The opposition to a 3rd-world democracy

Photo of the aftermath of the most recent earthquake to devastate Haiti. Photo by dlrz4114 on

It is hard to think about Haiti. Many in the United States only know it for its political instability and abject poverty. The root of these issues, though, is a familiar pattern of behaviors for the militaristic, imperialist state that is the United States. 

Since gaining its independence in 1805, Haiti has been a prime target for exploitation, as the island is rich in many natural resources like gold, sugar, coffee and silver. 

Traders give the people of Haiti who produce these materials little if any, money for their hard work. It has left Haitians among the poorest populations of people in the world. However, Haiti’s natural resources also made it valuable, 

The people of Haiti have not experienced a democracy (even by America’s lax standards) for over 100 years, leaving their fates and lives to be affected by the interests of foreign powers. In 1915, the US invaded Haiti with 300 marines, resulting in a President selected by the Senate and occupation of the island that lasted 19 years. 

The explicit goal of President Woodrow Wilson was to control Haiti’s economy completely, as it existed inside of the United States’ sphere of influence. The people of Haiti were enraged by a foreign power exerting violent control over them and their country. 

Still, this began an almost two-decade period marked by oppression, political unrest and the deaths of around 20,000 Haitian people. 

After the occupation, Haiti’s struggled to stabilize, as the nation was often the puppet of an imperial superpower. The post-occupation period saw a revolving door of different presidents, violent repression and bloody conflicts with the neighboring Dominican Republic like the Parsley Massacre

After this occupation, the country saw some semblance of stability, albeit from the autocratic Duvalier regime. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier was first elected president of Haiti in 1957. Duvalier was a rural doctor who ran on a platform claiming to fight for Haiti’s poor, black population. 

Although initially seen as a populist reformer who fought against the wealthy, mixed-race elite, Duvalier would quickly become more and more totalitarian, exiling opponents and extending his power through constitutional rewrites. 

After a 1958 coup attempt, Papa Doc clamped down harder than ever on his opposition and created the Tonton Macoutes. This paramilitary police force became notorious for spreading fear and terror throughout Haiti. 

Military police violence carried over into the presidency of Francois’ son, Jean-Claude Duvalier. He continued his father’s brutal regime and crippled Haiti’s infrastructure, making conditions worse for the people through the siphoning of funds. 

One important thing to note is that while United States support for the regime was not unequivocal, The United States gave plenty of aid to the Duvalier regime due to their anti-communist position and relative strategic location to Cuba.

As anti-Duvalier protests intensified in the 1980s, Baby Doc stepped down from his position, following a speech by the Pope at the time, which inspired a rise in Catholicism and riots in Haiti’s streets. 

This moment of political action led to the rise of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former priest. He advocated liberation theology and opposed the exploitative trade deals that first-world nations used to hurt Haiti. 

After winning 67% of the popular vote, Aristede served as Haiti’s first democratically and popularly elected president. This victory was short-lived as a military coup was launched against the Aristede government, ending the presidency after eight months. Outside of another Aristide presidency thwarted in another 2004 coup (which is said to have been US-backed).

Since Aristede, Haiti has had a series of presidents who are only ideal to the United States and other foreign interests, including the recently assassinated Jovenel Moise. 

Most Haitians hate this current system, which is why we see a seemingly permanent political dissent that can only be met with more paramilitary action to keep the masses controlled. 

As people living in America, there is not much we can do individually to end the exploitation of the Haitian people. What we can do, however, is understand that America funded Haiti’s situation with the help of our tax dollars.