XI. 1986 to 2013

By 1986, discontent with the Duvalier dictatorship had spread in the army, the business community, the peasantry, and especially in Haiti’s schools and base church communities. Finally, on 7 February of that year, conspirators in the army overthrew Duvalier, seized power, and promised a transition to democracy. Not satisfied with the army’s actions, however, many Haitians turned to violence to punish the Tonton Macoutes and prevent Duvalier’s return to power. Many more took to the streets to protest new liberal trade policies and support a constitution that would limit the army’s authority. The army used force to suppress opposition and stay in power. By 1989, however, the army was pressured to step aside and allow presidential elections, overseen by a council that represented Haiti’s democratic parties, and a provisional president, Ertha Pascal-Trouillot, Haiti’s first woman president. A popular priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who inspired a political movement known as "Lavalas," won the election in 1990, but was overthrown by the army the very next year. To compel the army to step down and allow democracy to proceed, the international community implemented an embargo that throttled Haiti’s economy. Many Haitians fled into exile, and relatives who stayed behind became dependent on remittances, so much so that Aristide and others later wanted to incorporate the diaspora back into the nation, at least rhetorically, as Haiti’s "tenth department."

Between 1992 and 1994, the United States intervened with the United Nations to restore Aristide to power. In return, Aristide reluctantly promised to work with the United States and the International Monetary Fund to lower taxes on trade. While lower taxes helped Haiti’s assembly industries and the American corporations they did business with, they hurt peasants who already had to cope with soil erosion and could not compete with cheaper imports and food aid. In 2004, Aristide was overthrown by a paramilitary coup, an event that has since been hotly debated. Aided by the United Nations, Aristide’s successor, René Préval, restored peace, which was tested by the World Food Crisis in 2007. Then in 2010, a devastating earthquake killed, injured, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people, exacerbating Haiti’s dependence on the international community and NGOs. Nonetheless Haiti has persevered and has started to rebuild.