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  • Kennedy Vs Papa Doc, Castro and Trujillo

    John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963), the 35th president of the United States, was an influential figure during the Cold War. Prior to his political career, he joined the US Navy in 1941 during World War II. This experience nearly became a tragedy when the Japanese attacked the PT boat he was commanding in the South-Pacific. The boat was destroyed, but Kennedy swam intermittently for 11 hours with a wounded soldier on his back to reach a nearby island[1]. What was about to become a tragedy turned out to be an epic struggle for survival which led Kennedy to win the award of “US Navy and Marine Corps Medal” for heroism. Subsequently, he left the US Navy to become a congressman in 1946; he served three terms consecutively in the House of Representatives. After that, Kennedy left the Congress to run for the Senate in 1952; he won against the incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge. As his popularity continued to grow, he decided to run for president in January 1960. He defeated the Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, and began his term in January 1961 in a very fragile context: Communism was already established in Cuba and the fear of its spread was at its climax. Kennedy then pledged to stop this pervasive system at any cost during his inauguration[2].


    After the establishment of Communism in Cuba, Latin America was among the most vulnerable regions threatened by it. Kennedy’s approach was then to overthrow Fidel Castro by covert operations, and to provide support to the other countries so that they become less vulnerable to communism. What might seem to be a straightforward approach turned out to be very challenging to Kennedy. The Caribbean Basin constituted a particular hardship to Kennedy due to its 3 different predispositions: Cuba was communist, Haiti and the Dominican Republic were in a middle course, and the other countries were staunch allies of the US[3]. Nevertheless, during his short presidency, Kennedy played a significant role in preventing the communism spread by making concessions in his policies.

    Alliance for Progress
    The economy of Latin America was generally weak, which made it vulnerable to foreign interference. In response to that, Kennedy proposed in 1961 the Agency for International Development and the Alliance for Progress, which was also called: “Marshall Plan for Latin America”. It aimed to modernize Latin American countries while promoting social justice, and democracy by providing a $20 billion loan in a period of 10 years[4]. More than $ 1 billion was already spent during the first year of the program[5]; schools, airports, and hospitals were built in many countries[6].

    However, the Alliance was generally considered as a failure. The economic growth of Latin American countries did not exceed 2%[7]; many countries remained authoritarian, and repression continued; the number of unemployed people increased from 18 million to 25 million[8]. Furthermore, the population growth in Latin America increased steeply in the 1960s. In Brazil, the population increased by 25 million people, in Columbia by more than 15.6 million people, in the continent generally by an annual growth of 2.9% [9]. The Alliance was a failure to Kennedy, and it was ultimately abandoned in 1973.

    Even though the Alliance for Progress failed its main missions, it helped in preventing the spread of Communism in Latin America, which was one Kennedy’s interests. Without this program, many countries in Latin American would have solicited the support of the Soviet Union which could in turn lead the Communism establishment there. From this perspective, the Alliance for Progress could be seen as a success for Kennedy.

    Kennedy Vs Castro
    After the Cuban Revolution, the relationship between Cuba and the US deteriorated. In 1961, Eisenhower ended the US diplomatic relationship with Cuba. He then started a plan to overthrow Castro: the “Bay of Pigs” invasion, which Kennedy inherited, and authorized when he came in power. 1400 Cuban exiles were sent to  the Bay of Pigs to overthrow Castro and to dismantle the established Communism there. However, this mission did not take long to turn into a fiasco. Only 4 days after the invasion started, on April 19th, 1961, the invaders were defeated by the Cuban army; 1100 men among them were captured and imprisoned[10]; they spent 20 months in captivity. Finally, they were released when the US agreed to provide food and medical support worth $53 million as compensation to Cuba.

    After the Bay of Pigs disaster, Castro wanted to strengthen his ties with the Soviet Union[11]. Nevertheless, Kennedy was not deterred from plotting other coups against him. In November 1961, Kennedy approved Operation Mongoose, a covert operation consisting of multiple plots to undermine Castro. Among those plots were industrial sabotage, crops burning, worsening Cubans’ condition of living[12]. Unfortunately, none of these plots succeeded; Mongoose was a failure which harmed the reputation of the CIA[13]. Eventually, after the Cuban Missile crisis, Kennedy abandoned the Operation Mongoose.

    On October 16th in 1962, Kennedy was informed of the presence of ballistic missiles in Cuba placed by the Soviet Union. This constituted a massive threat to the US, but Kennedy handled it successfully. The first strategy Kennedy adopted was to put Cuba in quarantine[14] by encircling it with American ships. This was to prevent the transportation of other missiles from the Soviet Union. Subsequently, Kennedy negotiated with the Soviet Union to remove its missiles in exchange to not invade Cuba, and to remove the American Missiles in Turkey[15]. As a result, the crisis was solved.

    In sum, Kennedy failed his mission to dismantle communism in Cuba, and to oust Castro. The Bay of Pigs invasion turned into a fiasco, and the Operation Mongoose failed too. However, the concession he made in his policies helped in avoiding a war with Cuba. First, by agreeing to provide food and medicine $53 million worth in exchange for the prisoners from the Bay of Pigs tragedy, he reduced the tension between the US and Cuba. Second, by accepting to remove American missiles in Turkey in exchange for Soviet Union to remove its missiles in Cuba, he calmed the situation down with the Soviet Union, which helped avoiding a third World War.

    Kennedy Vs Trujillo
    Kennedy, in addition to the Bays of Pigs invasion to Cuba, inherited from Eisenhower the covert operation to oust the ruthless dictator Raphael Trujillo of Dominican Republic. Eisenhower approved the plot after Trujillo attempted to kill the Venezuelan president Betancourt in 1960. Shortly after, during Kennedy’s presidency, the CIA helped in executing the plan. Between March 31st, and April 19th in 1961, several M3 machine guns were sent to the dissidents of Trujillo[16]. However, Kennedy did not agree to kill Trujillo; he sent a cable to Henry Dearborn, a diplomat official, where he mentioned that the US will not endorse Trujillo’s death. Nevertheless, Trujillo was cut down in cold blood in May 1961 while he was heading to his mistress house[17].

    Even though Kennedy opposed the assassination of Trujillo, he did not cancel the covert operation aiming to overthrow him because Trujillo was considered like a threat. After Eisenhower cut the diplomatic tie with Trujillo in 1961, Trujillo might have sought for the Soviet Union to support his regime. That’s why the fall of Trujillo, which sparked the democratization of this country, was a success for Kennedy. Trujillo’s survival might have led to the establishment of communism in the Dominican Republic.

    Kennedy Vs Papa Doc
    Unlike Trujillo’s case, Kennedy did not inherit any plot From Eisenhower to overthrow Francois Duvalier, the tyrant of Haiti. However, he strove to undermine his power. Under Eisenhower, Haiti was spoiled by US’s aid because Duvalier pretended to be a staunch anti-communist. However, Kennedy, unwilling to support dictatorships, reduced the aid given to Haiti (from $7 million to $2.4 million yearly) in October 1961[18]. It was a strategy that could potentially lead to Duvalier’s fall. But, because Papa Doc needed the aid to strengthen his power, he was about to do anything to get the US’s aid back.

    During the conference in Uruguay “la Punta Del Este”, Duvalier retaliated. Twenty-one countries participated in the conference which aimed to take some sanctions against Cuba. The US needed 14 out of 21 votes to expel Cuba from the Organization of American State (OAS); 7 of them were not expected to vote against Cuba. Duvalier realized that his vote was decisive; he then negotiated it with the US. As part of the negotiation, the US’s aid was resumed[19]. However, Kennedy did not stop perturbing Duvalier. Since Cuba was put in quarantine, and Trujillo dead, Kennedy started to see Duvalier as a threat to the Caribbean; thus, he wanted to oust him.

     At the end of 1962, Kennedy decided that the USAID will manage the aid from the US instead of the Haitian government[20]. This was detrimental to Duvalier as he needed money to distribute rents to his corrupted “Tonton Macoute”. Furthermore, Kennedy reduced the aid given to Haiti again, and promised to resume it only if Papa Doc dissolved his militia[21]. But Duvalier was very resistant; he came up with new taxes and reduced salaries of the military and government officials to find money to support his regime. Eventually, when Kennedy was assassinated in 1963,  the pressure was taken off Papa Doc; he proclaimed himself president for life the following year.

    Thus, Kennedy failed his mission to overthrow Papa Doc. However, he succeeded in preventing communism in Haiti. Even though Kennedy wanted to undermine Duvalier, he did not entirely cut the aid given to Haiti. Cutting the aid completely may have provoked a turnaround from Duvalier which could result to the establishment of Communism in Haiti. Moreover, negotiating with Haiti to vote against Cuba at La Punta Del Este conference was necessary to expel Cuba from the OAS, which in turn deter other countries from embracing Communism. This was a clever decision of Kennedy in preventing the Communism spread.

    Kennedy’s assassination
    On November 22nd, 1963, while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Kennedy was hit by 2 bullets: one in the neck, the other in the head[22]. He was rushed to the Parkland Memorial Hospital, but he was pronounced dead shortly after. There are two main theories about Kennedy’s assassination. The first is that Lee Harvey Oswald, an American communist who had lived in Moscow for a while, was accused of being the assassin with no accomplice. The other theory links the death of Kennedy to a conspiracy involving the Soviet Union and Cuba[23]. In sum, both theories link the assassination as the consequence of fight between communism and anti-communism. This proved that Kennedy was an obstacle for the communists willing to spread their ideology.

    Kennedy was an influential figure during the Cold War who played a significant role in fighting Communism in the Caribbean. His missions were to dismantle Communism in Cuba by overthrowing Castro, and to prevent its spread in other countries by strengthening their economies with US aid. Kennedy failed his mission to overthrow Castro. The Bay of Pigs invasion which aimed to invade Cuba by 1400 Cuban exiles turned into a disaster; Operation Mongoose aiming to plan multiple covert operations to undermine Castro’s regime failed too. However, Kennedy made a lot of compromises which help preventing a war with the communists. In fact, during the Cuban missiles crisis, he accepted to remove American missiles, and to not invade Cuba in exchange for the Soviet Union to disarm Cuba. Furthermore, Kennedy failed his mission about the Alliance for Progress which aim to modernize Latin America. Although some infrastructures were built in the region, the overall economic growth of 2% was unimpressive. However, Kennedy succeeded his mission to overthrow Trujillo, the dictator of Dominican Republic. This was a great achievement because Trujillo could have become another Castro, and his fall sparked the democratization of the country. About Haiti, Kennedy failed to overthrow Duvalier, but succeeded in keeping it anti-communist. Even though he was trying to undermine Papa Doc by reducing his foreign aid, he never cancels it completely. Doing so could result in a turnaround of Duvalier which could lead to the communism establishment in this island nation. In sum, Kennedy failed his mission to democratize all the countries in the Caribbean, but he succeeded in preventing the spread of Communism there because of all the concessions he made. Making concession was the best approach to manage the situation, and to avoid a war. An intransigent president might have provoked Cuba and the Soviet Union which could lead to a nuclear war. That’s why Kennedy’s presidency was beneficial to the world.

     Work cited

    • Alliance for Progress, Encyclopedia Britannica.
    • Alliance for Progress, John F. Kennedy, Presidential Library.
    • Alliance for Progress, Latin American History, Oxford Research Encyclopedias.
    • Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Encyclopedia Britannica.
    • “Bay of Pigs Invasion”, Encyclopedia Britannica.
    • Cuban Missile Crisis, Encyclopedia Britannica.
    • Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy, Presidential Library.
    • John F. Kennedy, Encyclopedia Britannica.
    • The Assassination of Rafael Trujillo, Warfare History Network, 2016
    • The Brilliant Disaster, Jim Rasenberger, (chapter 25)
    • “The Challenge of Democratizing the Caribbean during the Cold War: Kennedy Facing Duvalier Dilemma”, Wien Weibert Arthus, Journal Article: Diplomatic History. February 27, 2014
    • The Cold War, John F. Kennedy, Presidential Library


    [1] JFK and the unspeakable, James W. Douglas (p. 3)

    [2] The Cold War, John F. Kennedy, Presidential Library

    [3] The Challenge of Democratizing the Caribbean during the Cold War (p.1)

    [4] Alliance for Progress, Encyclopedia Britannica

    [5] Alliance for Progress, John F. Kennedy, Presidential Library

    [6] Alliance for Progress, John F. Kennedy, Presidential Library

    [7] Alliance for Progress, Latin American History, Oxford Research Encyclopedias

    [8] Alliance for Progress, Latin American History, Oxford Research Encyclopedias

     [9] Alliance for Progress, Latin American History, Oxford Research Encyclopedias

    [10] Bay of Pigs Invasion, Encyclopedia Britannica.

    [11] The Bay of Pigs Invasion and its aftermath, Office of the historian, Department of state.

    [12] The brilliant disaster, Jim Rasenberger (chapter 25)

    [13] The brilliant disaster, Jim Rasenberger (chapter 25)

    [14] Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy, Presidential Library

    [15] Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy, Presidential Library

    [16] The Assassination of Rafael Trujillo, Warfare History Network

    [17] The Assassination of Rafael Trujillo, Warfare History Network

    [18] The Challenge of Democratizing the Caribbean during the Cold War (p. 522)

    [19] The Challenge of Democratizing the Caribbean during the Cold War (p. 511)

    [20] The Challenge of Democratizing the Caribbean during the Cold War (p. 517)

    [21] The Challenge of Democratizing the Caribbean during the Cold War (p. 518)

    [22] John F. Kennedy, Encyclopedia Britannica

    [23] Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Encyclopedia Britannica


  • A Policy Memo to Baby Doc (Simulation)

    To: President Jean-Claude Duvalier
    From: MarcoPolo
    Subject: Policy options for stopping Haitians migration to the US
    Date: January 1st , 1980

    To stop the Haitians migration to the US, you must not try to alleviate poverty with foreign aid, nor deter them from living the country. You rather replace the Volunteers for National Security (VNS) and the army by the National Police of Haiti-a body of civilians with no affiliation with your regime.

    Haitians started to migrate massively to the US during Papa Doc’s regime. At first, the migrants were intellectuals and educated people from the bourgeoisie. Upon arrival, the US welcomed them and approved their political asylum demand easily because they were sufficiently skilled to accommodate in the new environment. However, in 1971, the citizens from the lower class started to migrate to the US too. In contrast with the first waves, they are fleeing not only political oppression, but also extreme poverty. From 1971 to 1977, up to 70,000 Haitians migrated to Florida on sailboats. Now, this constitutes an issue for the US, because these migrants are low-skilled, uneducated, Creole speaker; thus, hardly capable of adjusting to the US environment. Prior to this overwhelming migration wave, the US was only preoccupied about whether your regime is pro-communism or against it. But now, as Haitian migrants constitute a burden to them, they are also preoccupied about your domestic policies.

    (2) From the US’s perspective, its relationship with Haiti is a dilemma: it supports your regime to fight against communism while it is against your domestic policies.  One of the most efficient way to cope with that is to dismantle your regime which can be done easily by cutting your foreign aid. Given that the strength of your regime depends on their assistance, you won’t have any other choice than to resign if they cut it. Therefore, you must urgently take a decision; otherwise, your regime will perish.


    Policy Option 1: Poverty Alleviation
    The GOH is receiving substantial assistance from the US, but the poorest people don’t benefit from it. Fraud and embezzlement by the “Tontons Maccoutes” have prevented it from reaching them. Thus, this option calls to use the foreign aid to finance some poverty alleviation projects. First, the GOH should conduct a census to assess the poverty incidence – the total number of people living below the international poverty threshold; then, the aid can be used to provide free food, clean water, medical assistance to people below the threshold. By doing this, their condition will improve; consequently, they will less likely leave the country.

    1. Pros: poverty alleviation; fairer use of the foreign aid.
    2. Cons: corruption risk in undertaking the project; expensiveness of the project; unreliability and unsustainability of functioning with foreign aid.

    Policy Option 2: Deter Haitians from migrating
    (4) This option calls to sign a migration treaty with the US government to give it permission to deport Haitians easily upon arrival. If they cannot prove to have political ties, they should not be allowed to apply for political asylum nor to obtain a refugee status. Instead, they must be seen as mere opportunists and then be deported right away. As part of the treaty, you could also ask for assistance to improve the Haitian Coast Guard so that it can prevent sailboats from departing toward Florida.

    1. Pros: Drastic reduction in the number of Haitian refugees migrating to the US; better diplomatic relationship with the US as it will perceive you as more conciliatory in cooperating; increase of foreign assistance.
    2. Cons: Discrimination against Haitians comparing to Cubans which are welcomed to the US; more frustration and tension within Haiti because the people willing to escape won’t have any other way out; possible violent uprising against your regime as frustration will increase.

    Policy Option 3: Create the National Police of Haiti
    This option calls to dissolve the army and the Volunteering for National Security(VNS) program known as the “Tonton Macoute”. Guaranteeing security should be the duty of a National Police of Haiti which can be created easily with the same members of VNS. The only difference is that they will be mere civilians with no affiliation with your regime. Subsequently, instead of receiving military assistance from the US, you will ask for police training assistance.

    1. Pros: Tackles the deep cause of the migration which is oppression caused by the regime; Increases trust of the international community in your regime which can lead to more foreign assistance; reduces human right violations and repression which will lead to decrease migration; reduction of violent uprising risk; reduces embezzlement and corruption; creates jobs.
    2. Cons: Higher cost because the policemen must be paid by the state unlike the volunteers (Tontons Macoutes); not straightforward.

    I recommend you the third option which aims to create the National Police of Haiti. The first two options seem to be efficient in solving the migration issue, but they are not. It would be shortsighted to try to alleviate poverty with foreign aid since corruption by the “Tontons Macoutes” is ubiquitous. You might also be tempted to deter Haitians from migrating by signing treaties with the US to facilitate their deportation. But, this would be dangerous to your regime as Haitians will be keener to overthrow it. The most delicate solution is to replace the “Tontons Macoutes” and the army by a National Police of Haiti composed of civilians with no affiliation to your regime. It is seemingly irrelevant to the migration issue, but it is a subtle and clever way to stop it. In fact, the deep cause of the migration is the repression caused by your regime. Once the VNS is dissolved and oppression stopped, Haitians will have more political freedoms to participate in their country’s construction. Therefore, they won’t have any reason to risk their lives in unworthy sailboats migrating to the US.


    • “The Effects of the Cold War on U.S.-Haiti’s Relations”, Jean-Claude Gerlus, SUNY at Binghamton.
    • “US Refugee Policy: A Comparison of Haiti and Cuba During the Cold War and Post-Cold War Periods” Evan George. University of Florida,

  • The US’s fear of Communism and its Impacts on Haiti’s Political and Economic Trajectory

    During the Cold War, the US decided to support the authoritarian regime of Francois Duvalier in Haiti. The main motivation behind that was to prevent the spread of communism in the Caribbean. Since the Cuban Revolution was backed up by the Soviets, the US wanted to ally with other countries (non-communists) in the region.

    Francois Duvalier “Papa Doc”, elected in 1957 as the 32nd president of Haiti, cleverly used the US’s anxiety about communism to strengthen his power. He firmly declared Haiti an anti-communist state to ally with the US which enabled his regime to benefit from financial, military and technical assistance from it [1]. By 1963, Duvalier received more than 45 million USD of American aid [2]. What might seem as a win-win situation turned out to be very detrimental to Haiti’s domestic human rights, to migration policies with the US, and to Haiti’s economy.


    Human right abuses
    In Haiti’s perspective, if we only focus on the regime we can conclude that the objectives were met. As he aimed, Duvalier received financial and military support he needed to sustain his power. However, his domestic policies were not in favor of the population. From 1957 to 1986, the Duvalier’s maintained a regime of terror, fear, and repression. Duvalier severely punished his regime foes to dissuade them from rebelling. One of the well-known victim of Duvalier was Francois’s Benoit’s family, who was wrongly accused of conspiring against Papa Doc[3]. He barely escaped through the Dominican Republic embassy, but Duvalier ordered the killing of his parents, children, servant, dogs and even a visitor at his house[4]. Countless other people were imprisoned, tortured or forced to exile during Papa Doc’s regime. In sum, during the regime of both father and son, up to 30,000 opponents were killed, or tortured[5].

    In addition to wrongfully killing his opponents, Papa Doc was abusing Haitians rights in many other ways, from printing his face on the national currency bills to meddling the church in politics. In fact, Duvalier used priests to obtain information from people via confession[6]. Furthermore, in 1961, Papa Doc was curiously re-elected president winning 1,320,749 votes which was 100% of the total. Subsequently in 1964, he proclaimed himself president for life.  Eventually, after his death in 1971, his 19-year-old son Jean Claude Duvalier known as Baby Doc succeeded him. Baby Doc’s regime continued with the game of anti-communism to gain money from the US[7]. Similarly, it did not tolerate opposition and was abusing domestic human rights. In a voodoo ceremony, Baby Doc and his wife Michele Bennett were accused of sacrificing 2 unbaptized babies in the National Palace to curse his opponents[8] willing to overthrow his regime. The US could have stopped all these cruel acts, and Duvalier’s regime in Haiti, but due to their obsession of anti-communism during the cold war, Duvalier was not their focus.

    Migration issues
    With the US’s support, the Duvaliers were powerful and were able to sustain their regime of repression, brutality and fear for 29 years. Consequently, Haitians started to leave the country to migrate to North America seeking for a better life. By the end of Duvalier’s reign, 225,000 Haitians resided in the United States[9]. This trend complicated the relation between the US and Haiti.

    Haitians migration to North America started in the 1960s during Papa Doc’s reign. There were 3 waves of Haitians migration in the US. The first category of Haitian departing is the elite class who opposed the regime. However, starting from 1965, there was a second wave of migration consisting of middle class people. Intellectuals, doctors, teachers tended to leave the country because of Duvalier’s brutality. One of the well-known intellectuals who left Haiti because of Duvalier was Dany Laferrière who was a journalist and broadcaster in Port-au-Prince. When his colleague was found dead beheaded in a beach, Laferrière went to Canada to escape from Duvalier’s ferocity[10]. Jean Léopold Dominique, another prominent journalist, was also forced to exile in 1980. Countless other prominent people left Haiti during the Duvalier era. This was very detrimental to Haiti because it left the country with few educated people. As violence continued, a third wave of people started to move to the US in 1972. Unlike the first and second wave, the third wave consisted of uneducated and low-skilled people. They were not only pollical refugees but also people escaping extreme poverty. They did not even have a tourist visa, so they came to the US shore by boat, hence the name of “boat people” was attributed to them.

    During the first migration wave, the US was very welcoming to Haitian refugees. This was understandable because they were educated, thus could accommodate in the US unfamiliar environment easily. However, with the third wave, the US policymakers started to worry because the refugees were uneducated, low-skilled and did not even speak English; they were a burden to the US. What was worse, they were overwhelmingly greater in number than the precedent waves.  From 1971 to 1977, the number of Haitians coming to the US illegally by boat was ranged from 50 000 to 70 000 [11]. Therefore, this became a new national issue in the US.

    In response to the new overwhelming flow of Haitians coming in the shore of Florida, the US used his influence on Baby Doc’s regime to change its migration policies with Haiti. As a result, Haitians were no longer welcomed to the US. Unlike Cubans, Haitians hardly obtained refugee status once arrived in the US. Only 25 to 50 out of 50 000 to 70 000 were granted political asylum from 1972 to 1980[12]. In addition, the US came up with the program of accelerated deportation known as the “Haitian Program”[13]. With that, thousands of Haitians had their political asylum rejected and deported. To this day, the migration policies between the US and Haiti remain the same, even though the Cold War ended long time ago.

    Economic devastation
    Duvalier’s strategy of receiving foreign aid to strengthen his power was detrimental to Haiti’s economy too. Not only they were abusing people’s rights, but also, they were extremely corrupted. In fact, Duvalier’s regime was a kleptocracy. Most of the money received as aid from the US went on Duvalier’s personal swiss bank account [14]. In 1980, the IMF gave Haiti a loan of 22 million. Sixteen million went on Jean-Claude Duvalier’s bank account while 4 million went in the hands of the “Tonton Macoute”. That same year, Baby Doc married Michele Bennett the daughter of a rich business man having a lavish wedding which costed 7 million US dollars[15]. In addition, when Baby left Haiti in 1986 with his wife, they allegedly embark with them hundreds of million dollars[16]

    Moreover, Duvalier’s economic strategy was a failure. Baby Doc wanted to reform Haiti’s economy. With the influence of USAID, he let the agriculture sector shifted from domestic crop production to export-led production. In addition, he fostered textile manufacturing. All of these were the consequence of Duvalier’s regime dependency on the US continuous aid. Duvalier could not have acted differently at that time because he was an American puppet willing to stay in compliance.  While those decisions attracted many American corporations (Nike, Disney) willing to benefit from the low-cost labor, they were not beneficial to the poorest Haitians[17]. Only the foreign investors, and the Duvalier’s friends and family, the bourgeoisie were benefiting from that economic strategy.

    Legacy of Duvalierism
    After the departure of Baby Doc, Haiti experienced one of the worst political instability in its history. This was partly because Duvalier did not prepare Haiti for democracy. The same day Duvalier left, the General of the army Henri Namphy who was a partisan of Duvalier took over with the promise of organizing election and establishing democracy in Haiti. But, he failed in this mission like many of his successors. The first election he attempted to organize was a chaos. 34 civilians were killed during the election day by soldiers in the army[18]. After 2 years as head of state, Namphy organized a military biased election which led to Leslie Manigat coming into power on February 17, 1988. Leslie Manigat did not last long in power.  He was overthrown by the general Henri Namphy after 5 months on June 20, 1988. Shortly after, Namphi was himself overthrown by Prosper Avril who was a former trusted member and advisor of the Duvalier’s regime. Avril lasted only 2 years in power before being replaced by Herard Abraham who was shortly replaced in March 13, 1990 by Ertha Pascal Trouillot, the first woman president in Haiti who organized the first democratic election in Haiti.

    Haiti’s goals and outcome
    Duvalier made the important choice to accept the US’s support rejecting the adaptation of communism in Haiti. Given the US strategic position and the possibility to develop Haiti’s economy with private investors and exportation possibilities, it was a great decision. However, his regime was so corrupted that he failed to invest the aid received in projects that can improve Haitians condition of life. Only 15 per cent of the budget went to operations while 85 per cent were allotted for salaries[19].

    In sum, Haiti went further in poverty during Duvalier and earn the price of the poorest country in the north hemisphere[20]. Now, the Duvaliers are no longer in power, but their legacy remains a burden for Haiti. To this day, Haiti still receives hundreds of million dollars from World Bank, USAID, and the IDB as loan or grant. In 2013, for example, Haiti received 270 million dollars from the US[21]. This money was used to finance projects in agriculture, humanitarian, health assistance etc. This means, Haiti is still highly dependent on foreign aids. It is a vicious circle created since the Duvalier era that Haiti has been unable to break.

    Choosing to ally with the communists might have made a huge difference in Haiti if the same strategy than Cuba was applied. The Soviets invested on remodeling Cuba’s industry and focused more on trade than aid. A similar situation in Haiti might have reduced the latitude of the regime to use the national budget to the enrichment of its entourage. The migration policies also that the regime signed with the US were not at all at its advantage. The decision to facilitate Haitian’s deportation from the US was just rendering his regime more vulnerable. As people are deterred to flee, the more and more unbearable were conditions of life in Haiti, the more likely rebellion against the regime was.

    US goals and outcomes
    Overall, supporting the regime was the right decision in the US perspectives. If they didn’t, this could have led to an internal revolution or an external invasion against Duvalier as the regime was unable to sustain itself. A fall of Duvalier would have left Haiti to the Communists who were already very present in the regime entourage or in any case resulted in a chaos threatening US business interests. On the other hand, the US was able to use that influence on Haiti to conclude important migration policies that are still in place today. So, they not only kept the regime away of the influence of communism preventing its spread in the region but also strategically pressured Haiti to sign bi-party agreement in the US’s interests.

    The political trajectory of Haiti has been influenced by the US due to the Cold War. The fear of communism compelled the US’s policymakers to support the Duvalier’s regime while it was a barbaric and hostile dictatorship. The US provided financial, technical and military assistance to Duvalier for 29 years. Due to corruption and shortsighted economy choices of the Duvalier’s, Haiti became poorer. As a result, migration began in Haiti which resulted to migration discrimination against Haitians at that time. What is more disconcerting, the Cold War has ended but its consequences remain a burden for Haiti.

    [1] The Effects of the Cold War on U.S.-Haiti’s Relations (p. 36)
    [2] The Effects of the Cold War on U.S.-Haiti’s Relations (p. 36)
    [3] A Comparison of Haiti and Cuba During the Cold War and Post-Cold War (p. 90)
    [4] The Downfall of Furniture-Face Haiti The Duvalier and Their Legacy (p. 2)
    [5] Haiti’s former dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier charged with corruption, The telegraph.
    [6] The Downfall of Furniture-Face Haiti The Duvalier and Their Legacy (p. 2)
    [7] The Effects of the Cold War on U.S.-Haiti’s Relations (p. 40)
    [8] The Downfall of Funiture-Face Haiti The Duvalier and Their Legacy (p. 2)
    [9] Haitian Diaspora Impact on Haitian Socio-Political and Economic Development (p. 43)
    [10] Encyclopedia Britannica, “Dany Laferrière”, 2018
    [11] Haitian Diaspora Impact on Haitian Socio-Political and Economic Development (p. 44)
    [12] A Comparison of Haiti and Cuba During the Cold War and Post-Cold War Period (p. 81)
    [13] A Comparison of Haiti and Cuba During the Cold War and Post-Cold War Period (p. 94)
    [14] The Downfall of Funiture-Face Haiti The Duvalier and Their Legacy (p. 1)
    [15] Jean-Claude Duvalier: Brutal Haitian dictator who ruled the country for 15 years, Independent News
    [16] The Downfall of Funiture-Face Haiti The Duvalier and Their Legacy (p. 2)
    [17] Jana Evans Braziel “Duvalier’s ghosts”, (p. 194)
    [18] Henri Namphy; Bestower of Silence and Despair, New-York time, 1988.
    [19] The Duvalier regime”, The Harvard Crimson, 1963
    [20] A Comparison of Haiti and Cuba During the Cold War and Post-Cold War Period (p. 75)
    [21] Haiti earthquake: where is US aid money going? The Guardian.

    Works Cited

    • “Cedras Resigns in Haiti”, Los Angeles time, 1994
    • “Dany Laferrière”, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018.
    • “Duvalier’s ghosts” Jana Evans Braziel, University press of Florida.
    • “Francois Duvalier”, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018.
    • “Haitian Diaspora Impact on Haitian Socio-Political and Economic Development” City College of New-York, master’s thesis. Sharleen Rigueur, 2011.
    • “Haiti’s Division Deepen Over Aristide”, New-York time, 1991
    • “Haiti earthquake: where is US aid money going?”. The Guardian, 2014.
    • “Haiti’s former dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier charged with corruption in Haiti” The Telegraph, 2011.
    • “Henri Namphy; Bestower of Silence and Despair”, New-York time, 1988
    • “Jean-Claude Duvalier: Brutal Haitian dictator who ruled the country for 15 years” Independent News. 2014.
    • “Jean-Claude Duvalier”, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018.
    • “The Downfall of Furniture-Face Haiti The Duvalier and Their Legacy”, Gold Hebert, Los Angeles Time.
    • “The Duvalier regime”, The Harvard Crimson, 1963.
    • “The Effects of the Cold War on U.S.-Haiti’s Relations”, Jean-Claude Gerlus, SUNY at Binghamton.
    • “The impact of Economic Sanctions on Health and Human Rights in Haiti”. Elzabeth Gibbons and Richard Garfield, 1999
    • “US Refugee Policy: A Comparison of Haiti and Cuba During the Cold War and Post-Cold War Periods” Evan George. University of Florida.

  • A little bit of Haiti in the US – Williamson a model of resilience

    The first thing I noticed about Williamson WV is its similarities to my home country Haiti. In fact, if you are looking for a tourism hotspot, neither Haiti or Williamson will be among your top choice. You will not get a good impression of those places by browsing the Internet or by watching the news. Haiti is typically described as a very poor country with public safety issues and political instability. However, our rich culture and impressive history are overlooked. There are countless attractive places to visit as a tourist in Haiti. It is the same situation for Williamson. When I was selected among the 10 Fulbright students to go there for a week of service learning, I googled it to have a general idea of the city. It is typically portrayed as a very wild place with not many interested things to do or places to visit. But, as soon as I arrived at Tug Valley Inn, I realized it was the same stereotype as Haiti. Not only the people are very welcoming, but also the city is very quiet and attractive. This trip was an opportunity for me to discuss with some community ambassadors, to know deeper their story, the city’s goals as well as the strategy used to reach them.
    Generally, when people are telling the story of Williamson, they reduce it to its economic ups and downs. Devasting floods, the coal-mining industry’s collapse and de-population are solely highlighted. But, the internal effort that is being made to recreate a sustainable city is overlooked. In fact, many organizations are striving to rebuild the city’s economy. They have a “holistic community health model” which embodies several activities (Healthy in the Hills, Tuesday Night Track…) aiming to keep the population active and committed. They teach people how to eat healthy and encourage them to work out by using incentives. The belief is maintaining the population healthy and bonded is important to boost the economy.
    One of their most appealing activity is the “Tuesday Night Track”. It is a running activity carried since 2012 to increase the people physical activities. Every Tuesday, tens of residents gather together at Belfry High School to run for about 30 minutes. With 9 other fulbrighters and Amizade’s staff, we participated with the community in the running which deeply touched them. “I am very thankful for Fulbright’s participation in this event” said one of the participants from the city. Through this specific experience, I have learned how to serve a community by simply listening, being present and empathetic.
    These activities have also started to increase the people’s trust in the city. When I asked this 39-year-old resident how he envisions the future, he replied: “the new generation has started to develop a sense of hope in the city’s future”. This was something I learned which can be hardly found in the news and the Internet. I was thus happy to spend this week in Williamson. There is a lot from it that can inspire my fellow citizens on how to build trust in Haiti.

  • My experience at “Faculté Des Sciences”

    The intent of this text is to cheer and inspire my fellow Haitian citizens who are struggling in many universities with the aspiration of becoming prominent people for the society. Perhaps a few skeptical people may ask why it is written in English, but my intention is to write to students, so I am confident that they can fully grasp the substance of this text. Many people have this very pessimistic perception about universities in Haiti: that we are mediocre and that foreign students are necessarily better than ours. They forget that we Haitians, we are very hard workers, very highly motivated and enthusiastic learners. It is true we lack sufficient investment in our education system, but our unyielding motivation is enough to make us well-educated. With that said, let me share with you my experience at Faculté Des Sciences in Haiti and shed light on some misunderstanding that people might have about us.


    Let’s start from the beginning. I entered “Faculté Des Sciences” in 2009. Three months later the earthquake occurred and destroyed our facility. I lost my brother Joseph Vladimir Laguerre who was a senior in mechanical engineering. I was shocked but since then, I decided to become a civil engineer. Six months later, The faculty reopened in temporary shelter (which ultimately lasted more than 5 years) and my father compelled me to go back. The conditions were harsh, and I could not keep myself from recalling the day of the earthquake which was still vivid in my thoughts. Nevertheless, I was determined to learn. I was a zealous student; I studied hard, and I gained the maximum of knowledge that I could. I had a very interesting group of students in my inner circle(Garlin, Delcine, Civil, Ismael aka Bourik President (lol), Steven aka Vice-President Bourik(lol), Malachie, Jessica, Wadelin, Anne Martine, Terry, Seide, Maignan…) which cheered each other all the time and helped us to excel. I also had outstanding professors, which taught me the fundamentals of engineering. I aced many of my courses, and graduated with excellence. After that, I did my master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh, and now I am doing my PhD at Rice University and I am making the same effort as anybody else to keep up with my classes and my research. My message to all Haitian students is to have a “nevertheless mentality”. As long as you are enthusiastic and make huge effort in your learning, it does not matter too much where you are studying. The real determinant of how much learn is you and your endeavors. Now, all of the brilliant guys in my inner circle at FDS are now having a good level in engineering because they were diligent students.

    Now, let me address some critics a few odds have about us at the FDS. Very often, simple-minded people label us as mere mathematicians which means that we are not good engineers and that we cannot contribute to solve actual problems in Haiti. They never make a profound analysis, but they try to support their simplistic argument by referring to the collapse of FDS during the 2010 earthquake. That is to say, our building should have been earthquake resistant. This argument apparently makes sense, but it is not complete. A such conclusion should not be yielded based on a single event. Actually, we are not mere mathematicians. It’s true that we do a lot of mathematics, but it represents the prerequisites in preparation for engineering classes. It is the same requirements as in many other universities around the world. At FDS, we cover a lot of interesting classes in the civil engineering department (concrete, hydraulics, pavement, transportation, geotechnics, bridges). That’s why I am saying: “we are not only mathematicians”. A few naysayers may now accuse me of speaking with a forked tongue based on my previous blog (De la théorie sans pratique en Haiti) where I denounced a lack of practice and too much theory in our Faculty. This is not a contradiction. Doing theory does not mean doing only mathematics. All the non-mathematical classes I mentioned above were also part of the interesting theories learned.

    There is a lack of investment at FDS, nevertheless we are making huge effort and we are able to produce some talents. I thus find it ruthless, insensitive and unkind to label us as mathematicians. If you never visit us in our campus, never give a penny in our budget, you are not in a good position to judge us.

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The sky is not completely dark at night. Were the sky absolutely dark, one would not be able to see the silhouette of an object against the sky.

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