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Haiti’s complicated relations with the United States

Ivan watson

U.S. troops unload plastic sheeting with aid outside the town of Jeremiah in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Highlights of history

Haiti has been under temporary protection status since a devastating earthquake in 2010

U.S. government interests in Haiti existed decades before the occupation in 1915


You cannot mention Haiti’s struggles without explaining its complicated relationship with the United States.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump expressed his frustration with people coming from Haiti to the United States. As he tried to dismiss the island nation in his remarks, history shows a long legacy of political and military intervention.

The US government’s interests in Haiti existed decades before the US occupation in 1915. US President Woodrow Wilson sent Marines to Haiti to restore order – and the US occupied the island nation until 1934.

Natural disaster after natural disaster, Haiti has become a ripe place with poverty, disease and the lack of basic infrastructure and human services. And, with that, a regular recipient of US humanitarian aid.

Haiti has been under temporary protected status since a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the island nation in January 2010, killing up to 300,000 people and displacing more than one million. Relief efforts in the aftermath of this disaster, led by American organizations, were widely criticized and often ineffective.

Although plans to pull the country out of TPS were announced last year, as of September 2017, nearly 40,000 people remained displaced, living in temporary shelters and camps on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au- Prince.

Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola – the island where Haiti is located – in 1492, giving way to the French and Spanish invasion of the Caribbean island.

Haiti gained independence from France on January 1, 1804 and became the second oldest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere after the United States. But US leaders would not officially recognize Haiti’s independence for nearly 60 years.

The United States claimed it was the result of a “slave revolt” and even provided assistance to quell the rebellion during the revolution, according to the State Department’s office of the historian.

Over the years, the United States feared that Germany would control the island nation because it viewed it as a potential naval site, the State Department said.

Over 70 different dictators ruled Haiti from 1804 to 1915.

By 1914, several Haitian presidents had been assassinated or overthrown and President Wilson sent troops to restore order but eventually occupied Haiti.

US troops intervened in Haiti again following a 1991 military coup that overthrew Haiti’s first freely elected leader and resulted in an exodus of people to the United States.

Then-President Bill Clinton sent a delegation in 1994 that struck a peace deal and restored Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.

At that point, thousands of Haitians attempted to flee to the United States by attempting the 600-mile passage to Florida in small, overcrowded boats just to be forced back into the country.

It wouldn’t be the last time American troops set foot in the country.

In 2004, violence and looting spread across Haiti as rebels opposed Aristide’s re-election.

Hoping to end the bloody rebellion, U.S. officials joined with representatives of several countries in an effort that led to peace in Haiti. The United States was so involved that when Aristide resigned he was taken to the Central African Republic on a US military plane.

Mother Nature has punished Haiti time and time again over the past decade.

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, killing more than 200,000 people and displacing hundreds of thousands.

Houses were torn to pieces and roofs washed away when Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012 and 2016, when Hurricane Matthew – the strongest storm in Haiti in half a century – made landfall.

Thousands of people have died in floods and landslides. Crops, houses, livestock and infrastructure were badly damaged and a cholera epidemic – still raging in the country – followed.

The United States has sent at least $ 3.4 billion in aid for disaster relief, reconstruction and development efforts, according to the State Department.

Nearly 60% of Haitians live in poverty, according to a World Bank report. Many do not have access to health care, electricity and / or the use of toilets.

Most of the clothing sold at Walmart, JCPenney, Gap, Old Navy, and other well-known stores was made in Haiti.

The country’s clothing manufacturing company has been around for decades and currently employs 60,000 people, according to the Association of Industries of Haiti.

The clothing sector makes at least 90% of Haiti’s total exports and the United States has ensured that it continues to thrive.

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, most Haitian textiles began entering the United States duty-free. The US Agency for International Development has also built a power plant on the country’s north coast to keep garment factories running despite the country’s continued electricity problems.

This story has been updated to reflect additional reports.



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