The native Taino - who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when Christopher COLUMBUS first landed on it in 1492 - were virtually wiped out by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola. 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 relied heavily on the forced labor of enslaved Africans and environmentally degrading practices. In the late 18th century, Toussaint L'OUVERTURE led a revolution of Haiti's nearly half a million slaves that ended France's rule on the island. After a prolonged struggle, and under the leadership of Jean-Jacques DESSALINES, Haiti became the first country in the world led by former slaves after declaring its independence in 1804, but it was forced to pay an indemnity of 100 million francs (equivalent to $22 billion USD in March 2023) to France for more than a century and was shunned by other countries for nearly 40 years. On 12 July 1862, the US officially recognized Haiti, but foreign economic influence and internal political instability induced the US to occupy Haiti from 1915-1934. Subsequently, Francois "Papa Doc" DUVALIER and then his son Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" DUVALIER led repressive and corrupt regimes that ruled Haiti in 1957-1971 and 1971-1986, respectively. President Jovenel MOISE was assassinated on 7 July 2021, leading the country further into an extra-constitutional governance structure and contributing to the country’s growing fragility. On 20 July 2021, the Government of Haiti installed Ariel HENRY - whom President MOISE had nominated shortly before his death - as prime minister. As of March 2023, Haiti had no sitting elected officials. The country has long been plagued by natural disasters. In January 2010, a major 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti with an epicenter about 25 km (15 mi) west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Estimates are that over 300,000 people were killed and some 1.5 million left homeless. The earthquake was assessed as the worst in this region over the last 200 years. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti’s southern peninsula in August 2021, causing well over 2,000 deaths; an estimated 500,000 required emergency humanitarian aid. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, as well as one of the most unequal in wealth distribution.
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NOTE: The information regarding Haiti on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Haiti 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Haiti 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.
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