For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.


Republic of Haiti

Area: 27,750 sq. km. (10714 sq. mi.); about the size of Maryland. Isle de la Gonave and Isle de la Tortue comprise Haiti's principal offshore territories.
Cities: Capital--Port-au-Prince (pop. 1,220,000). Other cities--Cap Haitien (pop. 600,000).
Terrain: Rugged mountains with small coastal plains and river valleys, and a large east-central elevated plateau.
Climate: Warm, semiarid, high humidity in many coastal areas.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Haitian(s).
Population (1999 est.): 7,771,000.
Annual population growth rate (1999 est.): 2.0%.
Ethnic groups: African descent 95%, African and European descent 5%.
Religions: Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16%, voodoo practices pervasive.
Languages: French (official), Creole (official).
Education: Years compulsory--6. Adult literacy (1999 est.)--46%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--71/1000. Life expectancy--54 yrs.

Type: Republic
Independence: 1804.
Constitution: 1987.
Branches: Executive--President. Legislative--Senate (27 Seats), Chamber of Deputies (83 seats). Judicial--Court of Cassation.
Administrative subdivisions: Nine departments.
Political parties and coalitions: Lavalas Family (FL), Struggling People's Organization (OPL), Open the Gate Party (PLB), Christian Movement for a New Haiti (MOCHRENHA), Democratic Consultation Group (ESPACE), Popular Solidarity Alliance (ESKANP), several others. The Democratic Convergence is a coalition of parties formed to protest the results of the May 2000 elections.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

GDP (1999): $3.0 billion.
GDP growth rate (est. 2000): 1.2%.
Per capita GNP (1999): $460
GDP by sector (1999): Agriculture--31%. Industry--21%. Services--45%.
Inflation (2000 year-end): 12.6%
Natural resources: Bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, marble.
Agriculture (31% of GDP): Coffee, mangoes, sugarcane, rice, corn, cacao, sorghum, pulses, other fruits and vegetables.
Industry (21% of GDP): Apparel, handicrafts, electronics, food processing, beverages, tobacco products, furniture, printing, chemicals, steel.
Services (45% of GDP): Commerce, government, tourism.
Trade (1999): Total exports F.O.B.--$352 million: apparel, mangoes, leather and raw hides, seafood, electrical. Major market--U.S. ($301 million). Imports--$1.0 billion C.I.F. From U.S. $599 million--grains, soybean oil, motor vehicles, machinery, meat, vegetables, plastics, petroleum.
Exchange rate: Approx. 24 Haitian gourdes=U.S.$1.00.

Note: There are serious problems with national accounts in Haiti, including incomplete coverage and the questionable accuracy of raw data.

Although Haiti averages approximately 250 people per square kilometer (650 per sq. mi.), its population is concentrated most heavily in urban areas, coastal plains, and valleys. About 95% of Haitians are of African descent. The rest of the population is mostly of mixed Caucasian-African ancestry. A few are of European or Levantine heritage. About two thirds of the population live in rural areas.

French is one of two official languages, but it is spoken by only about 10% of the people. All Haitians speak Creole, the country's other official language. English is increasingly spoken among the young and in the business sector.

The state religion is Roman Catholicism, which most of the population professes. Some Haitians have converted to Protestantism through the work of missionaries active throughout the country. Much of the population also practices voodoo traditions. Haitians tend to see no conflict in these African-rooted beliefs co-existing with Christian faiths.

Although public education is free, private and parochial schools provide around 75% of educational programs offered and less than 65% of those eligible for primary education are actually enrolled. At the secondary level, the figure drops to 15%. Only 63% of those enrolled will complete primary school. On average it takes 16 years to produce a single graduate of the 6-year cycle. Though Haitians place a high value on education, few can afford to send their children to secondary school. Remittances sent by Haitians living abroad are important in paying educational costs.

Large-scale emigration, principally to the U.S. -- but also to Canada, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and other Caribbean neighbors -- has created what Haitians refer to as the Tenth Department or the Diaspora. About one of every six Haitians live abroad.

The Spaniards used the island of Hispaniola (of which Haiti is the western part and the Dominican Republic the eastern) as a launching point from which to explore the rest of the Western Hemisphere. French buccaneers later used the western third of the island as a point from which to harass English and Spanish ships. In 1697, Spain ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France. As piracy was gradually suppressed, some French adventurers became planters, making San Domingue, as the French portion of the island was known, the "pearl of the Antilles" -- one of the richest colonies in the 18th century French empire.

During this period, African slaves were brought to work on sugarcane and coffee plantations. In 1791, the slave population revolted -- led by Haitian heroes Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe -- and gained control of the northern part of the French colony, waging a war of attrition against the French.

By January 1804, local forces defeated an army sent by Napoleon Bonaparte, established independence from France, and renamed the area Haiti. The impending defeat of the French in Haiti is widely credited with contributing to Napoleon's decision to sell the Louisiana territory to the United States in 1803. Haiti is the world's oldest black republic and the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States. Although Haiti actively assisted the independence movements of many Latin American countries, the independent nation of former slaves was excluded from the hemisphere's first regional meeting of independent nations, in Panama in 1826, and did not receive U.S. diplomatic recognition until 1862.

Two separate regimes (north and south) emerged after independence, but were unified in 1820. Two years later, Haiti occupied Santo Domingo, the eastern, Spanish speaking part of Hispaniola. In 1844, however, Santo Domingo broke away from Haiti and became the Dominican Republic. With 22 changes of government from 1843 to 1915, Haiti experienced numerous periods of intense political and economic disorder, prompting the United States military intervention of 1915. Following a 19-year occupation, U.S. military forces were withdrawn in 1934 and Haiti regained sovereign rule.

From February 7, 1986 -- when the 29-year dictatorship of the Duvalier family ended -- until 1991, Haiti was ruled by a series of provisional governments. In 1987, a constitution was ratified that provides for an elected, bicameral parliament, an elected president that serves as head of state, and a prime minister, cabinet, ministers, and supreme court appointed by the president with parliament's consent. The Haitian Constitution also provides for political decentralization through the election of mayors and administrative bodies responsible for local government.

The 1991 Coup
In December 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a charismatic Roman Catholic priest, won 67% of the vote in a presidential election that international observers deemed largely free and fair. Aristide took office on February 7, 1991, but was overthrown that September in a violent coup led by dissatisfied elements of the army and supported by many of the country's economic elite. Following the coup, Aristide began what became a 3-year period of exile. An estimated 3,000-5,000 Haitians were killed during the period of de facto military rule. The coup created a large-scale exodus of boat people. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a total of 41,342 Haitians during 1991 and 1992, more than the number of rescued refugees from the previous 10 years combined.

From October 1991 to September 1994 an unconstitutional military de facto regime governed Haiti. Various OAS and the UN initiatives to end the political crisis through the peaceful restoration of the constitutionally elected government, including the Governors Island Agreement of July 1993, failed when the military refused to uphold its end of the agreements. The de facto authorities chose to ignore the impact of international sanctions imposed after the coup allowing Haiti's already weak economy to collapse and the country's infrastructure to deteriorate from neglect.

Transition to Democracy
On July 31, 1994, as repression mounted in Haiti and a UN/OAS civilian human rights monitoring mission (MICIVIH) was expelled from the country, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 940. UNSC Resolution 940 authorized member states to use all necessary means to facilitate the departure of Haiti's military leadership and to restore Haiti's constitutionally elected government to power.

In the weeks that followed, the United States took the lead in forming a multinational force (MFN) to carry out the UN's mandate by means of a military intervention. In mid- September, with U.S. troops prepared to enter Haiti by force, President Clinton dispatched a negotiating team led by former President Jimmy Carter to persuade the de facto authorities to step aside and allow for the return of constitutional rule. With intervening troops already airborne, General Raoul Cedras and other top leaders agreed to step down and accept the unopposed intervention of the MNF. On September 19, 1994, the first contingents of what became a 21,000 international force touched down in Haiti to oversee the end of military rule and the restoration of the constitutional government. By early October, the three de facto leaders -- Cedras, General Philippe Biamby, and Police Chief Lt. Colonel Michel Francois -- had departed Haiti. President Aristide and other elected officials returned on October 15.

Under the watchful eyes of international peacekeepers, restored Haitian authorities organized nationwide local and parliamentary elections in June 1995. A pro-Aristide, multi-party coalition called the Lavalas Political Organization (OPL) swept into power at all levels. With his term ending in February 1996 and barred by the constitution from succeeding himself, President Aristide agreed to step aside and support a presidential election in December 1995. Rene Preval, a prominent Aristide political ally, who had been Aristide's Prime Minister in 1991, took 88% of the vote, and was sworn in to a 5-year term on February 7, 1996 during what was Haiti's first-ever transition between two democratically elected presidents.

Political Gridlock
In late 1996, former President Aristide broke from the OPL and created a new political party, the Lavalas Family (FL). The OPL, holding the majority of the parliament, renamed itself the Struggling People's Party, maintaining the OPL acronym. Elections in April 1997 for the renewal of one-third of the Senate and creation of commune-level assemblies and town delegations provided the first opportunity for the former political allies to compete for elected office. Although preliminary results indicated victories for FL candidates in most races, the elections, which drew only about 5% of registered voters, were plagued with allegations of fraud and not certified by most international observers as free and fair. Under pressure, the Preval government refused to accept the results, but did little to remedy the situation. Partisan rancor from the election dispute led to deep divisions within Parliament and between the legislative and executive branches, resulting in almost total governmental gridlock. In June 1997, Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigned. Two successors proposed by President Preval thereafter were rejected by the legislature. Eventually, in December 1998, Jacques Alexis was confirmed as Prime Minister.

During this gridlock period, the government was unable to organize the local and parliamentary elections due in late 1998. In early January 1999, President Preval dismissed legislators whose terms had expired -- the entire Chamber of Deputies and all but nine members of the Senate -- and converted local elected officials into state employees. The President and Prime Minister then ruled by decree, establishing a cabinet composed almost entirely of FL partisans. Under pressure from a new political coalition called the Democratic Consultation Group (ESPACE), the government allocated three seats of the nine-member Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to opposition groups and mandated the CEP to organize the overdue elections for the end of 1999. Following several delays, the first round of elections for local councils (ASEC and CASEK), municipal governments, town delegates, the Chamber of Deputies, and two-thirds of the Senate took place on May 21, 2000. The election drew the participation of a multitude of candidates from a wide array of political parties and a voter turnout of more than 60%.

The Electoral Crisis
Controversy mired the good start, however, when the CEP used a flawed methodology to determine the winners of the Senate races, thus avoiding run-off elections and giving the FL a virtual sweep in the first round. The flawed vote count, combined with the lack of CEP follow-up of investigations of alleged irregularities and fraud, undercut the credibility of that body, whose President fled Haiti and two members eventually resigned rather than accede to government pressure to release the erroneous results. This electoral manipulation and the subsequent intransigence of Haitian authorities toward international efforts led by the OAS to assist them take corrective measures, led to sharp criticism of the Government of Haiti from the international community. On August 28, 2000, Haiti's new parliament, including 10 Senators accorded victory under the flawed vote count, was convened.

Concurrently, most opposition parties regrouped in a tactical alliance that eventually became the Democratic Convergence. It was the position of the Convergence that the May elections were so fraudulent that they should be annulled and held again under a new CEP, but only after then President Preval had stood down and replaced by a provisional government. In the meantime, the opposition announced it would boycott the November presidential and senatorial elections.

Through a number of diplomatic missions by the OAS, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the United States, the international community had sought to delay Parliament's seating until the electoral problems could be rectified. When these efforts were rebuffed and Parliament was seated, Haiti's main bilateral donors announced the end of "business as usual." They moved to re-channel Haitian assistance away from the government, and announced they would not support or send observers to the November elections.

From September through late October, the international community attempted unsuccessfully to bridge the differences between the Fanmi Lavalas government and the Democratic Convergence. In the absence of a solution and in keeping with the timetable established by the Haitian Constitution, elections for President and nine Senators took place on November 26, 2000. All major opposition parties boycotted these elections in which voter participation was very low. Jean-Bertrand Aristide emerged as the victor of these elections and the candidates of his Fanmi Lavalas swept all nine contested Senate seats.

On December 14, 2000 the Democratic Convergence announced it was taking steps toward creating a provisional government that would assume "office" on February 7 -- the day of president-elect Aristide's inauguration. The primary objective of this "government" would be to organize new elections. To forestall a more serious crisis, a United States diplomatic mission in late December obtained Mr. Aristide's commitment to an eight-point plan that among others things would rectify the May elections and create a credible new electoral council.

In early February 2001, a group of prominent Haitians, known as the Commission of Facilitation of the Civil Society Initiative and a representative of the OAS brought together for face-to-face negotiations representatives of the Fanmi Lavalas and the Democratic Convergence. The talks collapsed February 6 on the eve of the presidential inauguration. The Fanmi Lavalas would not moved beyond its eight-point commitment of December. The Democratic Convergence insisted on the annulment of the May 21 and the November 6, 2000 elections as well as on broad power-sharing arrangements for the Convergence in the government.

On February 7 2001, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was sworn in as the new Haitian president. That same day, the Democratic Convergence sworn in Gerard Gourgue "Provisional President of the Government of Consensus and National Union." As of the date of this report, no further direct talks between the Fanmi Lavalas and the Democratic Convergence have occurred.

International Military Presence
Since the transition of the 21,000 strong MNF into a peacekeeping force on March 31, 1995, the presence of international military forces that helped restore constitutional government to power was gradually ended. Initially, the U.S.-led UN peacekeeping force numbered 6,000 troops, but that number was scaled back progressively over the next 4 years as a series of UN technical missions succeeded the peacekeeping force. By January 2000, all U.S. troops stationed in Haiti had departed. In March 2000, the UN peacekeeping mission transitioned into a peace building mission, the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti (MICAH). MICAH consisted of some 80 non-uniformed UN technical advisors providing advice and material assistance in policing, justice, and human rights to the Haitian Government. MICAH's mandate ended on February 7, 2001, coincidentally with the end of the Preval administration. Between February and September, 2000, U.S. military civil engineering and medical training missions visited Haiti for 6-week periods under the auspices of the Department of the Army's Southern Command's New Horizons program.

Principal Government Officials (March 2001)
President--Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Prime Minister--Jean-Marie Cherestal
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Joseph Phillipe Antonio
Ambassador to the U.S.--vacant (Louis Harold Joseph, Charge d'Affaires)
Ambassador to the OAS--vacant (Jean Ricot Dormeus, Charge d'Affaires)
Ambassador to the UN--Pierre Lelong

The Embassy of Haiti is located at 2311 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-332-4090).

Since the demise of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, international economists have urged Haiti to reform and modernize its economy. Under President Preval, the country's economic agenda has included trade/tariff liberalization, measures to control government expenditure and increase tax revenues, civil service downsizing, financial sector reform, and the modernization of state-owned enterprises through their sale to private investors, the provision of private sector management contracts, or joint public-private investment. Structural adjustment agreements with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and other international financial institutions are aimed at creating necessary conditions for private sector growth, have proved only partly successful.

In the aftermath of the 1994 restoration of constitutional governance, Haitian officials have indicated their commitment to economic reform through the implementation of sound fiscal and monetary policies and the enactment of legislation mandating the modernization of state-owned enterprises. A council to guide the modernization program (CMEP) was established and a timetable was drawn up to modernize nine key parastatals. Although the state-owned flour mill and cement plants have been transferred to private owners, progress on the other seven parastatals has stalled. The modernization of Haiti's state-enterprises remains a controversial political issue in Haiti.

External aid is essential to the future economic development of Haiti, the least-developed country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. Comparative social and economic indicators show Haiti falling behind other low-income developing countries (particularly in the hemisphere) since the 1980s. Haiti's economic stagnation is the result of earlier inappropriate economic policies, political instability, a shortage of good arable land, environmental deterioration, continued use of traditional technologies, under-capitalization and lack of public investment in human resources, migration of large portions of the skilled population, and a weak national savings rate.

Haiti continues to suffer the consequences of the 1991 coup and the irresponsible economic and financial policies of the de facto authorities greatly accelerated Haiti's economic decline. Following the coup, the United States adopted mandatory sanctions, and the OAS instituted voluntary sanctions aimed at restoring constitutional government. International sanctions culminated in the May 1994 UN embargo of all goods entering Haiti except humanitarian supplies, such as food and medicine. The assembly sector, heavily dependent on U.S. markets for its products, employed nearly 80,000 workers in the mid-1980s. During the embargo, employment fell from 33,000 workers in 1991 to 400 in October 1994. Private domestic and foreign investment has been slow to return to Haiti. Since the return of constitutional rule, assembly sector employment has gradually recovered with over 20,000 now employed, but further growth has been stalled by investor concerns over safety and supply reliability.

If the political situation stabilizes, high crime levels reduce, and new investment increases, tourism could take its place next to export-oriented manufacturing (the assembly sector) as a potential source of foreign exchange. Remittances from abroad now constitute a significant source of financial support for many Haitian households.

Workers in Haiti are guaranteed the right of association. Unionization is protected by the labor code. A legal minimum wage of 36 gourds a day (about U.S. $1.80) applies to most workers in the formal sector.

Haiti is one of the original members of the United Nations and several of its specialized and related agencies, as well as a member of the Organization of American States (OAS). It maintains diplomatic relations with 37 countries.

The international community rallied to Haiti's defense during the 1991-94 period of illegal military rule. Thirty-one countries participated in the U.S.-led Multinational Force (MNF) which, acting under UN auspices, intervened in September 1994 to help restore the legitimate government and create a secure and stable environment in Haiti. At its peak, the MNF included roughly 21,000 troops, mostly Americans, and more than 1,000 international police monitors. Within six months, the troop level was gradually reduced as the MNF transitioned to a 6,000 strong peacekeeping force, the UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH). UNMIH was charged with maintaining the secure environment, which the MNF had helped establish, as well as nurturing Haiti's new police force through the presence of 900 police advisors. A total of 38 countries participated in UNMIH.

In order to spur Haiti's social and economic recovery from 3 years of de facto military rule and decades of misrule before that, international development banks and donor agencies pledged in 1994 to provide over $2 billion in assistance by 1999. Disbursements were largely conditioned on progress in economic reform. Parliamentary inaction, principally as a result of the political struggles and gridlock that plagued Haiti since 1996, resulted in the blockage of much of this assistance as disbursement conditions were not met. The electoral crisis that has brewed in the aftermath of the May 21, 2000 local and parliamentary elections has resulted in the blockage of most multilateral and bilateral assistance. Major donors are led by the United States, with the largest bilateral assistance program, and also include Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Taiwan. Multilateral aid is coordinated through an informal grouping of major donors under the auspices of the World Bank which, in addition to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the European Union, is also a major source of Haitian development assistance.

U.S. policy toward Haiti is designed to foster and strengthen democracy; help alleviate poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition, promote respect for human rights; and counter illegal migration and drug trafficking. U.S. policy goals are met through direct bilateral action and by working with the international community. The United States has taken a leading role in organizing international involvement with Haiti. In particular, the U.S. works with the United Nations, particularly through the Secretary General's "Friends of Haiti" group (the U.S., Canada, France, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina), and with the Organization of American States, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and individual countries to achieve policy goals.

Maintaining good relations with and fostering democracy in Haiti are important for many reasons, not the least of which is the country's geographical proximity to the continental United States. In addition to the approximately 16,000 Haitians who receive visas to enter the U.S. annually, there is a flow of undocumented and illegal migrants. Tens of thousands of undocumented Haitian migrants have been intercepted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard in the past two decades, particularly during the 1991-94 period of illegal military rule when more than 67,000 migrants were interdicted. Since the return of the legitimate government in 1994, the interdiction of illegal migrants has decreased dramatically, averaging fewer than 1,500 annually. The prospect remains, however, for the renewal of higher flows of illegal migrants, particularly under conditions of political unrest or further economic downturn.

U.S. Economic and Development Assistance
Political insecurity and the failure of Haiti's governments to invest in developing the country's natural and human resources attribute significantly to the country's current state of underdevelopment. U.S. efforts to strengthen democracy and to rebuild Haiti's economy aim to rectify this condition. The U.S. has been Haiti's largest donor since 1973. Between FY 95 and FY 99, the U.S. has contributed roughly $884 million in assistance to Haiti. These funds have been used to support programs that have addressed a variety of problems. Among the initiatives funds have supported are:

  • Food assistance programs that include a school lunch program that feeds around 500,000 children daily.
  • Agricultural development programs that have endeavored to revitalize Haiti's coffee sector and to help thousands of Haitian farmers adopt sustainable agricultural practices and protect the environment.
  • Teacher training programs that have included 6,000 educators at the primary and secondary level.
  • Population programs that have expanded modern family planning practices in many rural areas.
  • Health care programs that have supported child immunization and have helped provide primary care to nearly half of the Haitian population.

In addition to financial support, the U.S. provides human resources. U.S. Peace Corps volunteers returned to Haiti in 1995, largely focusing their efforts on income generation programs in Haiti's rural areas. Many private U.S. citizens travel regularly to Haiti or reside there for extended periods to work in humanitarian projects.

Haiti has been plagued for decades by extremely high unemployment and underemployment. The precipitous decline in urban assembly sector jobs, from a high of 80,000 in 1986 to fewer than 17,000 in 1994, exacerbated the scarcity of jobs. To revitalize the economy, U.S. assistance has attempted to create opportunities for stable sustainable employment for the growing population, particularly those who comprise the country's vast informal economy. A post-intervention transitional program of short-term job creation principally in small towns and rural areas provided employment to as many as 50,000 workers per day throughout the country. More recently, programs that help to increase commercial bank lending to small- and medium-scale entrepreneurs, especially in the agricultural sector, have helped to create jobs and foster economic growth.

Additional U.S. efforts in economic revitalization include the establishment of the U.S.-Haiti Business Development Council, an Overseas Private Investment Corporation commercial loan program, and inclusion of Haiti within the Caribbean Basin Initiative. These efforts all provide greater market opportunities for American and Haitian businesses. Current Congressional prohibitions on providing assistance to or through the Haitian Government has accelerated the move to private voluntary agencies as contractors to oversee use of U.S. aid funds.

Security Assistance
A major focus of American assistance in Haiti since the restoration of democracy has been to improve public security, rule of law, and respect for human rights through bolstering the capacities of the newly created Haitian National Police (HNP) and the Haitian judiciary. Since 1995, when the HNP was created to bring public security under civilian control as mandated in Haiti's constitution, more than 6,000 police officers have completed training in modern law enforcement. U.S. instructors from the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) have provided much of that general training. Specialized training in such areas as crowd control, operation of firearms, and VIP protection has been provided by ICITAP, whose experts have also worked closely with the Haitian Government in meeting the material needs of the new force; ICITAP closed in September 2000.

Through its Administration of Justice (AOJ) program, the U.S. has helped support the independence and competency of Haiti's judicial branch through the training of hundreds of Haitian judges and prosecutors, particularly at the Magisterial Training School established in 1995. The AOJ program ended in July 2000, upon expiration of a bilateral assistance agreement between the United States and the Government of Haiti. During its tenure, the AOJ program also provided free legal assistance for thousands of impoverished Haitians, and has helped obtain the release of hundreds of people detained without trial. U.S. reform programs have included the participation of non-governmental organizations, particularly to encourage conflict resolution and mediation programs that alleviate pressure on the still-overmatched judicial system. In spite of these initiatives, Haiti's judicial system remains severely troubled -- lacking the modern facilities, properly trained officials, and resources it requires to be able to meet the demands placed upon it. The Carrefour Feuilles trial in September 2000 and the Raboteau trial in November 2000 evidenced significant improvements in the judicial system's capacity. Nevertheless, Haiti's system remains in need of continued reform and strengthening.

Combating Drug Trafficking
In recent years, Haiti has become a major transshipment point for South American narcotics being sent to the United States, with as much as 9% of cocaine entering the U.S. in 2000 transiting Haiti. To counter this threat, the U.S. has taken a number of steps, including bolstering the number of U.S. drug enforcement personnel in Haiti, training the counternarcotics division of the Haitian National Police, providing material assistance and training to the Haitian Coast Guard for drug and migrant interdiction, and pressing for extradition or expulsion of traffickers under indictment in the United States detained in Haiti. Although Haiti did not meet counternarcotics certification criteria the past 2 years, the country was certified on grounds of vital national security interest.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Brian Dean Curran
Deputy Chief of Mission--Kenneth Duncan
Consul General--Roger Daley
Public Affairs Officer--Daniel Whitman
USAID Director--Lewis Lucke

The U.S. embassy in Haiti is located on Harry Truman Blvd., Port-au-Prince.

The U.S. remains Haiti's largest trading partner. Port-au-Prince is less than two hours by air from Miami, with several daily direct flights. A daily flight also connects Port-au-Prince with New York. Both Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien on the north coast have deep water port facilities. U.S. development assistance has been instrumental in stimulating efforts that have been made in recent years to improve the prospects for secondary cities, especially Jacmel, for attracting business investment. Increasingly, Haitian entrepreneurs conduct business in English. U.S. currency circulates freely in Haiti. A number of U.S. firms, including commercial banks, telecommunications, airlines, oil and agribusiness companies, and U.S.-owned assembly plants are present in Haiti.

Further opportunities for U.S. businesses include the development and trade of 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. Because of the assembly sector's capacity to create employment quickly, priority is placed on providing opportunities for U.S. investors and exporters to become involved in this sector. Haiti's primary assembly sector inputs include textiles, electronics components, packaging materials, and raw materials used in the manufacture of toys and sporting goods. Other U.S. export prospects include construction materials, plumbing fixtures, hardware, and lumber. Benefits for both Haitian and American importers and exporters are available under the 806 and 807/HTSUS Programs (U.S. Customs laws on products assembled from U.S. components or materials), and under the Caribbean Basin Initiative.

Markets exist for four-wheel-drive vehicles, consumer electronics, rice, wheat, flour, sugar, and processed foodstuffs. The Government of Haiti seeks to reactivate and develop agricultural industries where Haiti enjoys considerable 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, then to market research, then country commercial guide.

Establishing a Business
Foreigners seeking to establish a business in Haiti must obtain a residence visa. Non-resident entrepreneurs must have a locally licensed agent to conduct business transactions within the country. 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.

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.

Hurdles for businesses in Haiti include poor infrastructure, a high-cost port, an irregular supply of electricity, and customs delays. The government places a 30% withholding tax on all profits received. There is little direct investment, though more is incoming than outgoing (see Economy).

Foreign investment protection is provided by the constitution of 1987, which permits expropriation of private property for public use or land reform with payment in advance. American firms enjoy free transfer of interest, dividends, profits, and other revenues stemming from their investments, and are guaranteed just compensation paid in advance of expropriation, as well as compensation in case of damages or losses caused by war, revolution, or insurrection.

Additional information on establishing a business in Haiti can be found at, then to market research, then country commercial guide.

U.S. Commercial Service
111 Rue Faubert
Republic of Haiti
Tel: (509) 256-5778
Fax: (509) 256-5779
Cell: (509) 401-0953 (Commercial Attach´┐Ż)

Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)
1615 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20527
Tel: (202) 457-7200
Fax: (202) 331-4234

U.S. Department of Commerce
14th and Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20230
Haiti Hotline (202) 482-4302
Haiti Telefax (202) 482-2521
Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
Tel: (202) 482-0704
Fax: (202) 482-0464

Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 466-7464
Fax: (202) 822-0075

Association des Industries d'Haiti (ADIH)
Bldg. Le Triangle Delmas 31, #139
Tel: (509) 246-4509/4510 or 2211

Centre Pour la Livre Entreprise et la Democratie (CLED)
37, Avenue Marie-Jeanne,
No. 8 B.P. 1316
Tel: (509) 222-9720 or (509) 222-9721
Fax: (509) 222-8252

Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie d'Haiti
P.O. Box 982
Tel: (509) 222-0281 or (509) 222-2475

Haitian American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HAMCHAM)
Rue Oge, A-5
Republic of Haiti
Tel: (509) 511-3024, fax not available.

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