Haiti–United States relations

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Haiti-United States relations
Map indicating locations of Haiti and USA


United States

Haiti–United States relations are bilateral relations between Haiti and the United States. Succeeding U.S. presidents refused to recognize Haiti until Abraham Lincoln. The U.S. tried to establish a military base in Haiti and invaded. It withdrew in 1934 but continued to intervene in Haiti during subsequent decades.

According to the 2011 U.S. Global Leadership Report, 79% of Haitians approved of U.S. leadership, with 18% disapproving and 3% uncertain, the highest rating for any surveyed country in the Americas.[1]

Because of Haiti's location, Haiti has the potential to affect the stability of the Caribbean and Latin America and is therefore strategically important to the United States. Historically, the United States viewed Haiti as a counterbalance to Communist leaders in Cuba. Haiti's potential as a trading partner and an actor in the drug trade makes the nation strategically important to the United States. Moreover, both nations are tied by a large Haitian diaspora residing in the United States.[2]


Haiti–United States relations (1800–1914)[edit]

Then-U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton[3]: 22  and other Federalists supported Toussaint Louverture's revolution against France in Haiti, revolution fought by enslaved Africans. Hamilton's suggestions helped shape the Haitian Constitution. In 1804 Haiti became the Western Hemisphere's first independent state with a majority Black population. Hamilton urged closer economic and diplomatic ties.[3]: 23 

Hamilton and Timothy Pickering worked to convince John Adams to appoint Edward Stevens as the United States consul-general in Saint-Domingue (later Haiti) from 1799 to 1800.[4] Adams sent Stevens to Haiti with instructions to establish a relationship with Toussaint and express support for his regime.[5] The Federalist administration hoped to incite a movement toward Haitian independence, but Louverture maintained a colonial relationship with France.[6] Stevens's title, consul, suggested a diplomat attached to a country not a colony, reflecting the Adams administration's view of the Haitian situation.[6] Following his arrival in Haiti in April 1799, Stevens succeeded in accomplishing several of his objectives, including: the suppression of privateers operating out of the colony, protections for American lives and property, and right of entry for American vessels.[7] Stevens pushed for similar privileges for the British, who, like the United States were engaged in conflict with France. Negotiations between Haiti and Britain were difficult given Haitian apprehension about a possible British invasion and Britain's fears of the revolt leading to unrest in the British West Indies. Stevens was forced to serve as the British agent for a period since the Haitians remained opposed to allowing a British official to land in the colony.[8] The convention, signed on June 13, 1799, continued an armistice among the three parties and gave protections to British and American merchantmen from Haitian privateers, in addition to allowing American and British ships to enter Haiti and engage in free trade.[9]

Following the Federalist Party's defeat in the 1800 United States presidential election, the United States under President Jefferson (a Virginia slaveowner who only supported manumission of African-Americans from slavery on the condition of voluntary removal to Africa) withdrew diplomatic recognition from Toussaint's autonomous government and worked to curry favors with the government of Napoleon Bonaparte. After Haiti gained its independence from France in 1804, whites in the pro-slavery Southern U.S. worried that would influence slaves in the U.S., and the U.S. refused to recognize Haiti's subsequent independence until 1862, after the Southerners in Congress had departed for the Confederacy and Republicans took control of congress.[10] President Andrew Johnson suggested annexing the island to secure influence over Europe in the Caribbean.[10] The US government never followed through but posted active military on the island.[10] In the 19th century, people who were mixed-race and blacks often entered into conflicts and called on foreign intervention.[citation needed] According to historian Hans Schmidt, the US Navy sent ships to Haiti 19 times between 1857 and 1913 to "protect American lives and property" until the United States finally occupied Haiti in 1915.[2]: 330–331  One example of a US-Haiti conflict was the Môle Saint-Nicolas affair.

Occupations of Haiti by the United States (1915–1934)[edit]

From 1915 to 1934 the US Marines occupied Haiti.[10] Prior to the occupation, the US military had taken control of the banks and collected $500,000 to hold in New York.[10] The Haitian constitution was written in a manner that prevented foreign entities from owning land or operating in Haiti. However, as a result of the occupation, the US had influenced the Haitian government to rewrite the constitution to repeal an 1804 provision that forbade foreigners from owning land in Haiti.[11] The occupation impacted the nation's economy as well as the people's self-image and independence. Ultimately, Haitians united in resistance of the US occupation, and US forces left in 1934.[12] Left behind was a newly trained Haitian Army, the Garde, with mostly black soldiers and mulatto officers, who dominated political office until 1947.[2]

US interventions in Haiti (1957–2005)[edit]

From 1957 to 1971, François Duvalier governed Haiti under a repressive dictatorship. Some argue the US tolerated the regime because it was staunchly anti-communist and a counterbalance to communist Cuba during the Cold War. When Duvalier died, his son, Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc") took over and maintained many of his father's policies.[13]: 3–4 

The Reagan administration forced Baby Doc to leave in 1986, and when a repressive military dictatorship arose, Reagan suspended aid. The George H.W. Bush administration also embargoed and then blockaded Haiti, suspending all but humanitarian aid.[13]: 4 


After the fall of the Duvalier family and other military regimes, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected in 1990, but he was toppled in a coup 7 months later. In 1993, the Clinton administration began to impose an economic blockade, which further impoverished the country, and in 1994, it eventually intervened militarily restore Aristide to power.[13]: 4 [2] US support for Aristide waned following concerns about his corruption, and a February 2004 armed rebellion led to his exile.[13]: 4 

After René Préval succeeded Aristide, aid flowed again to Haiti, totaling $1.5 billion from 1990 to 2005.[13]: 7 

Since 1994[edit]

US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft and Haitian President Moïse in 2019

Some policy experts argue that US policy and interventions have made problems in Haiti worse by making Haitian welfare America's responsibility.[13]: 5  US policy toward Haiti is officially intended to foster and strengthen democracy; help alleviate poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition; promote respect for human rights; and counter illegal migration and drug trafficking. The US also supports and facilitates bilateral trade and investment along with legal migration and travel. US policy goals are met through direct bilateral action and by working with the international community. The US has taken a leading role in organizing international involvement with Haiti and works closely with the Organization of American States (OAS), particularly through its Secretary General's "Friends of Haiti" group (originally a UN group that included the US, Canada, France, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, which was enlarged in 2001 to add Germany, Spain, Norway, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and The Bahamas), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and individual countries to achieve policy goals.[citation needed]

According to a 2005–2006 poll, 67 percent of Haitians would emigrate if they could, and 2 million people of Haitian descent live in the United States, 60 percent of whom are American-born. Four-fifths of Haiti's college-educated citizens live outside Haiti.[13] Following the January 2010 earthquake, the Department of Homeland Security temporarily stopped deportations of Haitians and granted Temporary Protected Status for 18 months for Haitian nationals.[14]: ii 

In 2010, US President Bill Clinton apologized for his role in demanding for Haiti to drop tariffs on the importation of subsidized US rice, which had a negative effect on Northern Haitian rice farmers.[15] On May 24, 2010, the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) was signed into US law, ensuring preferential tariffs for Haitian-produced garments.[16] On October 22, 2012, acting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the keynote speech for the opening of the controversial Caracol industrial park.[17][18][19][20][21]

In 2011, WikiLeaks leaked info that showed the Obama administration fought to keep Haitian wages at 31 cents an hour when the Haiti government passed a law raising its minimum wage to 61 cents an hour.[22][23]

In November 2019, US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft met with President of Haiti Jovenel Moïse at the Haiti National Palace about ways to implement a consensual resolution of Haiti's political crisis through inclusive dialogue.[24][25] Craft later met with political leaders from other Haitian parties, listened to their different views, and urged an inclusive solution with Moïse.[25][26] She also urged the Haitian government to fight corruption, investigate and prosecute human rights abusers, and combat narcotics and human trafficking.[25]

U.S. economic and development assistance to Haiti[edit]

Haitian President René Préval (left) and George W. Bush (right) at the Oval Office, White House in Washington, D.C., on May 8, 2007.

Political insecurity and the failure of Haiti's governments to invest in developing the country's natural and human resources has contributed significantly to the country's current state of underdevelopment. U.S. efforts to strengthen democracy and help build the foundation for economic growth aim to rectify this condition. The U.S. has been Haiti's largest donor since 1973. Between FY 1995 and FY 2003, the U.S. contributed more than $850 million in assistance to Haiti. Since 2004, the U.S. has provided over $600 million for improving governance, security, the rule of law, economic recovery, and critical human needs. The President's budget request for FY 2007 was $198 million. U.S. Government funds have been used to support programs that have addressed a variety of problems.

Some experts, however, have criticized the conditional nature of U.S. aid to Haiti. Often U.S. aid is provided based on conditions dictated by U.S. policy goals, not by Haitian institutions. This appears to be the case for some NGO programs funded under USAID.[13]: 27  USAID also played a role in the eradication of the Creole pig, an important asset to small Haitian farmers, during the 1980s as part of an effort to combat an outbreak of the African swine fever virus.

Haiti has been plagued for decades by extremely high unemployment and underemployment. The precipitous decline in urban assembly sector jobs, from a high of over 100,000 in 1986 to fewer than 20,000 in 2006, exacerbated the scarcity of jobs. To revitalize the economy, U.S. assistance attempts to create opportunities for stable sustainable employment for the growing population, particularly in rural areas. More recently, programs that help to increase commercial bank lending to micro-enterprises, especially in the agricultural sector, have helped to create a significant number of jobs. U.S. assistance is channeled primarily through private voluntary agencies and contractors to ensure efficient implementation of U.S. assistance programs.[citation needed]

Combating Haitian drug trafficking[edit]

Haiti is a major transshipment point for South American narcotics, primarily cocaine, being sent to the United States. To counter this, the U.S. has taken a number of steps, including vetting and training the counter narcotics division of the Haitian National Police, providing material assistance and training to the Haitian Coast Guard for drug and migrant interdiction, and obtaining the expulsion of several traffickers under indictment in the United States.[27]

U.S. response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake[edit]

The National Palace following the 2010 earthquake.

The largest earthquake ever recorded in Haiti's history occurred on January 12, 2010 and registered 7.0 on the Richter scale. The quake centered 15 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince and caused catastrophic damage. U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth H. Merten issued a disaster declaration and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) became the lead agency for the U.S. government's response to the disaster. USAID authorized $50,000 for the initial implementation of an emergency response program. The U.S. government also established an interagency task force to coordinate search and rescue efforts, logistics and infrastructure support, provision of assistance, and conducting needs assessments.[14]: ii 

Recent reporting suggests that some in-kind humanitarian aid from the United States has disrupted some of Haiti's internal markets, including the rice supply chain.[28]

Although the State Department and Defense Department have set aside $98.5 million to remove 1.2 million cubic yards of debris, efforts are hampered however by lack of equipment and resources[29]

On January 14, the Obama administration announced $100 million in humanitarian assistance to Haiti to meet its immediate needs, in addition to pre-existing funding appropriated for Haiti. USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) sent a 32-member Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART).[14]: 11 

U.S. military response[edit]

U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) oversaw the Department of Defense's (DOD) response, and it deployed military assets in Operation United Response that supported U.S. and international assistance efforts. As of February 2010, DOD had 20,458 military personnel stationed in Haiti or in its waters. Twenty-six Navy and Coast Guard vessels, 68 helicopters, and over 50 fixed-wing aircraft assisted in the transportation of supplies, relief and rescue personnel, and casualties. U.S. Air Force Special Operations command personnel dispatched to Port-au-Prince within 24 hours of the earthquake and restored air traffic control capability and enabled airfield operations, provided immediate medical services, and conducted search and rescue missions. As of February 2010, DOD delivered 2.1 million bottled waters, 1.79 million food rations, more than 100,000 pounds of medical supplies, and more than 844,000 of bulk fuel. Additional tasks undertaken by DOD personnel include casualty treatment both ashore and afloat, aerial reconnaissance to assist rescue/supply efforts, the distribution of hand-held commercial radios, and the provision of radio broadcast capacity for emergency services information.[14]: 12 

Donald Trump's "shithole countries" comment[edit]

On 11 January 2018, The Washington Post reported that, in a discussion on protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries, Donald Trump allegedly said, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"[30] After the report was released, Trump denied on Twitter that he used the term "shithole countries", but said that he used tough language in regards to the countries.[31] Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the United Nations condemned Trump's comment, describing it as "racist".[32] Laurent Lamothe, the former Prime Minister of Haiti, also criticized Trump's comment.[32] Following several days of riots over Trump's comments, the American embassy in Port-au-Prince was closed on 23 January 2018.[33]

U.S. business opportunities in Haiti[edit]

Opportunities for U.S. businesses include the development and trade of raw and processed agricultural products; medical supplies and equipment; rebuilding and modernizing Haiti's depleted infrastructure; developing tourism and allied sectors—including arts and crafts; and improving capacity in waste disposal, transportation, energy, telecommunications, and export assembly operations. Haiti's primary assembly sector inputs include textiles, electronics components, and packaging materials. Other U.S. export prospects include electronic machinery, including power-generation, sound and television equipment, plastics and paper, construction materials, plumbing fixtures, hardware, and lumber. Benefits for both Haitian and American importers and exporters are available under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA)--which provides for duty-free export of many Haitian products assembled from U.S. components or materials—the successor program to the Caribbean Basin Initiative, and the HOPE Act, which provides additional duty-free preferences for qualifying apparel/textiles products and automotive wire harnesses.[34]

U.S. export opportunities also exist for four-wheel-drive vehicles, consumer electronics, rice, wheat, flour, animal and vegetable fats, meat, vegetables, and processed foodstuffs. The Government of Haiti seeks to reactivate and develop agricultural industries where Haiti enjoys comparative advantages, among which are essential oils, spices, fruits and vegetables, and sisal. The government encourages the inflow of new capital and technological innovations. Additional information on business opportunities in Haiti can be found at the Country Commercial Guide for Haiti.[35]

Establishing a U.S. business in Haiti[edit]

Individuals wishing to practice a trade in Haiti must obtain an immigrant visa from a Haitian Consulate and, in most cases, a government work permit. Transient and resident traders must also have a professional ID card.[36]

Property restrictions still exist for foreign individuals. Property rights of foreigners are limited to 1.29 hectares in urban areas and 6.45 hectares in rural areas. No foreigner may own more than one residence in the same district, or own property or buildings near the border. To own real estate, authorization from the Ministry of Justice is necessary.[37]

Principal U.S. officials in Haiti[edit]

  • Ambassador – vacant
  • Charge d’Affaires a.i. - Kenneth Merten
  • Deputy Chief of Mission – Nicole Theriot[citation needed]
  • Management Counselor - Richard Peterson
  • Public Affairs Officer – Alex Daniels
  • USAID Director – Chris Cushing
  • CDC Director - Yoran Grant-Greene

Principal Haitian officials in the U.S.[edit]

Diplomatic missions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Global Leadership Project Report - 2012 Gallup
  2. ^ a b c d Easterly, William (2006). The White Man's Burden. New York: Penguin Books. pp. 330–331.
  3. ^ a b Horton, James Oliver (2004). "Alexander Hamilton: slavery and race in a revolutionary generation" (PDF). New-York Journal of American History. 65: 16–24. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  4. ^ CDSB 2008.
  5. ^ Bender 2006, p. 108.
  6. ^ a b Girard 2009, p. 100.
  7. ^ Treudley 1916, p. 134.
  8. ^ Treudley 1916, p. 135-137.
  9. ^ Treudley 1916, p. 136.
  10. ^ a b c d e Buschschluter, Vanessa (January 16, 2010). "The Long History of Troubled Ties Between Haiti and the US". BBC News. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  11. ^ Steckley, Marylynn; Weis, Tony (2016-12-20). "Agriculture in and beyond the Haitian catastrophe". Third World Quarterly. 38 (2): 397–413. doi:10.1080/01436597.2016.1256762. ISSN 0143-6597.
  12. ^ "Haiti's resistance to U.S. rule". SocialistWorker.org. Retrieved 2018-06-27.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Buss, Terry F.; Gardner, Adam (February 2006). "Why Foreign Aid to Haiti Failed (and How to Do It Better Next Time)" (PDF). Academy International Affairs Working Paper Series. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Public Administration. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 13, 2017. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  14. ^ a b c d Margesson, Rhonda; Taft-Morales (February 2, 2010). "Haiti Earthquake: Crisis and Response" (PDF). CRS Reports for Congress. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  15. ^ Goodman, Amy (April 1, 2010). ""We Made a Devil's Bargain": Fmr. President Clinton Apologizes for Trade Policies that Destroyed Haitian Rice Farming". Democracy Now!. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  16. ^ "HR 5160: Haiti Economic Lift Program". govtrack. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  17. ^ Hillary Clinton (October 22, 2012). "Remarks at the Caracol Industrial Park Opening Ceremony". US Department of State. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  18. ^ Susana Ferreira; Andrew Quinn (22 October 2012). "Clintons preside at star-studded opening of Haitian industrial park". Reuters. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  19. ^ Johnston, Jake (January 16, 2014). "Outsourcing Haiti: How disaster relief became a disaster of its own". Boston Review. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  20. ^ Katz, Jonathan (September 10, 2013). "A glittering industrial park in Haiti falls short". Al Jazeera. Retrieved September 23, 2016. In fact, the question of minimum wage could be another drag on investors' interest. Under a recently enacted law, the minimum wage should now be roughly $6.85 a day for garment work. But factory owners have simply refused to pay the higher wages. A recent survey by the International Labor Organization found not a single factory in Haiti currently complying with the new law. Sae-A declined to comment on particulars, stating only that its employees "are compensated in accordance with local laws and regulations."
  21. ^ Claire Lauterbach; Elaine Zuckerman (2013). "Caracol Industrial Park Social and Gender Impacts of Year One of Haiti's newest IFI - funded Industrial Park" (PDF). GenderAction. Gender Action. p. 35. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  22. ^ "WIKILEAKS: U.S. Fought to Lower Minimum Wage in Haiti So Hanes and Levis Would Stay Cheap". 2011-06-04.
  23. ^ "WikiLeaks Haiti: Let Them Live on $3 a Day". The Nation. June 2011.
  24. ^ "Jovenel Moïse et Kelly Craft s'entretiennent sur les mécanismes du dialogue". Haiti24. 20 November 2019.
  25. ^ a b c "The United States supports Moïse, the opposition remains on its positions: Haiti news". Haiti Libre. 21 November 2019.
  26. ^ "Kelly Craft a rencontré Jovenel Moise, sa présence en Haïti est d'aider à résoudre la crise, dit-elle | Actualités Politiques". Haïti News 2000. 20 November 2019.
  27. ^ "Haiti". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2018-06-27.
  28. ^ Davidson, Adam (June 29, 2010). "Haiti: The Rice Dilemma". Frontline. Boston, Massachusetts: WGBH-TV / Public Broadcasting Service.
  29. ^ Lush, Tamara (September 11, 2010). "Just 2 Percent of Quake Debris in Haiti Cleared". Associated Press.
  30. ^ Dawsey, Josh (11 January 2018). "Trump derides protections for immigrants from 'shithole' countries". Washington Post. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  31. ^ Fram, Alan; Lemire, Jonathan (12 January 2018). "Trump denies he referred to Africa as a 'shithole'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  32. ^ a b Hjelmgaard, Kim (12 January 2018). "U.N., African countries blast Trump's 'racist' words in angry global backlash". USA TODAY. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  33. ^ "US Embassy in Haiti closed over Anti-Trump protests". Armenian Press. 23 January 2018. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  34. ^ "Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) | U.S. Customs and Border Protection". www.cbp.gov. Retrieved 2018-06-27.
  35. ^ "export.gov". www.export.gov. Retrieved 2018-06-27.
  36. ^ "Immigrant Visas | U.S. Embassy in Haiti". U.S. Embassy in Haiti. Retrieved 2018-06-27.
  37. ^ "Haiti". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2018-06-27.
  38. ^ "Home". Embassy of Haiti.
  39. ^ Embassy of the United States in Port-au-Prince (in Creole, English and French) Archived 2006-04-24 at the Wayback Machine

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from U.S. Bilateral Relations Fact Sheets. United States Department of State.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ballard, John R., and John J. Sheehan. Upholding democracy: the United States military campaign in Haiti, 1994-1997 (Greenwood, 1998).
  • Byrd, Brandon R. The Black Republic: African Americans and the Fate of Haiti (U of Pennsylvania Press, 2019). 312 pp. online review
  • Dash, J. Michael. Haiti and the United States (1997) online
  • Dash, J. Michael. Haiti and the United States: National stereotypes and the literary imagination (Springer, 2016).
  • Edwards, Jason A. "Defining the enemy for the post-Cold War world: Bill Clinton’s foreign policy discourse on Somalia and Haiti." International Journal of Communication (2008) #6 online
  • Koh, Harold Hongju. "The 'Haiti Paradigm' in United States Human Rights Policy." Yale Law Journal 103.8 (1994): 2391–2435. online
  • Logan, Rayford. The Diplomatic Relations of the United States with Haiti, 1776-1891 (1941).
  • Logan, Rayford. Haiti and the Dominican Republic (1968) online
  • Matthewson, Tim. "Jefferson and Haiti." Journal of Southern History 61.2 (1995): 209-248 online.
  • Matthewson, Tim. A Pro-Slavery Foreign Policy: Haitian-American Relations during the Early Republic (2003)
  • Plummer, Brenda Gayle. Haiti and the United States: The psychological moment (U of Georgia Press, 1992).
  • Renda, Mary A. Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism (U of North Carolina Press, 2001).
  • Schmidt, Hans. The United States Occupation of Haiti 1915-1934 (1971)
  • Scherr, Arthur. Thomas Jefferson's Haitian Policy: Myths and Realities. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2011.

External links[edit]