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Haiti Term Paper
Andrew Gregory
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Introduction:
The republic of Haiti is a sovereign state that shares the Hispaniola Island with the
Dominican Republic, located in the in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea of
the Atlantic Ocean. The size is 10,714 square miles and the population is roughly eleven million
people, which makes it the second most populated sovereign state of the Caribbean. The climate
is tropical as Haiti features about eleven hundred miles of coastline along with mountainous
valleys inland. Columbus first discovered the Hispaniola Island back in 1492 on his original
voyage. After centuries of Spanish and subsequent French control, Haiti officially gained its
independence in 1804 after both the French Revolution and the Haitian Revolution. The official
languages of Haiti are Creole and French and its population is roughly 95% African-Haitian, and
5% Mulatto (half white, half African-Haitian) and White (https://haitipartners.org/haitistatistics/). About 65% of Haiti’s population is individuals under the age of twenty-five
(http://www.sakala-haiti.org/cite-soleil/).
Government:
Haiti’s government is a semi-presidential republic, which is a system that features both a
presidential head-of-state and a prime minister and accompanying cabinet. The President selects
the prime minister and the members of cabinet, and then the prime minister works directly with
those cabinet members on legislation. Only the president and prime minister have executive
control and options over governing operations. The president is elected in a democratic popular
election after candidates are vetted in primaries. The National Assembly of Haiti is a parliament
comprised of upper seats in senator roles, and lower seats in deputy roles. The country is
governed as one single entity spearheaded by the parliamentary legislature, who then delegates to
departments. Although Haiti has a constitution founded in 1987 (which is based on the United
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States of America’s own Constitution), the parliament does not make decisions in accordance to
the document and instead makes decisions as it pleases (https://haitipartners.org/haiti-statistics/).
Haiti has struggled with oppression and with revolutions. Throughout its existence, Haiti
has endured 32 coups and is one of the only countries in the world to have succumbed to a slave
revolution. Tainted by oppressive dictatorships, Haiti’s political history is one of dubious tenure.
Because of its instability, many countries around the world, including the United States of
America, have intervened in Haiti’s political structure with the intention of aiding and correcting
the nation. According to a 2006 study by the Corruption Perceptions Index (a ranking of sorts
that lists countries according to perceived government corruption), Haiti contains one of the most
corrupt governments in the world, most notably at local levels, but in higher-ups as well.
(https://web.archive.org/web/20060619145956/http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/sur
veys_indices/cpi). Bribery is the number one instance of corruption in this country, likely due to
the high levels of poverty and power-distance. Approximately seventy percent of Haitians live on
about $2.00 U.S. dollars per day (https://haitipartners.org/haiti-statistics/). This enormous income
inequality results in most of the country being poor and the wealthy of the country being corrupt.
This also results in an incursion of crime, such as theft, bribery, grand-theft auto, fraud, etc.
Crime:
The paragon of such crime is represented in the city of Cité Soleil, located in the PortAu-Prince region of the Haitian coast. With over four-hundred thousand residents, this town is
one of the most densely populated places in all of Haiti with approximately twenty-nine thousand
people per square mile (http://www.sakala-haiti.org/cite-soleil/). Nearly all residents live in
extreme, unemployed poverty while the city is effectively being run by ruthless gangs. There is
no sewage system in place, and instead there are subpar canals for which the residents use as a
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sewer. There are only two schools for the entire city with many students flunking out instead of
graduating, and the hospitals/medical care are extremely abysmal (http://www.sakalahaiti.org/cite-soleil/). The United Nations declared it to be one of the most dangerous places on
Earth due to the gang violence and the extreme abundance of crimes/murders/diseases. Multiple
attempts have been made to extricate the city from gang control, however, despite temporary
successes, gangs often revert into power. The city remains one of the biggest eye-sores and
embarrassments of the country as it consistently impairs Haiti’s reputation around the rest of the
world.
Corruption:
As previously stated, Haiti is one of the world leaders in government corruption, but it is
also a world leader in crime rate (https://haitipartners.org/haiti-statistics/). A notable example is
when former president Duvalier from 1971 to 1986 stole roughly five-hundred million United
States dollars from the country’s treasury and from its citizens. The legal system is blatantly bias
and unfair as iniquitous rulings are made without proper trial. The Port-au-Prince penitentiary
houses half of Haiti’s inmates. Although the prison can only hold twelve hundred individuals, the
prison is crammed with over four thousand prisoners. This is due to a lack of federal funding to
the prison systems, as well as corruption in the legal system; an estimated 80% of prisoners are
there despite no convictions (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4241466/Haitian-prisoninmates-live-filthy-conditions.html). Laws require that of those arrested must report to a judge
within forty-eight hours and if not there is immediate incarceration; however, the process is
expensive and not many people have the funding to pay for the legal fees which in turn leads to
such a high incarceration rate. Prison inmates are allowed only one hour a day to leave their cells
and are served old/expired food. They have no access to bathrooms and instead have to defecate
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into bags. These conditions in the prisons are deplorable and deemed “in-humane” by the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-39034992).
Military/Police Force:
The nation’s military was disbanded in the 1990’s, as a result, the domestic peacekeepers
became the Haitian National Police force. This militia is a conduit for the legislative branch to
have power and authority over its own citizens as the members strictly follow orders from the
Haitian deputies/senators rather than a police commissioner or governor
(https://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/corruption_is_endemic_in_haitis_public_instit
utions). The issue with this militia is that there is no capitalist competition, nor are there any
regulations or checks and balances of power. As a result, the militia has become corrupt and
bought-out as people easily and successfully bribe officers for their own benefit.
Despite the ampleness of corruption and crimes, Haiti is surprisingly one of the safer
countries of the Caribbean. According to a report and study by the United Nations Office on
Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Haitian murder rates were 10.2 out of 100,000; which is below the
Caribbean average (26 out of 100,000) as well as top competitors in the region like Jamaica (39.3
out of 100,000) or the neighboring Dominican Republic (22.1 out of 100,000)
(http://www.unodc.org/documents/gsh/pdfs/2014_GLOBAL_HOMICIDE_BOOK_web.pdf).
The reason for the attenuation of murders can be linked directly to the increasing of its police
force. In 2012, Haiti parliament made a pledge to increase the national police force by 50% each
year until 2016. In addition to the raw increase in police force, Haiti’s national police made
strides in the technological department due to the direct and indirect support of the United
Nations as well as other countries.
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These changes were immediately successful as gang violence was curtailed and one of
the most infamous kidnapping rings was sought out and dismantled due to the newfound
technological capabilities (http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/headline-Haiti-among-safestdestinations-in-the-Americas%252C-say-recent-studies-14006.html). The United States has
directly offered assistance to Haiti’s national police by way of the New York Police Department,
the largest police force in America. The New York Police Department sent officials to Haiti to
assist in the rebuild of its police force by training officers and teaching/providing new
technologies (https://nypost.com/2010/01/21/nypd-to-help-train-haitian-police/). The United
States also funded police infrastructure improvements by providing greater communications
support in violent neighborhoods like Cité Soleil and Caracol. Haiti is quietly mending its
negative safety reputation and is becoming one of the safest tropical destinations in the
Caribbean.
Economy:
Haiti is a free market economy highlighted by low labor costs with no export tariffs to
certain countries (notably the United States). Their GDP is about eight billion U.S. dollars, which
is seven-hundred U.S. dollars per Capita, and it is growing at about 1.4% per year. Remittances
account for one fourth of this GDP and are twice the amount from exporting goods
(https://www.forbes.com/places/haiti/). About forty percent of Haitians rely directly upon the
agricultural sector for their income. Close to sixty percent of the population is below the poverty
line with unemployment stagnating over forty percent (https://www.forbes.com/places/haiti).
Haiti’s inflation has been increasing in recent years and is currently thirteen percent. America is
the top trading partner with Haiti primarily exporting commercial goods. This is because the
Haiti Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) and Haiti Economic
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Lift Program Encouragement Acts (HELP) allow for Haiti to trade with the United States
without invoking various fees or tariffs (https://www.forbes.com/places/haiti/).
Haiti’s GDP was previously on a more progressive slope, having a growth rate of 5.5%
back in 2011. The steady rise can be attributed to the economy recovering and stabilizing after
the destructive earthquake that struck the year prior. Despite the country making astounding
progress recovering (much due to the assistance of the United Nations, United States, and other
countries’ relief efforts), the GDP growth decelerated. In 2015 and 2016, the rate fell below 2%,
the cause of which can be faulted on the political instability and corruption of the nation as
Haitians and others around the world became uncertain and unhopeful for what the future holds
for the nation (https://www.forbes.com/places/haiti/).
In addition to the uncertainty, Haiti ran out of the foreign aid that rolled in after the 2010
earthquake; relief funds had been depleted. All of these factors combined to hinder the economy
as the national currency decreased in value and foreign countries avoided dealing with Haiti to
avoid uncertain risks altogether. October 2016 brought another natural disaster as Hurricane
Matthew, a category four storm, decimated Haiti and affected over two million citizens.
Considerable damage was done to the infrastructure of the country, as well as houses,
agriculture, livestock, etc. This brought in a new influx of foreign humanitarian aid that Haiti is
still currently utilizing (https://www.forbes.com/places/haiti/).
As previously mentioned, the United States is Haiti’s number one trade partner. Under
deals such as the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) and HOPE, the United States
provides Haiti with reliable trade options by minimizing tariffs and other inherit costs. These
deals also provide benefits to Haiti for their trade and encourages and enhances their exporting of
clothing apparel. This clothing market accounted for over eight-hundred and fifty million U.S.
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dollars, which equates to over ninety percent of their total exported goods and ten percent of
their GDP (https://www.forbes.com/places/haiti/). Their next largest economic force behind the
textile industry is agriculture. More than half of the world’s supply of vetiver oil, which is a
component of perfumes, originates from Haiti (https://www.heritage.org/index/country/haiti).
Other agricultural products are bananas, cocoa, mangoes, and other crops. Behind agriculture,
Haiti has made strides in recent years to develop a manufacturing industry; producing Androidbased tablets and various technological sensors, transformers, and other hardware
(https://www.heritage.org/index/country/haiti).
Investing in Haiti is a slippery slope as most are discouraged by the political instability,
susceptibility to natural disasters, misuse of funds, and poor infrastructure. Haiti was and still is
one of the most in-debt countries of the world: owing above two billion U.S. dollars, most of
which to the United States and Venezuela (https://www.forbes.com/places/haiti/). Most of their
debt has been frozen during the natural disasters (earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in
2016). Haiti barely imports more than it exports, but nonetheless the trade exchange results in a
negative relation. Haiti relies heavily on the world bank and other countries for financial aid:
over twenty percent of its annual budge originates from some type of foreign aid
(https://www.forbes.com/places/haiti/).
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