Foreign policy and defense
Haiti is a nation in North America. Its capital city is Port-au-Prince. Haiti has been internationally isolated during periods when democracy has been disrupted. However, the country is highly dependent on foreign aid, both for its economy and for its security.
The relationship with the United States is of the utmost importance. US aid is an important part of Haiti’s economy and the US has long been the country’s most important export and import market. Many Haitians travel to the United States, most illegally. Following the severe earthquake in 2010, many Haitians received Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a temporary residence permit for people from countries affected by war or affected by natural disasters. Following Donald Trump’s take-over as President of the United States in 2017, it was decided that this protection status for Haitians was no longer needed and approximately 59,000 Haitians lost their right to reside in the United States. This has been strongly criticized by human rights organizations, which believe that Haiti has no opportunity to receive so many people.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Haiti for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Another problem in American-Haitian relations is Haiti’s role as an intermediary in South American drug exports to the United States.
France’s leading donor
The old colonial power France has in various ways committed to Haiti and played an active role when President Aristide resigned in exile in 2004. Relationships then improved as the transitional government abolished a long-standing Haitian claim for reimbursement of damages from the 19th century to France (see Older history). Other leading donors are Canada and the EU.
Relations with the neighboring Dominican Republic have at times been tense but improved since the mid-1990s. Many regime opponents from Haiti have moved to neighboring countries during different periods, which sometimes creates conflicts. Near a border town, the Dominican Republic opened a free trade zone in 2002 that provides access to cheap and legal Haitian labor.
Thousands of Haitians go to the neighboring country every year for seasonal work in agriculture or construction, sometimes under slave-like conditions, but many of them are expelled from time to time. Since the introduction of a controversial foreign law by the Dominican Republic in 2015, around 135,000 Haitian migrants were forced to return to Haiti in just one year. Many were deported, others fled after threats and some of them now live in camps under miserable conditions. In mid-2016, however, a bilateral commission was re-established whose purpose was, among other things, to resolve issues related to border trade, transport and migration.
Contacts with other countries in the region have also improved, and in 1996 diplomatic relations with Cuba were resumed after 32 years of interruption. Cuban doctors were sent to Haiti as volunteers and assistance were given in education and industry. Ten years later, an approach was started to Venezuela, which among other things supplies oil at favorable prices (which, however, has failed due to the precarious political-economic situation in Venezuela).
Haiti is one of the shrinking number of small nations that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan instead of the People’s Republic of China, and Taiwan is an important trading partner.
Haiti has been a member of the Caribbean economic cooperation organization Caricom since 2002. Caricom had a leading role in the mediation efforts between Aristide and the opposition and opposed the US and France pushing through Aristide’s departure (see Modern History). The organization refused to recognize the transitional government but its membership was restored in 2006.
Haiti’s defense force was dissolved in 1995 (see Modern History). From 2004, the UN force Minustah was given the main responsibility for maintaining the order. A new national police force and a small coastguard force were formed with the help of the US and the UN. A few hundred police officers, several with backgrounds in the army, were dismissed for suspected involvement in drug trafficking, extrajudicial executions and kidnappings. In the autumn of 2006, the United States lifted parts of a 15-year arms embargo for better police arming. The police force, in spite of inadequate equipment, had, together with Minustah, participated in several battles against the armed street gangs. About 1,000 police officers per year have been trained and the police corps is estimated to be at the end of 2017 at the planned 15,000 men.
In 2017, security and order were also considered to be so good that the peacekeeping force Minustah could be dismantled. Although the UN force has contributed to restoring stability in Haiti, it has also received criticism from human rights organizations, including that soldiers from it triggered the widespread cholera epidemic (see Social Conditions) and sexually exploited women.
In October 2017, Minustah was replaced by a smaller UN police force of 1,300 men (Minujusth) with the task of supporting the judicial institutions and the national police. Minujusth lost weight gradually and in October 2019 it was also dissolved (see Calendar). This set the point for 15 years of peacekeeping efforts in Haiti, even though the situation in the country is anything but stable.
An embryo for a new army is being built up, among other things, with educational support from Ecuador. President Jovenel Moïse has stated his intention to restore Haiti’s armed forces.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 150 men (2017)
The fleet: 50 men (2015)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.0 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 0.0 percent (2017)
Arms import clear sign from USA
The United States partially repeals a gun embargo introduced in 1991.
Six-party government is formed
A six-party coalition government is formed, with Jacques-Edouard Alexis as prime minister. Préval took office as president in mid-May.
Lespwa is greatest when the parliamentary elections are completed
The end result after the second round of parliamentary elections is that Lespwa will be the largest in both chambers, but without his own majority. Turnout is reported to be at 28 percent.
Presidential election gives victory to Préval
The election is the first since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide overthrew two years earlier. Trouble arises when it is reported that René Préval, from the newly formed party Lespwa, received 49 percent of the vote in the presidential election. That is much more than any other of the total 33 candidates, but not enough for victory in the first round. The electoral authority decides to distribute the blank votes between the candidates, in proportion to the approved votes. Now Préval gets 51 percent which gives victory in the first round. UN and OAS election observers accept the unusual measure.