Haiti is located in the Caribbean and shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. “Ayiti” is an old Indian name and means “mountain country”. At 28,000 square kilometres, Haiti’s size is slightly smaller than that of Baden-Württemberg. The current population is estimated at 10.6 million. The capital of Haiti is Port-au-Prince with about 1 million inhabitants. The main source of income is agriculture, most people are small mountain farmers. There is hardly any industry.
The Social Situation
During the constant political upheavals, the situation of the population has become increasingly critical. Once praised by Columbus as a paradise, Haiti has long been considered the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Poverty, hunger, unemployment, lack of medical care, illiteracy, crime, high population growth in a small area, destruction of nature and a low level of development characterise the structure of the country and are constantly increasing.
Public life in the larger cities is increasingly characterised by violence and fear. Some districts and streets must be avoided. After dark, no one goes out on the streets anymore.
History and Political Situation
The country was discovered by Columbus in 1492 and was then first
a Spanish, then a French colony. The indigenous Indian population
was already exterminated in Columbus’ times and replaced by
African slaves. In colonial times, the country was exploited and
severely damaged by reckless plantation management after
deforestation of the tropical forests.
In 1804, Haiti became independent as one of the first colonies; after long battles the whites had left the country. Then came several black kings who ruled after the example of absolutist rulers. After all, Haiti was under the rule of dictatorial military governments for a long time. The best known were Papa Doc and Baby Doc.
In 1991, the first democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and his party Lavalas took over the government. Shortly afterwards he was forced into exile after a coup and could only return in 1994 shortly before the end of his first term of office under pressure from the USA due to a trade embargo and military threats.
In the years that followed, the Lavalas party was in power, but not much changed in Haiti. The former poor priest Aristide could not live up to most of his people’s expectations. He was accused of corrupt and violent methods similar to those of his predecessors. Recent years can be considered as a continuing political crisis. Many demanded a change of government. The violent riots culminated in February 2004. From the north, a rebel army conquered the country. Under massive pressure from the USA, the rebels and the population, Aristide had to resign and leave the country on 29 February 2004.
However, his supporters and their opponents are still causing unrest in the country. We are constantly receiving news of demonstrations, terrorist actions, assassinations of political opponents of the various camps and escalations of ordinary crime with no state control function. The provisional Prime Minister, Gerard Latortue, who came from exile in the United States, only temporarily administered the affairs of government. Elections were repeatedly scheduled in the second half of 2005, which had to be postponed each time because preparations had not yet been completed.
More than 40 presidential candidates competed for power, none of which seemed to be an ideal solution. Only in February 2006 the election took place, from which René Préval emerged as the winner.
The country is still in a state of uncertainty, everything is provisional. No significant decisions can yet be taken or programmes implemented.
There is also a short, easy-to-understand, animated video on the Internet about Haiti’s history: