NewsHaiti: Political instability, poverty, and quakes

Haiti: Political instability, poverty, and quakes

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Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Haiti, where a group of armed individuals assassinated President Jovenel Moise early Wednesday, is one of the world’s poorest countries, crippled by political instability and vulnerable to natural disasters.

Here are some key facts about the troubled Caribbean nation which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

First black republic

Once France’s richest colony, Haiti became the world’s first black-led republic in 1804 after a revolt by slaves on whose backs that wealth was built.

But only after its charismatic revolutionary leader Toussaint Louverture was tricked and imprisoned by Napoleon, who reintroduced slavery.

After the eventual defeat of the French, Haiti suffered a succession of brutal dictatorships, interrupted only by brief stints of democracy and foreign occupation.

‘Papa Doc’ and ‘Baby Doc’

From 1957 until 1986 the notorious Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son Jean Claude “Baby Doc” ruled with their ruthless Tontons Macoutes militia.

Driven out by a popular revolt, “Baby Doc” went into exile in France for 25 years before returning to Haiti in 2011, where he died three years later.

Former Roman Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president in the country’s first free elections in 1990.

But he was overthrown in a coup, reinstated, ousted a second time, and finally sent into exile under pressure from the United States, France, and Canada.

Rene Preval came to power in elections in 2006, followed by former carnival singer Michel Martelly in 2011.

Moise’s strife and assassination

Moise then won a disputed election and took power in 2017 but was soon hit by protests triggered by fuel shortages that turned violent.

He was further undermined when in 2019 court auditors investigating were $2 billion in aid from a Venezuelan oil fund had gone found that companies run by him before he became president were “at the heart of an embezzling scheme.”

Moise insisted he could stay on as head of state until February 7, 2022 — an interpretation of the constitution rejected by the opposition.

The businessman had governed by decree without any parliamentary checks since 2020.

On Wednesday Moise was assassinated at his home, two days after the nomination of a new prime minister charged with organizing elections.

Poverty

With more than three-fifths of the population of 11.4 million living on less than $2 a day, Haiti remains the poorest country in Latin America.

It is also one of the world’s least developed, ranking 170 out of 189 on the UNDP’s Human Development Index which compares longevity, education, and income per capita.

Its economy contracted by around 3.8 percent in 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating its economic and political weakness, according to the World Bank.

It is one of the few nations in the world which has not yet started its anti-Covid vaccination drive.

In a country marked by wide inequalities, most people do not have access to basic health care.

Quakes and hurricanes

Haiti is vulnerable to natural disasters, which have ravaged the country over the last decade and to which 96 percent of its inhabitants are exposed, according to the World Bank.

In 2010 more than 200,000 people died and 1.5 million were left homeless after an earthquake devastated the capital Port-au-Prince and the surrounding region.

More than 10,000 then died in a deadly cholera epidemic introduced by infected Nepalese UN peacekeepers sent in after the disaster.

Billions of dollars of international aid were promised, but much of it failed to materialize. Political instability also hampered recovery.

In 2018 a scandal erupted over alleged sex abuse committed by employees of British NGO Oxfam after the quake.

A further 500 people died when the country was hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. It also caused $2 billion in damages.

AFP
AFP is a leading global news agency for comprehensive, verified coverage of events shaping the world.

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