PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI -- Nearly one month after a powerful earthquake brought this country to a halt, Haiti is tumbling headlong through a crisis that has not begun to abate, with evidence everywhere that current relief efforts are falling short.
On January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake struck the nation of Haiti, causing catastrophic damage inside and around the capital city of Port-au-Prince. President Obama promised the people of Haiti that "you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten" and ordered an immediate response to the catastrophe that was swift, coordinated, and aggressive.
Haiti’s debt was $302 million in 1980. In 1997 it was almost $1.1 billion, which is almost 40% of its Gross National Product. The value of its exports has fallen to 62% of 1987 levels. It should be listed as a severely indebted low-income country but the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have refused to do so under the insistence of the North Atlantic alliance.
Pétion named himself president for life in 1816 and dissolved the legislature before his death in 1818. Pétion was succeeded by Jean-Pierre Boyer (1776-1850), who reunified Haiti after King Henri I (as Christophe styled himself) committed suicide in 1820. Boyer followed the reunification of Haiti by invading and conquering the eastern (Spanish) side of Hispaniola in 1822. Unifying the island under Haitian rule was a defensive measure, to keep France from using Haiti's weaker neighbor as a staging ground for a new invasion of their former colony. Afterward, Boyer was finally able to negotiate for French recognition of Haiti's sovereignty, in exchange for 150 million francs restitution, in 1825. The restitution to France proved a hardship to the Haitian economy, particularly since many of Haiti's plantations had dissolved into sharecropper-style subsistence farming, which left little if nothing to export.
Partition Following the death of Dessalines, a bitter power struggle developed between two of the surviving leaders of the independence movement, Henry Christophe and Alexandre Pétion. A constitutional scheme whereby Christophe and Pétion would jointly govern the country quickly fell apart, leading to a territorial partition that lasted from 1811 to 1820.
Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of l’Overture’s generals and himself a former slave, led the revolutionaries at the Battle of Vertieres on November 18, 1803 where the French forces were defeated. On January 1, 1804, Dessalines declared the nation independent and renamed it Haiti. France became the first nation to recognize its independence. Haiti thus emerged as the first black republic in the world, and the second nation in the western hemisphere (after the United States) to win its independence from a European power.
For over 100 years the colony of St. Domingue (known as the Pearl of the Antilles) was France's most important overseas territory, which supplied it with sugar, rum, coffee and cotton. At the height of slavery, near the end of the 18th century, some 500,000 people mainly of western African origin, were enslaved by the French. 1791-1803: A slave rebellion is launched by the Jamaican-born Boukman leading to a protracted 13-year war of liberation against St. Domingue's colonists and later, Napoleon's army which was also assisted by Spanish and British forces. The slave armies were commanded by General Toussaint Louverture who was eventually betrayed by his officers Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe who opposed his policies, which included reconciliation with the French. He was subsequently exiled to France where he died.
The island of Hispaniola was inhabited by the Arawaks prior to the arrival of Columbus in 1492. Disease, ill treatment, and execution by the Spaniards decimated the Arawaks, who gave Haiti ("land of mountains") its name. While establishing plantations in E Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic), however, the Spanish largely ignored the western part of the island, which by the 17th cent. became a base for French and English buccaneers. Gradually French colonists, importing African slaves, developed sugar plantations on the northern coast. Unable to support its claim to the region, Spain ceded Haiti (then called Saint-Dominque) to France in 1697.
Haiti is a country with a number of notable attributes, some good and some bad. It is the first republic of people of African descent and the second oldest nation in the Americas, the first being the United States of America. It shares another attribute with the U.S. The only two countries which were not able to abolish slavery without the extensive bloodshed of civil war were Haiti and the U.S. The U.S. and Haiti share the record for the extremes of per capita income. The U.S. has the highest per capita income in the Americas and Haiti has the lowest. While Haiti's independence as a nation started with a slave rebellion the notion that this was a straight black versus white affair is wrong. Haiti's struggle for independence was a much more complex affair
Haiti is located in the Western Hemisphere and is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, the Golfe De la Gonave and the Atlantic Ocean. It is believed that the first known settlers were the Ciboneys who occupied the country in 450 AD. Later in 900 AD, Arawak Indians settled in the large villages of Haiti and called this nation Ayiti.