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The 2004 removal of Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Aristide's economic policy and foreign destabilization of Haitian economy

Project: 2004 Ousting of Jean-Bertrand Aristide
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Former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide promises donors that he will implement neoliberal reforms if he is returned to power. He agrees to a plan calling for the privatization of some state-owned enterprises, including the country’s flour mill, cement factory, and electric company. The plan also requires the removal of import controls, reforming of customs, and the elimination of limits on interest rates. But due to strong domestic opposition, Aristide will not completely follow through with the Structural Adjustment Program once in office. [Inter Press Service, 9/28/1995]

Entity Tags: Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Timeline Tags: Neoliberalism and Globalization

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide informs parliament that he will appoint Smarck Michel as the country’s new prime minister. Michel—who served briefly as Aristide’s commerce minister in 1991—owns a rice-importing business and retails gasoline. According to sources interviewed by the Washington Post, his selection “was aimed at appeasing the nation’s powerful business elite” and is viewed as a prerequisite for “winning support from foreign investors and attaining international development funds.” The Post reports, “At least two US-trained economic experts—former World Bank economist Leslie Delatour and former education minister Leslie Voltaire—had threatened not to participate in key government posts if Michel were not named prime minister.” [Washington Post, 10/25/1995]

Entity Tags: Smarck Michel, Leslie Voltaire, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Leslie Delatour

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

In Haiti, International development agencies implement short-term, labor-intensive job programs, focused primarily on road construction. According to agronomists interviewed in late summer of 1995, the programs are undermining local agricultural production and long term sustainable development programs. “In the middle of planting season, a large number of peasant farmers in the northeastern town of Vallieres abandoned their land to begin working in the areas with one of these projects,” agronomist Harry Noel explains. And in Artibonite Valley, revenues from levies on the irrigation pumps dramatically decrease when the job programs siphon off its labor supply. “Efforts over the years to create communally-managed irrigation systems have failed in just one season because of the job programs,” explains Volny Paultre, agronomist and consultant to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). [Inter Press Service, 9/4/1995]

Entity Tags: Volny Paultre, Harry Noel

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

May 4, 1995: Minimum Wage Doubled in Haiti

Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide announces a doubling of the minimum wage effective June 1, 1995 from 18 gourdes to 36 gourdes per day. Articles 1 and 2 of his decree reads, “Beginning June 1, 1995, the minimum wage paid in industrial, commercial, and agricultural businesses is fixed at 36 gourdes per 8-hour day… Where the employee works per piece or per task, the price paid for a unit of production (per piece, per dozen, per gross, per meter, etc.) must allow the employee who works 8 hours to earn at least the minimum salary.” [Verhoogen, 1/1996]

Entity Tags: Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

The Haitian government solicits bids from investors for the sale of Haiti’s cement factory, flour mill, and its air and seaports. [Inter Press Service, 9/8/1995; Multinational Monitor, 11/2004]

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

Haitian Prime Minister Smarck Michel announces that Haiti will continue with plans to privatize nine state-owned companies, though he acknowledges that most Haitians are “against the idea of privatization” and that for many, “the word is a demon.” In an effort to sell the plan to the public the government has been euphemistically describing it as the “democratization of assets.” The privatization scheme—to include Haiti’s flour mill, a cement factory, its air and seaports, telephone exchanges, and electricity—must be implemented in order for Haiti to receive $170 million in structural adjustment loans from the World Bank, the IMF, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the European Union. The loans are part of a five-year, $1.2-billion aid program (see (October 18, 1996)) which Aristide had tacitly agreed to in August 1994 (see August 1994). [Inter Press Service, 9/8/1995]

Entity Tags: Smarck Michel, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), International Monetary Fund

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

Haitian Prime Minister Smarck Michel begins a 10-day trip aimed at “unlocking about [$1 billion] in foreign aid stalled after a political row in Haiti about planned privatization.” He begins in New York where he meets with commercial bankers. Afterwards, in a two-hour press conference with the Haitian press, he explains to his Haitian viewers that the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are holding back $150 million until Haiti can “fulfill the conditions which structural adjustment demands,” and warns that there will be “dire consequences” if the Haitian people continue to resist privatization and other neoliberal reforms. [Haiti Progres, 9/13/1995]

Entity Tags: World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), International Monetary Fund, Smarck Michel

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

Demonstrations are held in Haiti, protesting against privatization and the foreign occupation of Haiti. [Inter Press Service, 9/28/1995]

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

During the World Bank’s annual meeting, the Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pressure Haiti to sign a letter of intent assuring the US, IMF, and other donors that Haiti would proceed with the Structural Adjustment Program that President Aristide had agreed to in August 1994 (see August 1994) before he was restored to power by a US-led multinational force. Haiti, whose parliament and population are strongly opposed to the neoliberal reforms, refuses to sign the letter. [Multinational Monitor, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Smarck Michel, Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

US Vice President Al Gore visits Haiti on the one-year anniversary of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s return to power. During his visit, he meets with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and stresses the need for his government to comply with the structural reforms which he had agreed to implement in August 1994 (see August 1994). “We discussed the need for continuing international assistance to meet the developmental requirements of Haiti and the steps the government of Haiti and its people need to take in order to ensure the continued flow of these funds,” Gore recounts during a brief press conference. Earlier in the month, Aristide’s government refused to sign a letter of intent assuring the US, IMF, and other donors that the country would follow though with the mandated reforms (see Early October 1995). [Inter Press Service, 10/16/1995; Multinational Monitor, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: International Monetary Fund, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

Haitian Prime Minister Smarck Michel resigns after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s cabinet refuses to accept the privatization package that the US, IMF, and other international donors have been pushing. He is replaced by Foreign Minister Claudette Werleigh. Michel will return to the Haitian political arena in 2004 when he is appointed as planning minister (see Mid-March 2004) following the February ouster of Aristide. [Inter Press Service, 10/16/1995; Multinational Monitor, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Smarck Michel, International Monetary Fund, Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

Haiti agrees to implement a wide array of neoliberal reforms outlined in the IMF’s $1.2 billion Emergency Economic Recovery Plan (EERP) put together by the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Organization of American States (OAS). The recovery package, to be funded and executed over a five-year period, aims to create a capital-friendly macroeconomic environment for the export-manufacturing sector. It calls for suppressing wages, reducing tariffs, and selling off state-owned enterprises. Notably, there is little in the package for the country’s rural sector, which represents the activities of about 65 percent of the Haitian population. The small amount that does go to the countryside is designated for improving roads and irrigation systems and promoting export crops such as coffee and mangoes. The Haitian government also agrees to abolish tariffs on US imports, which results in the dumping of cheap US foodstuffs on the Haitian market undermining the country’s livestock and agricultural production. The disruption of economic life in the already depressed country further deteriorates the living conditions of the poor. [International Report, 4/3/1995; International Monetary Fund, 10/18/1996; Shamsie, 2002; Dollars and Sense, 9/7/2003; CounterPunch, 3/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Organization of American States (OAS), USAID, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

Timeline Tags: US-Haiti (1804-2005)

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

July 9, 2000: Run-Off Elections Held in Haiti

Haiti holds run-off elections for candidates who failed to win a majority of the votes in the May 21 elections (see May 21, 2000). However 10 senators from the party of Jean-Bertrand Aristide who won only by plurality, and not by majority, are not required to run, prompting immediate criticism from the US, UN, the OAS, and the opposition parties. Donor nations and organizations threaten to continue withholding $400 million in aid. [BBC, 7/11/2000; BBC, 7/14/2000; BBC, 2/7/2001; Miami Herald, 2/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Organization of American States (OAS)

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

The Organization of American States (OAS) blocks $400 million in aid to Haiti from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), citing the unresolved status of the contested 2000 Haitian elections (see May 21, 2000). The aid package was to consist of four separate loans for health, education, drinking water, and road improvements. Though it is claimed that this decision has been reached by a consensus, critical observers raise questions about the influence of an April 6 letter (see April 6, 2001) from a US official asking the IDB to suspend the release of these funds. [London Review of Books, 4/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Organization of American States (OAS)

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

Lawrence Harrington, the US representative to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) sends a letter to Enrique Iglesias, the IDB’s president, recommending that the bank block already approved loans to Haiti. “At this point disbursements could normally begin, assuming all loans conditions had been met,” Harrington writes. “However, we do not believe that these loans can or should be treated in a routine manner and strongly urge you to not authorize any disbursements at this time.” [US Department of State, 4/6/2001 pdf file; London Review of Books, 4/15/2004] The loans are for health, education, drinking water, and road improvements. The OAS will block these loans 14 days later (see (2001)). [London Review of Books, 4/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Organization of American States (OAS), Lawrence Harrington, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Enrique Iglesias

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

With the exception of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, 34 heads of state attending the Organization of American States (OAS) summit, pledge to direct their “Ministers to ensure that negotiations of the FTAA [Free Trade Area of Americas] Agreement are concluded no later than January 2005 and to seek its entry into force as soon as possible thereafter, but in any case, no later than December 2005.” [Haitian Times, 4/18/2001; Andean Community, 4/22/2001; Haiti Weekly News, 5/2/2001] According to an unnamed senior offical at the US State Department, the declaration also lays the groundwork for creating a legal pretext for blocking aid to countries. [US Congress, 7/15/2003 pdf file; London Review of Books, 4/15/2004] The section of the declaration discussing the OAS’s commitment to democracy reads: “… any unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order in a state of the Hemisphere constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to the participation of that state’s government in the Summit of the Americas process….To enhance our ability to respond to these threats, we instruct our Foreign Ministers to prepare, in the framework of the next General Assembly of the OAS, an Inter-American Democratic Charter to reinforce OAS instruments for the active defense of representative democracy.” [Andean Community, 4/22/2001; Haiti Progres, 4/25/2001] During the summit, before the final declaration is made, Haiti is singled out as the region’s problem democracy. “Democracy in certain countries is still fragile,” Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien says, “We are particularly concerned about the case of Haiti. We note the problems which continue to limit the democratic, political, economic, and social development of this country.” [Haiti Progres, 4/25/2001] Press reports note the ant-Aristide atmosphere. The BBC reports, “Correspondents say the presence of Mr. Aristide at the summit has been an embarrassment to some of the leaders, who agreed that only democratic countries would be included in the Free Trade Zone of the Americas.” [BBC, 4/22/2001] The New York Post similarly recounts, “Diplomats said the expressions of concern about Haiti were to make sure that Aristide can’t use his presence at the summit… to claim he has international support.” [New York Post, 4/23/2001] And according to Reuters, “the Summit decided to comment on Haiti because leaders did not want Aristide to return home in triumph.” [New York Post, 4/23/2001; Haiti Progres, 4/25/2001]

Entity Tags: Jean Chretien, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Hugo Chavez Frias, Organization of American States (OAS)

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

The US convinces several European countries to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in credit and aid and provide the IMF, World Bank, and European Union with “vague instructions” to deny other lines of credit to the impoverished Caribbean country of Haiti. The resumption of aid and credit is made contingent on Haitian President Aristide coming to an agreement with the opposition party, the Democratic Convergence, which is controlled and financed by Haitian and US right-wing interests. [Singleton, 5/16/2003 pdf file; Dollars and Sense, 9/7/2003; Taipei Times, 3/1/2004; CounterPunch, 3/1/2004; Observer, 3/2/2004]

Entity Tags: Democratic Convergence, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US-Haiti (1804-2005)

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

During a rally celebrating the anniversary of his first inauguration in 1990, Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide announces that his government is doubling the minimum wage from 36 to 70 gourdes (or about $1.60) a day, despite the strong disapproval of Haiti’s business elites. [Office of Representative Maxine Waters, 2/18/2004; CIS Resource Information Center, 9/20/2005] This marks the second time since his return to office in 1994 that he has doubled the minimum wage (see May 4, 1995).

Entity Tags: Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

The TransAfrica Forum publishes the report, “Withheld International Aid: The US Weapon of Mass Disruption,” which describes the deteriorating social and economic conditions in Haiti that have been accelerated as a result of the US-instigated suspension of aid and credit to Haiti. The report concludes: “the United States and the international community must immediately end its economic sanctions and release the $500 million in approved foreign aid. With this assistance the people of Haiti can move toward breaking the cycle of poverty.” [Singleton, 5/16/2003 pdf file]

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

Haiti uses more than 90 percent of its foreign reserves to pay $32 million in debt service to its international creditors, requiring Aristide’s government to end fuel subsidies and slash spending on health and education programs. Haiti’s debt is of dubious legality, however, as the London-based Haiti Support Group explains: “Haiti’s debt to international financial institutions and foreign governments has grown from $302 million in 1980 to $1.134 billion today. About 40 per cent of this debt stems from loans to the brutal Duvalier dictators, who invested precious little of it in the country. This is known as ‘odious debt’ because it was used to oppress the people, and, according to international law, this debt need not be repaid.” The debt payment increases public dissatisfaction with Aristide’s administration. [Dollars and Sense, 9/7/2003; CounterPunch, 3/1/2004; London Review of Books, 4/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Timeline Tags: US-Haiti (1804-2005)

Category Tags: Economic policy, foreign interference

Seventy wealthy Haitians and Haitian-Americans officially launch Haiti’s first investment bank, PromoCapital. The bank, a 50/50 joint-venture between Haitian and US shareholders, consists of two institutions: PromoCapital Haiti, SA—incorporated in Haiti as a “Societe Financiere de Developpement” —and PromoCapital USA, Inc,—a corporation registered in the state of Delaware. [PromoCapital, 4/2/2004; USA Today, 4/29/2004] The bank’s headquarters are in Petionville, Haiti with representative offices in Washington, DC, and Aventura, Florida. [PromoCapital, 4/2/2004; USA Today, 4/29/2004] Its founder, Dumarsais Simeus, who owns a large food-processing business in Texas, says the bank’s investors hope to see annual returns on their investment in the mid- or high teens. He is also the chair of PromoCapital USA. Henri Deschamps, a prominent Port-au-Prince printing and media executive, is the chairman of PromoCapital Haiti. [PromoCapital, 4/2/2004; USA Today, 4/29/2004] Of the 70 names included on the list of PromoCapital shareholders, nine—Frederic Madsen, Gilbert Bigio, Gregory Brandt, Marc-Antoine Acra, Monique Bigio, Olivier Acra, Ronald Georges, Reuven Bigi, and Sebastien Acra—appear on a US Treasury Department list of people and organizations whose assets had been blocked by the US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control under the Clinton Administration, until 1994. [US Department of the Treasury, 1994] And one of them, Hans Tippenhauer, had told The Washington Post on February 23 that the Haitians had enthusiastically greeted the paramilitary rebel forces as “freedom fighters.” [Washington Post, 2/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Michael Gay Sr., Monique Bigio, Josseline Colimon-Féthière, May Parisien, Olivier Acra, Nadege Tippenhauer, Marc-Antoine Acra, Laurence Bigio, Laurent Pierre-Philippe, Joelle Coupaud, Joseph Baptiste, Julio Bateau, Kimberly Simeus, Patrice Backer, Magdalah Silva, Patrick Delatour, PromoCapital, Patrick Tardieu, Steeve Handal, The Simeus Foundation, Vanessa Dickey, Yael Bigio-Garoute, Yves Joseph, Serge Pinard, Serge Parisien, Sebastien Acra, Régynald Heurtelou, Jerry Tardieu, Reginald Villard, Patrick Moynihan, Reuven Bigio, Rudolph Berrouët, Rudolph Moise, Ronald Georges, Jean-Robert Vertus, Jon Robertson, Jean-Marie Wolff, Elda James, Esq., Elisabeth Delatour, Emile Corneille, Emmanuel Francois, Florence Bellande Robertson, Jean-Pierre Saint-Victor, Frantz Bourget, Dimy Doresca, Daniel Silva, Albert Levy, Axan Abellard, Carlet Auguste, Caroline Racine, Daniel Rouzier, Daniele Jean-Pierre, Esq., Fred Tony, Dumarsais M. Siméus, Fritz Fougy, Henri Deschamps, Hendrik Verwaay, Henry Paul, Jacques Deschamps Fils, Herve Francois, Jean-Henry Céant, Harriet Michel, Gregory Brandt, Gabrielle Alexis, Esq., Gary Jean-Baptiste, Hans Tippenhauer, Frederic Madsen, Gerd Pasquet, Gilbert Bigio, Georges J. Casimir

Category Tags: The opposition/post-Artistide gov't, Economic policy, foreign interference

The new Haitian government halts funding and other support to Haiti’s popular organizations (“OPs”) which oversee literacy programs, food and shelter programs, and orphanages. [Griffin, 4/11/2004 pdf file]

Category Tags: The opposition/post-Artistide gov't, Economic policy, foreign interference

“Following a US-backed plan,” Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue meets with political leaders to begin the process of selecting thirteen ministers for a new interim government. People who had worked in the government since 2000 are automatically disqualified. Additionally, no representatives from any political parties—the Lavalas Family Party or the opposition—are supposed to be included in the interim cabinet. Notably, several of those chosen have held posts in international development organizations, which as the Haiti Support Group notes, “have been very active in Haiti for many decades without making any discernible progress with the country’s social or economic development.” Among those chosen are Yvon Simeon as foreign minister; Bernard Gousse, an anti-Aristide lawyer, as justice minister; Henri Bazan, president of the Haitian Association of Economists, UN consultant, as finance minister; former Gen. Herard Abraham as interior minister; Josette Bijoux, World Health Organization, as public health minister; Daniel Saint-Lot, Director of Training for the controversial USAID-funded, community radio development program, RAMAK, as commerce, industry and tourism minister, Pierre Buteau, as education and culture minister; Roland Pierre, agronomist, as planning and environment minister, Smarck Michel, former primer minister, as planning minister. [CNN, 3/16/2004; Haiti Support Group, 3/17/2004] Despite Latortue’s assurances, several of these people do have ties to political parties. Yvon Simeon, was the Democratic Convergence’s representative in Europe and Bernard Gousse is said to be an active member of the Group of 184. [Haiti Support Group, 3/17/2004] Interestingly, many of the new cabinet members, like Mr. LaTortue himself, are from Boca Raton, Florida, leading some observers to refer to the new government as the “Boca Regime.” [Z Magazine, 5/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Josette Bijoux, Yvon Simeon, Smarck Michel, Mac Donald Jean, Herard Abraham, Roland Pierreas, Paul Emile Simon, Pierre Buteau, Lamartine Clermont, Danielle Magliore, Gerard Latortue, Anne-Marie Issa, Ariel Henry, Henri Bazan, Christian Rousseau, Bernard Gousse, Daniel Saint-Lot

Category Tags: The opposition/post-Artistide gov't, Economic policy, foreign interference, Foreign involvement

In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger F. Noriega speaks about Haiti. On the issue of democracy, he says that under Aristide the people of Haiti had “lost their democracy,” explaining, “Leaders can undermine a republic and their own legitimacy by their actions and that is how a people can lose their democracy.” He contends that Aristide had willfully refused to “give any quarter to or compromise with political adversaries.” [US Department of State, 4/14/2004] In the section of his speech titled, “Principles of US Engagement in Haiti,” Noriega says the US will help Haiti adopt neoliberal reforms: “We will provide technical and legal aid to update Haiti’s Commercial Code, which dates from the 19th century, in order to help create the right environment for growth and wealth creation. We will also encourage the Government of Haiti to move forward, at the appropriate time, with restructuring and privatization of some public sector enterprises through a transparent process.” [US Department of State, 4/14/2004]

Entity Tags: American Enterprise Institute, Roger Francisco Noriega

Category Tags: The opposition/post-Artistide gov't, Economic policy, foreign interference, Foreign involvement

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