Monday, September 29, 2008

1990: first free election in Haiti

On December 17, 1990 Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a radical Roman Catholic priest and opponent of the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier, was elected president of Haiti in a landslide victory. It was the first free election in Haiti's history. However, less than one year later, in September 1991, Aristide was deposed in a bloody military coup. He escaped to exile, and a three-man junta took power.

In 1994, reacting to evidence of atrocities committed by Haiti's military dictators, the United Nations authorized the use of force to restore Aristide. On September 18, the eve of the American invasion, a diplomatic delegation led by former US President Jimmy Carter brokered a last-minute agreement with Haiti's military to give up power.

Bloodshed was prevented, and on September 19, 1994, 20,000 US troops landed unopposed to oversee Haiti's transition to democracy. In October, Aristide returned and served as president until the expiration of his term in 1996.

He was succeeded by his close friend and handpicked successor Rene Preval, who was elected president in a landslide victory the previous year. In 2000, Aristide was again elected Haitian president in an election marked by violence and corruption. (info from

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