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Haiti: It’s Sad History Through January 12, 2010
Striking Gold • Christopher Columbus sights Haiti in 1492. After the Island becomes a Spanish Colony, disease and harsh working conditions devastate the indigenous population.
Eden Destroyed • Spain cedes Haiti to France in 1697. The island's ecology is wrecked as slaves clear forest and sugar fields.
A Nation is Born • Following 13 years of revolution, Haiti becomes independent in 1804. Former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines assumes the title of Emperor. Rebels kill him two years later. Civil war breaks out.
Ecological Costs of Freedom • To pay for their freedom and to finance the government, the freed slaves deforested Haiti and sold the tropical hardwoods. This resulted in massive erosion and ruined the land for agriculture which reduced the country to the abject poverty that has plagued the country for centuries.
America's Back Yard • Citing the Monroe Doctrine, President Woodrow Wilson orders U.S.Marines to occupy Haiti in 1915. They favor the biracial elite over black Haitians, deepening longstanding tensions. The U.S. withdraws in 1934.
Bad Medicine • Voodoo doctor Francois Duvalier is elected President in 1957. "Papa Doc" vows to extend power to the black masses but turns the country into a police state. In 1964 Duvalier is proclaimed "president for life", a title that is passed onto his son, Jean-Claude, in 1971.
Switzerland will return approximately $12 million, which is only a fraction of all the money that Jean-Claude Duvalier and his family embezzled from their country, Haiti. Duvalier has been enjoying a nice retirement on the French Riviera since he went into exile in 1986 (life must be hard there, compared to the chaos he left behind).
Hopes Dashed • In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide wins the country's first free elections. He is deposed less than eight months later. Tens of thousands flee for Florida in small boats.
New Era, New Problems • After the ruling military junta agrees to give up power, Bill Clinton sends in 20,000 U.S. troups in 1994. HIV and entrenched poverty ravage the population.
History Repeats - In 2001 Aristide returns to power but is forced into exile in 2004.
NaturalDisasters • Hurricanes in 2004 and 2008 displace hundreds of thousands.
January 12, 2010 • At 4:53:09 p.m. on Tuesday a 7.0 earthquake, centered only 15 miles southwest of Haiti's capital city, rocked the nation. The Red Cross estimates that between 45000 and 50000 people died in the quake.
Logistical Problems • What little infrastructure existed in Haiti has been badly damaged and covered with debris. Getting the aid that has been rushed to Haiti to the areas where it is needed has been next to impossible. Many have gone three days without food, water, or medical attention. Bodies have been stacked up at make-shift morgues.