Haiti became the first independent state in Latin America and the Caribbean during the colonial era and the first republic ruled by blacks when it overthrew French rule in the 19th century.
But it suffered cycles of violence, invasion and repression for most of its subsequent history, including the Duvalier dynastic dictatorship.
Haiti’s political history
President Jovenel Moise was shot dead by unidentified assailants during the night, raising fears of a new crisis.
Here are some key events in Haiti’s political history:
1492 – Spain colonizes the island of Hispaniola after the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Two hundred years later, Spain cedes the western half to France. The plantations exploited by slaves of African origin produced sugar, rum and coffee which enriched France.
1801 – The former slave Toussaint Louverture leads a successful revolt and abolishes slavery.
1804 – Haiti becomes independent under the former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who is assassinated in 1806.
1915 – The United States invaded Haiti, withdrew in 1943 but retained financial control and political influence.
1937 – In the worst incident of long-standing rivalry with the neighboring Dominican Republic, thousands of Haitians in the border area are slaughtered by Dominican troops on the orders of dictator Trujillo.
1957 – François “Papa Doc” Duvalier takes power with military support, ushering in a period marked by widespread human rights violations.
1964 – Duvalier declares himself president for life. His dictatorship is marked by repression, imposed by the formidable secret police of Tontons Macoutes.
1971 – Duvalier dies and is replaced by his son, Jean-Claude, or “Baby Doc”. Repression is increasing. Over the following decades, thousands of Haitian “boat people” fled by sea to Florida, many of them dying along the way.
1986 – The popular revolt forces Baby Doc to flee Haiti to go into exile in France. Lieutenant-General Henri Namphy takes over.
1988 – General Prosper Avril succeeds Namphy in a coup.
1990 – Avril declares a state of siege amid protests but resigns before the elections under international pressure.
1990 – Former priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a leftist champion of the poor, wins Haiti’s first free election. He was deposed in a coup in 1991.
1994 – American troops intervene to overthrow the military regime and Aristide returns. The UN peacekeepers were deployed in 1995 and Aristide’s protégé René Préval was elected president.
1999 – Aristide is elected president for a second term despite disputed results.
2004 – Political unrest forces Aristide to flee, but the country sinks into violence.
2006 – Préval wins the elections.
2008 – 2010 – A series of protests, triggered by food shortages, a cholera epidemic and then elections.
2010 – A catastrophic earthquake kills between 100,000 and 300,000 people, according to various estimates, causing considerable damage in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere. Despite an international relief effort, the country is almost overwhelmed, exacerbating political, social and economic problems.
2011 – Michel Martelly wins the second round of the presidential election.
2012-14 Frequent anti-government protests fueled by corruption and poverty. Protesters demand Martelly’s resignation.
2017 – Jovenel Moise, banana exporter turned politician, is declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election.
2019 – Moise regularly accumulates power and governs by decree after Haiti fails to hold elections due to political stalemate and unrest.
2021 – Thousands of people take to the streets chanting “No to dictatorship” and demanding the resignation of Moise.