Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010

Haiti's History of Misery

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 forests for 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

America's backyard
Citing the Monroe Doctrine, President Woodrow Wilson orders U.S. Marines to occupy Haiti in 1915. They favor the biracial élite over black Haitians, deepening long-standing tensions. The U.S. withdraws in 1934

Bad medicine
Voodoo doctor François 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 1971, Duvalier's son declares himself President for life

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. troops in 1994. HIV and entrenched poverty ravage the population. Aristide returns to power in 2001 but is forced into exile in 2004

Natural disasters
Hurricanes in 2005 and 2008 displace hundreds of thousands. A period of relative calm precedes this year's massive earthquake