries in the UN's Human Development Index. Haiti's relative economic stagnation is the result of earlier inappropriate economic policies, political instability, a shortage of good arable land, environmental deterioration, continued reliance on traditional technologies, under-capitalization and lack of public investment in human resources, migration of large portions of the skilled population, a weak national savings rate, and the lack of a functioning judicial system. The 1991 coup and the irresponsible economic and financial policies of the de facto regime resulted in a sharp economic decline from 1991-94. Following the coup, the United States adopted mandatory sanctions, and the OAS instituted voluntary sanctions aimed at restoring constitutional government. International sanctions culminated in the May 1994 UN embargo of all goods entering Haiti except humanitarian supplies, such as food and medicine. The assembly sector, heavily dependent on U.S. markets, employed over 100,000 workers in the mid-1980s. During the embargo, employment fell below 17,000. Private domestic and foreign investment has returned to Haiti slowly. Since the embargo's end following the return of President Aristide from exile on October 15, 1994, assembly sector employment has gradually recovered to about 28,000. The Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act, enacted by the U.S. Congress in December 2006 and extended in May 2008 for 10 years, provided trade preferences for textile/apparel products that could boost production in the sector. It expanded duty-free treatment to products that are wholly assembled or knit-to-shape in Haiti regardless of the origin of the inputs. In May 2010, Congress passed the Haitian Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act, extending the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act and the HOPE Act through September 30, 2020. The Help Act also expands the duty-free treatment of imported apparel made in Haiti or the Dominican Republic irrespective of the source of the inputs, and increases the quota for tariff preference levels for knit and woven apparel from 70 million to 200 million square meter equivalents. However, growth has been stalled by investor concerns over security, lack of access to credit, and legal and physical infrastructure constraints. The country’s current economic agenda remains essentially the same as in President Preval’s first term (1996-2001), consisting of trade/tariff liberalization, measures to control government expenditure and increase tax revenues, civil service downsizing, financial sector reform, some privatization of state-owned companies (including the telecommunications company, the sale of which was finalized in April 2010), the provision of private sector management contracts, and public-private investment. Workers in Haiti are guaranteed the right of association. Unionization is protected by the labor code. In October 2009, the legal minimum wage was raised from 70 gourdes a day (about $1.75) to 200 gourdes (about $5) for most workers and to 125 gourdes (about $3.15) for textile workers. Following almost 5 years of recession ending in 2004, the Haitian economy grew by 1.8% in 2005, 2.3% in 2006, and 3.4% in 2007. Growth slowed to 0.8% in 2008, following the food and oil crisis and the devastating 2008 hurricane season, but reached 2.9% in 2009. However, significant improvement in living standards would require an estimated doubling of the growth rate. Inflation rose to 20% in 2008 due to the food and oil crisis, but fell to less than 1% for calendar year 2009. The Preval administration has largely sound fiscal policies, but the low revenue collection rate (roughly 9.5% of GDP) remains insufficient to provide social services and invest in physical and human capital. External assistance (more than $1.5 billion from 2007 to 2009) as well as Diaspora remittances (estimated at approximately $1.2 billion per year) remain critical to keeping the economy afloat. In November 2006, Haiti was approved for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). In June 2009, Haiti received U.S. $1.2 billion in multilateral debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiatives. According to a Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) undertaken by the World Bank, UN, European Commission (EC), and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the total value of damage and losses caused by the January 12, 2010 earthquake is estimated at U.S. $7.863 billion, which is the equivalent of more than 120% of Haiti’s 2009 GDP. Most damage and losses were experienced by the private sector ($5.5 billion, or 70%), while the public sector impact was $2.4 billion (or 30% of the total). The value of destroyed physical assets--including housing units, schools, hospitals, buildings, roads and bridges, ports, and airports--was estimated at $4.302 billion (55% of the total effects of the disaster). Economic losses (loss of production, reduction in turnover, loss of employment and salaries, increased costs of production, etc.) reached $3.561 billion (the equivalent of 45% of the total). Housing is the sector most affected by the earthquake, with damages estimated at about $2.3 billion. The other sectors, in decreasing order of magnitude in terms of the impact sustained, are trade (damage and losses of $639 million, or 8% of the total), transport and government buildings ($595 million each), and education and health (with an average of 6% of the total). Foreign Assistance Haiti is one of the original members of the United Nations and several of its specialized and related agencies, as well as a member of the Organization of American States (OAS). It maintains diplomatic relations with several dozen countries. Major bilateral donors include the United States, Canada, the EU, Spain, France, Brazil, Norway, Japan, and Venezuela. Cuba provides highly visible, low-cost medical and technical experts. Multilateral aid is provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the UN and its agencies. Most bilateral assistance is currently channeled through non-governmental organizations. At the March 31, 2010 post-earthquake donor conference in New York, over 50 countries and organizations pledged more than $9.9 billion in support to Haiti. The short-term assistance totaled $5.3 billion for the next 18 months, with the remainder for Haiti’s long-term reconstruction needs over the next decade. The United States committed $1.15 billion over 2010-2011, not including $1 billion already spent as of May 2010. Haiti received approximately $1.2 billion in multilateral debt relief from the IDB and World Bank and 100% debt cancellation from bilateral donors in the Paris Club following completion of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) process in June 2009. Following the earthquake, multilateral organizations agreed to provide additional debt relief. In March 2010, the IDB Board of Governors agreed on a plan to forgive all of Haiti’s outstanding debt with the IDB--approximately $479 million. The IDB also agreed to provide $200 million annually to a grant facility for Haiti from 2010-2020 (for a total of $2.2 billion over 10 years). The World Bank will likewise forgive remaining debt, and announced that $479 million will be made available to support Haiti’s recovery and development through June 2011, including $250 million in new funding. The current debt outstanding to the IMF is U.S. $271 million, including $114 million disbursed immediately after the earthquake. No payments are due to the IMF by Haiti before 2012, and the debt has a zero interest rate. GDP (2009 est.): 6.56 billion. Real GDP growth rate (2009 est.): 2.0%. Per capita GDP (2009 est.): $733. GDP by sector (2009): Agriculture --24%; industry --8%; services --43%; other --25%. Inflation (2009 est.): -4.7%. Natural resources: Bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, marble. Agriculture (24% of GDP): Products --coffee, mangoes, sugarcane, rice, corn, cacao, sorghum, pulses, other fruits and vegetables. Industry (8% of GDP): Types --apparel, handicrafts, electronics assembly, food processing, beverages, tobacco products, furniture, printing, chemicals, steel. Services (43% of GDP): Commerce, hotels and restaurants, government, tourism. Trade (2009 est.): Total exports f.o.b. --$551 million: apparel, mangoes, leather and raw hides, seafood, electrical. Major market --U.S. Total imports f.o.b. --$2.04 billion: grains, soybean oil, motor vehicles, machinery, meat, vegetables, plastics, petroleum. Note: The figures reflect estimates, as national statistics may not be reliable.

Geography of Haiti

Cities: Port-au-Prince (1993 est. pop. 1.5 million). Other Cities-- Cap Haitien (65,000). Terrain: Mountainous; rest is plain. Climate: Warm, semiarid; high humidity in many coastal areas. Location: Caribbean, western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Republic Geographic coordinates: 19 00 N, 72 25 W Map references: Central America and the Caribbean Area: total: 27,750 sq km land: 27,560 sq km water: 190 sq km Area-comparative: slightly smaller than Maryland Land boundaries: total: 275 km border countries: Dominican Republic 275 km Coastline: 1,771 km Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 nm continental shelf: to depth of exploitation exclusive economic zone: 200 nm territorial sea: 12 nm Climate: tropical; semiarid where mountains in east cut off trade winds Terrain: mostly rough and mountainous Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m highest point: Chaine de la Selle 2,680 m Natural resources: none Land use: arable land: 20% permanent crops: 13% permanent pastures: 18% forests and woodland: 5% other: 44% (1993 est.) Irrigated land: 750 sq km (1993 est.) Natural hazards: lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and subject to severe storms from June to October; occasional flooding and earthquakes; periodic droughts Environment-current issues: extensive deforestation (much of the remaining forested land is being cleared for agriculture and used as fuel); soil erosion; inadequate supplies of potable water Environment-international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation signed, but not ratified: Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban Geography-note: shares island of Hispaniola with Dominican Republic (western one-third is Haiti, eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic)

Government of Haiti

2004-2010 - Interim Government Gives Way to a New Democracy Following the constitutional line of succession, Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre assumed the presidency and Gerard Latortue was appointed prime minister of the Interim Government of Haiti (IGOH) with the mandate of organizing elections to choose a new government. The interim government managed to organize three rounds of elections with the help of the OAS and UN. The first round of elections for President and Parliament took place peacefully on February 7, 2006, with a turnout estimated at over 60% of registered voters. The elections were considered generally free, fair, transparent, and democratic by national and international observers. Rene Preval, former President (1996-2001) and former ally to Aristide, won the presidential election with 51.15%. Partial results first showed he fell short of an absolute majority, which triggered demonstrations against alleged fraud. The later decision of the Electoral Council not to count blank ballots gave the victory to Preval. The Parliament, composed of a 30-seat Senate and a 99-member Chamber of Deputies, was elected in two rounds held on February 7 and April 21, 2006. Lespwa was the main political force in both chambers but fell short of the majority. Fusion, UNION, Alyans, OPL, and Fanmi Lavalas had many representatives in both chambers. Preval chose his long-time political associate and former Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis to serve again as his Prime Minister. Municipal elections were held December 3, 2006 and April 29, 2007. Some of these local government positions had not been filled in over a decade. A series of crises in 2008 threatened Haiti’s democratic consolidation. Nationwide civil disturbances broke out in April 2008, sparked by sharp increases in food and fuel prices. The April riots caused widespread disruption and suffering, toppled the government of Prime Minister Alexis, and forced postponement of a donor conference. In August and September, four tropical storms and hurricanes killed 800, affected nearly one million, exacerbated food shortages and pushed yet more Haitians into poverty. In early September 2008, Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis’s government took office and acted decisively within its means to provide relief and reconstruction. Pierre-Louis initially received cooperation from Parliament in crafting a relief package, but soon after Parliament summoned both her and her ministers to explain perceived delays in delivering relief assistance and to criticize her 2008-2009 budget. On October 20, 2009, Michele Pierre-Louis was dismissed by the Senate only 1 year after taking office. Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, former Minister of Planning and External Cooperation, took office in November 2009. Despite the devastating hurricanes and food riots in 2008, the Preval administration made substantial gains in the overall physical security throughout Haiti. The international community took notice of Haiti’s relative stability, and in January 2009, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commissioned British economist Paul Collier to draft an economic development strategy for Haiti. In February, shortly after taking office, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton identified Haiti as a policy priority. By March, Collier’s report, “Haiti: From Natural Catastrophe to Economic Security” was adapted by the Government of Haiti as a template for its own economic growth strategy, presented at the Haiti Donor’s Conference hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank in April. The strategy called on donors to assist the Haitian Government by investing in the country’s roads, export zones, agriculture, electricity, schools, hospitals, and ports. In May 2009, the Secretary General named former President William J. Clinton as UN Special Envoy for Haiti and charged him with coordinating donors and attracting private investment to Haiti. By most accounts, Haiti prior to the January 2010 earthquake enjoyed relative internal stability. Haiti had a fully functioning legislature, and although it had risked instability by ousting Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis, it demonstrated a marked readiness to act by promptly approving new Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. The January 12 earthquake produced enormous devastation that threatens political and socio-economic stability and poses huge recovery and reconstruction challenges. On April 15, the Haitian Parliament ratified a law extending by 18 months the state of emergency that President Preval declared after the earthquake. The law also created the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (IHRC). The IHRC will allow for Haitian-led planning with a role for international partners to provide input. The disaster prompted postponement of legislative elections and cast uncertainty over whether presidential elections could be held at the end of 2010 as planned. On May 10, the mandates of one-third of the Senators and all of the 99 Deputies in the Haitian Parliament expired, leaving 19 Senators in office. In the interim, President Preval has the authority to rule by decree. Just before the mandates expired, Parliament passed a bill allowing President Preval to remain in office until May 2011, 3 months beyond the February date when he originally intended to step down. Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on November 28, 2010. January 12, 2010 Earthquake On January 12, 2010, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, with its epicenter near Port-au-Prince. The quake caused severe damage in Port-au-Prince, Leogane, Jacmel, and surrounding communities. Search and rescue teams were on the ground in Port-au-Prince immediately following the earthquake and worked 24 hours a day using listening devices, cameras, and trained dogs to detect any sign of human life. Rescue efforts eventually transitioned into recovery efforts on January 27, 15 days after the earthquake. The government estimated 230,000 deaths, about one million displaced people within the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, and 598,000 people who migrated from the affected areas to other locations in Haiti. Most of those people are thought to have returned to Port-au-Prince, as the communities of origin lacked the capacity to sustain the increase in population. Following the earthquake, the U.S. military and representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) worked side by side to recover, identify, and repatriate any American citizen that was recovered. All U.S. citizens believed to be in the Hotel Montana, which had collapsed in the earthquake, were repatriated back to the United States, and families of victims recovered from other locations were given the choice of repatriation or local disposition. The U.S. Embassy and the Bureau of Consular Affairs' Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management were in regular and direct contact with the families of all of the missing. The earthquake was the worst in Haiti in the last 200 years, and generated an estimated $11.5 billion in damages and reconstruction costs. Assisting Haiti in recovery and rebuilding is a massive undertaking and requires a well-coordinated, well-funded, Government of Haiti-led effort by the Haitian people, the United States, the United Nations, other nations, international organizations, the Haitian Diaspora, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The outpouring of international support has been tremendous, as has the resolve of the Haitian people. The U.S. Government continues to work with the Haitian Government, NGOs, the UN, and partner nations to provide humanitarian assistance in Haiti. U.S. Government humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti total over $1 billion. The United States and other donor countries, international organizations, and other partners have pledged resources, coordinated support of Haiti’s long-term recovery, and committed to a sustained, long-term effort to support Haiti. At the "International Donors’ Conference Toward a New Future for Haiti," co-hosted by the United States and the United Nations on March 31, 2010 in New York, UN member states and international organizations pledged $9.9 billion toward long-term reconstruction. The United States pledged $1.15 billion toward reconstruction efforts in the areas of energy, health, agriculture, governance, and security. The Government of Haiti presented its action plan outlining its vision for the future, which donors unanimously endorsed. International Presence 1995-2004 After the transition of the 21,000-strong MNF into a peacekeeping force on March 31, 1995, the presence of international military forces that helped restore constitutional government to power was gradually ended. Initially, the U.S.-led UN peacekeeping force numbered 6,000 troops, but that number was scaled back progressively over the next 4 years as a series of UN technical missions succeeded the peacekeeping force. By January 2000, all U.S. troops stationed in Haiti had departed. In March 2000, the UN peacekeeping mission transitioned into a peace-building mission, the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti (MICAH). MICAH consisted of some 80 non-uniformed UN technical advisers providing advice and material assistance in policing, justice, and human rights to the Haitian Government. MICAH's mandate ended on February 7, 2001, coinciding with the end of the Preval administration. The OAS Special Mission has some 25 international police advisors who arrived in summer 2003; in addition to observing and reporting on Haitian police performance, they provide limited technical assistance. International Presence 2004-Present At the request of the interim government and the UN, the U.S.-led Multilateral Interim Force, made up of troops from the U.S., Canada, France, and Chile, arrived in Port-au-Prince to ensure stability until the arrival of a UN peacekeeping force. In April 2004, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1542, which created the UN Stability Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Since that time, the Security Council consistently and unanimously approved the renewal of MINUSTAH's mandate. On October 13, 2009, the UNSC voted unanimously to extend MINUSTAH's mandate for 12 months through October 15, 2010 with an authorized force of 6,940 troops and 2,241 civilian police. In response to the earthquake on January 12, 2010, the Security Council adopted on January 19 Resolution 1908 increasing the force levels of MINUSTAH by 2,000 troops and 1,500 civilian police to support the immediate recovery, reconstruction, and stability efforts in the country. U.S. Southern Command established Joint Task Force Haiti to support the relief effort following the earthquake. At the height of the task force's initial response, the U.S. contributed more than 20,000 U.S. troops, 20 ships, and 130 aircraft. U.S. military forces were focused on mitigating the negative weather effects on displacement camps in Port-au-Prince, supporting efforts to relocate displacement camps to transitional resettlement sites, and positioning the task force for a seamless transition. By March 15, all Canadian troops had left Haiti. Joint Task Force Haiti completed its mission on June 1. A small military liaison office of eight people remained in Port-au-Prince to coordinate further humanitarian missions with the lead U.S. federal agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Government of Haiti during the already-scheduled theater security cooperation exercise called New Horizons. The exercise brought in about 500 soldiers, mainly from the Louisiana National Guard along with soldiers from the Arizona, Montana, Nevada, Puerto Rican, and Virgin Island National Guards, to conduct engineering activities and medical readiness training exercises in the vicinity of Gonaives, north of Port-au-Prince Principle MINUSTAH Officials Special Representative of the Secretary General--Hedi Annabi (Tunisia) Force Commander--Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz (Brazil) Police Commissioner--Mamadou Mountaga Diallo (Guinea) Principal Government Officials President--Rene Preval (since May 14, 2006) Prime Minister--Jean-Max Bellerive Minister of Foreign Affairs--Marie-Michele Rey Minister of Economy and Finances--Ronald Baudin Ambassador to the U.S.--Louis Harold Joseph Ambassador to the OAS--Duly Brutus Ambassador to the UN--Leo Merores The Embassy of Haiti is located at 2311 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-332-4090). Government Type: Republic. Independence: January 1,1804. Constitution: March 1987. Branches: Executive--President. Legislative--Senate (27 Seats), Chamber of Deputies (83 seats). Judicial--Court of Cassation. Administrative subdivisions: Nine departments (a law creating a 10th department, approved by Parliament and signed by then-President Aristide, was awaiting publication to become law in November 2003). Political parties and coalitions: Fanmi Lavalas (FL), Struggling People's Organization (OPL), Open the Gate Party (PLB), Christian Movement for a New Haiti (MOCHRENHA), Democratic Consultation Group (ESPACE), Popular Solidarity Alliance (ESKANP), several others. The Democratic Convergence is a coalition of most leading opposition parties formed to protest the results of May 2000 legislative and local elections. Suffrage: Universal at 18.

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History of Haiti

The Spaniards used the island of Hispaniola (of which Haiti is the western part and the Dominican Republic the eastern) as a launching point from which 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 known, the "pearl of the Antilles"--one of the richest colonies in the 18th century French empire. During this period, African slaves were brought to work on sugarcane and coffee plantations. In 1791, the slave population revolted--led by Haitian heroes Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe--and gained control of the northern part of the French colony, waging a war of attrition against the French. By January 1804, local forces defeated an army sent by Napoleon Bonaparte, established independence from France, and renamed the area Haiti. The impending 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 1803. Haiti is the world's oldest black republic and the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States. Although Haiti actively assisted the independence movements of many Latin American countries, the independent nation of former slaves was excluded from the hemisphere's first regional meeting of independent nations, in Panama in 1826, and did not receive U.S. diplomatic recognition until 1862. Two separate regimes--north and south--emerged after independence but were unified in 1820. Two years later, Haiti occupied Santo Domingo, the eastern, Spanish-speaking part of Hispaniola. In 1844, however, Santo Domingo broke away from Haiti and became the Dominican Republic. With 22 changes of government from 1843 to 1915, Haiti experienced numerous periods of intense political and economic disorder, prompting the United States military intervention of 1915. Following a 19-year occupation, U.S. military forces were withdrawn in 1934, and Haiti regained sovereign rule. From February 7, 1986--when the 29-year dictatorship of the Duvalier family ended--until 1991, Haiti was ruled by a series of provisional governments. In 1987, a constitution was ratified that provides for an elected, bicameral parliament; an elected president that serves as head of state; and a prime minister, cabinet, ministers, and supreme court appointed by the president with parliament's consent. The Haitian Constitution also provides for political decentralization through the election of mayors and administrative bodies responsible for local government. 1991-1994 - An Interrupted Transition 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 on February 7, 1991, but was overthrown that September in a violent coup led by dissatisfied elements of the army and supported by many of the country's economic elite. Following the coup, Aristide began a 3-year exile in the U.S. Several thousand Haitians may have been killed during the de facto military rule. The coup contributed to a large-scale exodus of Haitians by boat. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a total of 41,342 Haitians at sea during 1991 and 1992, more than the number of rescued boat people from the previous 10 years combined. From October 1991 to September 1994 an unconstitutional military de facto regime governed Haiti. Various OAS and UN initiatives to end the political crisis through the peaceful restoration of the constitutionally elected government, including the Governors Island Agreement of July 1993, failed. When the military refused to uphold its end of the agreements, the de facto authorities refused to allow a return to constitutional government, even though the economy was collapsing and the country's infrastructure deteriorated from neglect. 1994 - International Intervention On July 31, 1994, as repression mounted in Haiti and a UN-OAS civilian human rights monitoring mission (MICIVIH) was expelled from the country, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 940. UNSC Resolution 940 authorized member states to use all necessary means to facilitate the departure of Haiti's military leadership and to restore Haiti's constitutionally elected government to power. In the weeks that followed, the United States took the lead in forming a multinational force (MFN) to carry out the UN's mandate by means of a military intervention. In mid-September, with U.S. troops prepared to enter Haiti by force, President Clinton dispatched a negotiating team led by former President Jimmy Carter to persuade the de facto authorities to step aside and allow for the return of constitutional rule. With intervening troops already airborne, Gen. Raoul Cedras and other top leaders agreed to accept the intervention of the MNF. On September 19, 1994, the first contingents of what became a 21,000 international force touched down in Haiti to oversee the end of military rule and the restoration of the constitutional government. By early October, the three de facto leaders--Cedras, Gen. Philippe Biamby, and Police Chief Lt. Col. Michel Francois -and their families had departed Haiti. President Aristide and other elected officials in exile returned on October 15. Under the watchful eyes of international peacekeepers, restored Haitian authorities organized nationwide local and parliamentary elections in June 1995. A pro-Aristide, multi-party coalition called the Lavalas Political Organization (OPL) swept into power at all levels. With his term ending in February 1996 and barred by the constitution from succeeding himself, President Aristide agreed to step aside and support a presidential election in December 1995. Rene Preval, a prominent Aristide political ally, who had been Aristide's Prime Minister in 1991, took 88% of the vote, and was sworn in to a 5-year term on February 7, 1996, during what was Haiti's first-ever transition between two democratically elected presidents. 1996-2000 - Political Gridlock In late 1996, former President Aristide broke from the OPL and created a new political party, the Lavalas Family (FL). The OPL, holding the majority of the Parliament, renamed itself the Struggling People's Organization, maintaining the OPL acronym. Elections in April 1997 for the renewal of one-third of the Senate and creation of commune-level assemblies and town delegations provided the first opportunity for the former political allies to compete for elected office. Although preliminary results indicated victories for FL candidates in most races, the elections, which drew only about 5% of registered voters, were plagued with allegations of fraud and not certified by most international observers as free and fair. Partisan rancor from the election dispute led to deep divisions within Parliament and between the legislative and executive branches, resulting in almost total governmental gridlock. In June 1997, Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigned. Two successors proposed by President Preval were rejected by the legislature. Eventually, in December 1998, Jacques Edouard Alexis was confirmed as Prime Minister. During this gridlock period, the government was unable to organize the local and parliamentary elections due in late 1998. In early January 1999, President Preval dismissed legislators whose terms had expired--the entire Chamber of Deputies and all but nine members of the Senate--and converted local elected officials into state employees. The President and Prime Minister then ruled by decree, establishing a cabinet composed almost entirely of FL partisans. Under pressure from a new political coalition called the Democratic Consultation Group (ESPACE), the government allocated three seats of the nine-member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to opposition groups and mandated the CEP to organize the overdue elections for the end of 1999. Following several delays, the first round of elections for local councils--ASEC and CASEK, municipal governments, town delegates, the Chamber of Deputies, and two-thirds of the Senate took place on May 21, 2000. The election drew the participation of a multitude of candidates from a wide array of political parties and a voter turnout of more than 60%. 2000 Electoral Crisis Leads to Aristide Departure Controversy mired the good start, however, when the CEP used a flawed methodology to determine the winners of the Senate races, thus avoiding run-off elections for eight seats and giving the FL a virtual sweep in the first round. The flawed vote count, combined with the CEP's failure to investigate alleged irregularities and fraud, undercut the credibility of that body. The CEP President fled Haiti and two members eventually resigned rather than accede to government pressure to release the erroneous results. Nonetheless, on August 28, 2000, Haiti's new Parliament, including the contested Senators accorded victory under the flawed vote count, was convened. Through a number of diplomatic missions by the OAS, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the United States, the international community had sought to delay Parliament's seating until the electoral problems could be rectified. When these efforts were rebuffed, Haiti's main bilateral donors announced the end of "business as usual." They moved to re-channel their assistance away from the government and announced they would not support or send observers to the November elections. Concurrently, most opposition parties regrouped in an alliance that became the Democratic Convergence. The Convergence asserted that the May elections were so fraudulent that they should be annulled and held again under a new CEP. Elections for President and nine Senators took place on November 26, 2000. All major opposition parties boycotted these elections in which voter participation was estimated at 5%. Jean-Bertrand Aristide emerged as the easy victor of these controversial elections, and the candidates of his FL party swept all contested Senate seats. On February 6, 2001, the Democratic Convergence named respected lawyer and human rights activist Gerard Gourgue as provisional president of their "alternative government." Gourgue called the act "symbolic," designed to protest flawed elections. On February 7, 2001, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was inaugurated as President. Notwithstanding the previous year's electoral controversy, the inauguration marked the first time in the country's history that a full-term president peacefully transferred power to an incoming president. It did not, however, put an end to the political stalemate. OAS-mediated negotiations began in April 2001 to find a resolution, focusing on the on possible makeup of a new electoral council, a timetable for new elections, security for political parties, and other confidence-building measures. These negotiations made some progress, but were suspended in mid-July without a final agreement. On July 28, 2001, unknown gunmen attacked police facilities in Port-au-Prince and the provinces. A subsequent government crackdown on opposition party members and former soldiers further increased tensions between Lavalas and Convergence. On December 17, 2001, unidentified gunmen attacked the National Palace in Port-au-Prince. Following the assault, pro-government groups attacked the offices and homes of several opposition leaders. One opposition member was killed. Negotiations between FL and Democratic Convergence, already on hold following the July violence, were suspended indefinitely. In January 2002, the OAS Permanent Council adopted Resolution 806 on Haiti that called for government action to address the political stalemate, growing violence, and deterioration in respect for human rights. It also authorized OAS establishment of a Special Mission in Haiti to support implementation of steps called for in Resolution 806. The OAS Special Mission began operations in March 2002, working with the government on plans to strengthen Haiti's democratic institutions in security, justice, human rights, and governance. Nevertheless, the climate of security deteriorated and a rapidly weakening economy created risks of a humanitarian disaster. The OAS Permanent Council adopted Resolution 822, September 4, 2002, which set a new course for resolving the crisis by: committing the Haitian government to a series of steps leading to an improved climate of security for free and fair elections in 2003; supporting Haiti's resumption of normal relations with the International Financial Institutions; and strengthening the mandate of the OAS to monitor as well as support Haitian government efforts to comply with OAS resolutions. It also conferred new mandates related to conduct of elections and disarmament. Protest strikes and attacks on opposition demonstrations by government-supported gangs between November 2002 and February 2003 hardened attitudes on both sides. The opposition issued a public call for Aristide's removal and announced plans for a transitional government. In March 2003, a high-level joint delegation of the OAS and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) presented specific demands to President Aristide to restore public security and create confidence necessary to move toward elections: select new leadership for the Haitian National Police in consultation with the OAS; arrest Amiot Metayer, a notorious gang leader; and disarm the security forces used by government politicians to intimidate opponents. Events spiraled downward: In June 2003 the new police chief, appointed in consultation with the OAS, resigned and fled the country 14 days later after being ordered to give up his authority over budget and personnel; government-paid thugs violently disrupted a civil society public ceremony July 12 in Cité Soleil; police attacked civil society marches in Cap Haitien August 30 and September 14 and prevented an opposition march scheduled for October 5. Amiot Metayer was murdered September 21 (it is widely believed the government ordered the murder to prevent release of compromising information). The government announced August 13 that it was re-activating a defunct CEP in what many interpreted as a move toward holding elections outside the framework of OAS Resolution 822. The OAS and other foreign observers, including the U.S., denounced these steps. To re-invigorate the process envisioned in Resolution 822, the OAS designated a Special Envoy for Dialogue in Haiti, Terence Todman, a retired U.S. Career Ambassador. Todman, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, undertook three negotiating missions to Haiti in September-October 2003. Political instability grew throughout fall 2003. In Gonaives, Metayer's followers, hitherto pro-Aristide, led a violent rebellion against government authorities in the city. Government-sponsored repression of opposition protests reached a nadir when on December 5 pro-government gangs entered Haiti's state university campus and broke the legs of the Rector. Following a meeting with Aristide at the Summit of the Americas in January 2004, Caribbean Community leaders proposed a plan to resolve the political crisis. President Aristide stated he accepted the plan at a meeting January 31. However, as the plan remained unimplemented, a high-level international delegation came to Haiti February 21 to obtain agreement on specific implementation timetable. President Aristide agreed, but the opposition "Democratic Platform" group of political parties and civil society expressed reservations. Meanwhile, the violence in Gonaives culminated February 5 in the former Cannibal Army, now called the Artibonite Resistance Front, seizing control of the city. Other armed groups opposed to the Aristide government quickly emerged and succeeded in seizing control of many towns, mostly with little resistance from government authorities. By February 28, 2004, a rebel group led by a former police chief, Guy Philippe, had advanced to within 25 miles of the capital. On February 29, 2004 Aristide submitted his resignation as President of Haiti and flew on a chartered plane to South Africa. 2004-2007 - Interim Government Prepares the Way for a New Democracy Following the constitutional line of succession, Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre assumed the presidency and Gerard Latortue was appointed prime minister of the Interim Government of Haiti (IGOH) with the mandate of organizing elections to choose a new government. Despite significant delays and controversies over who was Haitian enough to run for President, the interim government managed to organize three rounds of elections with the help of the OAS and UN. The first round of elections for President and Parliament took place peacefully on February 7, 2006. An impressive turnout estimated at over 60% of registered voters caused some logistical difficulties which were overcome. Overall, the elections were considered free, fair, transparent, and democratic by national and international observers. René Préval, former President (1996-2001) and former ally to Aristide, won the presidential election with 51.15%. Partial results had shown he fell short of the majority and triggered demonstrations against alleged fraud. The later decision of the Electoral Council not to count blank ballots gave the victory to Préval. The Parliament, composed of a 30-seat Senate and a 99-member Chamber of Deputies, was elected in two rounds held on February 7 and April 21, 2006. Lespwa is the main political force in both chambers but fell short of the majority. Fusion, UNION, Alyans, OPL, and Famni Lavals have many representatives in both chambers. Préval chose his long-time political associate and former Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis to serve again as his Prime Minister. Municipal elections were held December 3, 2006 and April 29, 2007. Some of these local government positions had not been filled in over a decade. International Presence 1995-2004 After the transition of the 21,000-strong MNF into a peacekeeping force on March 31, 1995, the presence of international military forces that helped restore constitutional government to power was gradually ended. Initially, the U.S.-led UN peacekeeping force numbered 6,000 troops, but that number was scaled back progressively over the next 4 years as a series of UN technical missions succeeded the peacekeeping force. By January 2000, all U.S. troops stationed in Haiti had departed. In March 2000, the UN peacekeeping mission transitioned into a peace-building mission, the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti (MICAH). MICAH consisted of some 80 non-uniformed UN technical advisers providing advice and material assistance in policing, justice, and human rights to the Haitian Government. MICAH's mandate ended on February 7, 2001, coinciding with the end of the Preval administration. The OAS Special Mission has some 25 international police advisors who arrived in summer 2003; is in addition to observing and reporting Haitian police performance, they provide limited technical assistance. International Presence 2004-Present At the request of the interim government and the UN, the U.S.-led Multilateral Interim Force, made up of troops from the U.S., Canada, France, and Chile, arrived in Port-au-Prince to ensure stability until the arrival of a UN peacekeeping force. In April 2004, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1542, which created the UN Stability Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Since that time, the Security Council has consistently and unanimously approved the renewal of MINUSTAH's mandate at 6-month intervals. On February 15, 2007, the UNSC unanimously voted to extend MINUSTAH's mandate for 8 months through October 15. The Stability Mission is currently authorized at 7,200 troops and 1,951 civilian police.

People of Haiti

Although Haiti averages about 350 people per square kilometer, its population is concentrated most heavily in urban areas, coastal plains, and valleys. About 95% of Haitians are of African descent. The rest of the population is mostly of mixed Caucasian-African ancestry. A few are of European or Levantine heritage. Sixty percent of the population lives in rural areas. French is one of two official languages, but it is spoken fluently by only about 10% of the people. All Haitians speak Creole, the country's other official language. English and Spanish are increasingly used as second languages among the young and in the business sector. The dominant religion is Roman Catholicism. Increasing numbers of Haitians have converted to Protestantism through the work of missionaries active throughout the country. Much of the population also practices voudou (voodoo), recognized by the government as a religion in April 2003. Haitians tend to see no conflict in these African-rooted beliefs coexisting with Christian faith. Although public education is free, the cost is still quite high for Haitian families who must pay for uniforms, textbooks, supplies, and other inputs. Due to weak state provision of education services, private and parochial schools account for approximately 90% of primary schools, and only 65% of primary school-aged children are actually enrolled. At the secondary level, the figure drops to around 20%. Less than 35% of those who enter will complete primary school. Though Haitians place a high value on education, few can afford to send their children to secondary school and primary school enrollment is dropping due to economic factors. Remittances sent by Haitians living abroad are important in paying educational costs. After the January 12, 2010 earthquake most schools in the greater Port-au-Prince area were not operating, though some schools re-opened on April 5. As of July 1, 2010, 75% of students in earthquake-affected areas had returned to school. Large-scale emigration, principally to the U.S.--but also to Canada, the Dominican Republic, The Bahamas and other Caribbean neighbors, and France--has created what Haitians refer to as the Eleventh Department or the Diaspora. About one of every eight Haitians lives abroad. Although the expatriate Haitian community has a strong interest in Haiti’s future and a positive financial impact on the Haitian economy, the Haitian Diaspora is constrained by Article 15 of Haiti’s 1987 Constitution, which prohibits dual citizenship. Consequently, Haitian Americans lack political rights in their homeland, including voting rights; property rights are restricted for foreign nationals. Nationality: Noun and adjective --Haitian(s). Population (April 2010 est.): 9,900,000. Annual population growth rate: (2009 est.) 1.66%. Ethnic groups: African descent 95%, African and European descent 5%. Religions (2003 data): Roman Catholic 55%, Protestant 28%, voudou (voodoo) practices pervasive. Languages: French (official), Creole (official). Education: Years compulsory --6. Adult literacy (2003 census)--56%. Health: Child mortality --1 out of 8 children die before they reach the age of five. Life expectancy --62 years (women), 59 years (men).
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