Smarck Michel, former Haitian prime minister, dies at 75

September 2, 2012

Smarck Michel, a businessman who served for almost a year as Haiti’s prime minister after the United States restored President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power in the mid-1990s, died Sept. 1. He was 75.

He died in his family home in a neighborhood above the capital of Port-au-Prince following a brain tumor, said his son, Kenneth Michel.

Smarck Michel was born March 29, 1937, in Saint-Marc, a port city north of the capital, and moved around the country during his childhood because his father was serving in the Haitian armed forces.

Mr. Michel attended college in New York, then returned to Haiti in the 1950s to help run the bakery his father had started. He later ran a grocery store in downtown Port-au-Prince.

Mr. Michel became prime minister in 1994, one month after a U.S.-led multinational military force restored Aristide to the presidency after three years in exile. Aristide’s first term was cut short in 1991 when the army ousted him in a coup.

The choice of Mr. Michel was seen as an effort to placate business leaders and many in Haiti’s small middle and upper classes who felt threatened by the return of Aristide, a populist, left-leaning former Roman Catholic priest. Mr. Michel resigned almost a year later over opposition to his economic reforms, which advocated a privatization plan that was unpopular with Haiti’s poor majority.

Before he became prime minister, Mr. Michel served as commerce and industry minister for nearly four months in Aristide’s first government, in 1991. He also financed several of Aristide’s endeavors, including an orphanage for street children.

Mr. Michel was dismissed from the post by Aristide amid criticism that the government was unable to lower prices for food and other basic goods. Mr. Michel had instituted price controls, but they were widely ignored.

After his brief stint in politics, Mr. Michel returned full time to the family grocery store until he closed it in 2010 and retired, his son said.

Besides his son, survivors include his wife of 53 years, Victoire Marie-Rose Sterlin; and two daughters, Patricia and Marjorie Michel.

— Associated Press

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