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 Map of Haiti




The native Taino Amerindians - who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when it was discovered by COLUMBUS in 1492 - were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola, and in 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island, which later became Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean, but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. In the late 18th century, Haiti's nearly half million slaves revolted under Toussaint L'OUVERTURE. After a prolonged struggle, Haiti became the first black republic to declare its independence in 1804. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. After an armed rebellion led to the departure of President Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE in February 2004, an interim government took office to organize new elections under the auspices of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Continued violence and technical delays prompted repeated postponements, but Haiti finally did inaugurate a democratically elected president and parliament in May of 2006.



The island of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Caribbean, contains two separate countries; the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Columbus claimed Hispaniola in 1492, and it later became the major launching base for the Spanish conquest of the Caribbean, as well as the American mainland. Subsequently, disease and slavery were introduced by the Spanish conquistadors, and the indigenous Arawak peoples were destroyed. In the 17th Century, with the Spanish in control, the French established a colony on the island. The Spanish later ceded the western third of Hispaniola in 1697, which in 1804 became known as Haiti, at the conclusion of the Haitian Slave Revolt.


Since then, Haiti has been ruled by a seemingly-endless line of dictators; who imposed absolute obedience to their authority. That political turmoil has continually divided Haiti into a very small and wealthy elite, and a large underclass of people with little or no economic or political power.


Quick Facts and Figures

Official Name Republic of Haiti

Population 8,490,200

Capital City Port-au-Prince (1.4 million)

Languages French (official), French Creole (official)

Official Currency Gourde

Religions Catholic (80%), others

Latitude/Longitude 18º 54N, 72º 34W

Land Area 27,400 sq km (10,569 sq miles)

Landforms Haiti, occupying the western third of the island of Hispaniola, consists of two peninsulas, separated by the Gonave Gulf.

It's a rugged, mountainous land, dominated by three main massifs (mountain ranges). The highest point is Pic La Stelle in the Massif De La Selle. It stands at 8,793 ft. (2,680 m).

Lake Azuei and Lake of Miragoane are the only significant lakes. There are a few dozen small rivers, with the Artibonite the only major one.





Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty. Two-thirds of all Haitians depend on the agriculture sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, and remain vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by the country's widespread deforestation. A macroeconomic program developed in 2005 with the help of the International Monetary Fund helped the economy grow 1.8% in 2006, the highest growth rate since 1999. Haiti suffers from higher inflation than similar low-income countries, a lack of investment, and a severe trade deficit. In 2005, Haiti paid its arrears to the World Bank, paving the way for reengagement with the Bank. The government relies on formal international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability. In 2006, Haiti held a successful donors conference in which the total aid pledged exceeded Haiti's request. Remittances are the primary source of foreign exchange, equaling nearly a quarter of GDP.




Current account balance:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
-$1 million (2006 est.)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$494 million f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Exports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
manufactures, coffee, oils, cocoa, mangoes
Exports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
US 80%, Dominican Republic 7.6%, Canada 3% (2006)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$1.548 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Imports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
food, manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, raw materials
Imports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
US 46.5%, Netherlands Antilles 11.9%, Brazil 3.8% (2006)



Foreign debt


More than one-third of Haiti’s foreign debt is owed to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), much more to the IMF and other lenders.


Venezuela has made recent news by donating lots of "charity" to the people of Haiti...which includes cheap oil imports, which helps reduce Haiti's debt.


Imports are still heavy on food.


Exports are helped by garment deal with the USA. 



Foreign Aid & Remittances


Haiti is heavily dependent on foreign aid and on remittances from expats (especially from the US, and Canada).  One third of Haiti's GDP comes from remittances. 






Violence, Crime, gang violence (drugs), and war;  Since 2004, about 8,000 peacekeepers from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) maintain civil order in Haiti; despite efforts to control illegal migration, Haitians cross into the Dominican Republic and sail to neighboring countries


Drug trafficking, especially to the US.  Caribbean transshipment point for cocaine en route to the US and Europe; substantial bulk cash smuggling activity; Colombian narcotics traffickers favor Haiti for illicit financial transactions; pervasive corruption; significant consumer of cannabis


Immigration to the US:  if you live in Miami, you know that the Haitians get treated badly, while the Cubans get treated like royalty (at least by the authorities in S. Florida).  If a Cuban arrives as an exile, the US has a wet foot / dry foot policy which means that if they make it to the US, then they can stay, but if they are caught at sea, then they have to go back.  Haitians, however, dont have this treatment.  If the US finds them dry foot or no foot, they are going back. 





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