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Haiti: The first black republic

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  1. Intorduction.
  2. Historica background: Exploitation, instability and dictatorship.
  3. Transition to democracy.
  4. Modern challenges to democracy.
  5. Conclusion.

In its early years as a wealthy French colony, Haiti was the envy of European imperial powers; however, in the last two centuries it has undergone a major transformation from a blooming Caribbean colony to an economically, socially, environmentally, and politically troubled nation. Since the slave revolt of 1791 and subsequent independence in 1804, Haiti's history has been plagued by corrupt and destructive leadership as well as by a struggle for political power between the urban mulatto elites and the predominantly poor, black, rural community (Foster 3, Haggerty, Tata, Weinstein 1). As a result, roughly two-thirds of the population lives in poverty, half of adults are illiterate, and health services are inadequate to address high infant and maternal mortality and major public health crises. [Moreover], real per capita gross domestic product fell at a rate of 2 percent during the 1980's and 2.5 percent during the 1990's. (quoted in ?Haiti Country Assistance Evaluation Report?)

[...] Aristide replaced this system with a rural police force under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. (Stotzky 27-28) Despite the positive results, violence soon arose after the election. Even before Aristide was sworn into office, military and paramilitary forces challenged his claim to the presidency in unsuccessful coups and coup attempts. In September of 1991 the military finally succeeded and subsequently governed the country through a period often referred to as the ?reign of terror.? Many of the democratic reforms accomplished under Aristide were reversed during this time. [...]

[...] Perhaps the greatest obstacle to a successful democracy in Haiti is the violation of human rights. Since Haiti's independence from the French in 1804, the nation has suffered from oppressive governments controlled by a small group of national elites which have consistently violated human rights (Weinstein 2). Death, disappearance, imprisonment, and torture of thousands are endemic problems that Haitians have dealt with on their path to democracy. Human rights issues are especially relevant in Haiti's transition from dictatorship to democracy. [...]

[...] To some degree, the failure of democracy can be attributed to its largely unsuccessful agricultural sector or to substantial illiteracy, but of most significance to Haiti's current situation is its long history of political turmoil and volatility, culpable for human rights violations. The question stands as to how such a troubled nation will be able to improve. While the solution should be multifaceted, it is obvious that addressing political issues should be a priority. As stated in the World Bank's 1998 Poverty Report, "Haiti has never had a tradition of governance aimed at providing services to the population or creating an environment conducive to sustainable growth. [...]

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