Americas

A timeline of Haiti’s political turmoil in pictures

The assassination of embattled president Jovenel Moïse plunged Haiti into political turmoil Wednesday, marking another chapter of upheaval for a country all too familiar with such violence. Since the Caribbean nation declared independence from French rule in the 19th century, it has undergone cycles of repression, constitutional crises and foreign intervention. Natural disasters, poverty and disease outbreaks have left the country reeling.

Eddie Adams/AP

Young men stand in the rubble of seaside homes in Jérémie, Haiti, in October 2016, a few weeks after Hurricane Matthew blasted through southwestern Haiti.

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post

In 1915, more than a century after Haiti’s independence, the United States invaded and occupied the Creole-speaking nation, a move the U.S. government characterized as restoring peace and championing liberal values after Haitian President Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam was assassinated. In reality, the occupation enforced Jim Crow-era policies such as segregation on the largely Black republic. Chain gangs were used to build infrastructure. Uprisings against American rule were swiftly quashed.

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post

The United States withdrew in 1934 but maintained economic influence in the country, as well as a legacy of intervening in the nation’s politics.

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, right, and Haitian President Sténio Vincent in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, in July 1934.

AP

AP

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in December 1937.

AP

AP

In the mid-20th century, Haiti was ruled by a multi-generational dictatorship characterized by repression and fear. François Duvalier, known as Papa Doc, came to power in 1957, ushering in a period of bloody brutality as he consolidated power and silenced dissidents. When he died in 1971, he was succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, or Baby Doc, who at 19 assumed the position he and his father called “president for life” and ruled with an iron first until he was forced to flee in 1986.

AP

Gen. Antonio Kebreau, head of the military junta that took control of Haiti, pins a cordon on François Duvalier in an inauguration ceremony at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince on Oct. 22, 1957.

AP

AP

Haitian President François Duvalier's forces march in front of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince on May 15, 1963, the day Duvalier's constitutional term as chief executive ended.

Eddie Adams/AP

Eddie Adams/AP

In 1990, reeling from the disarray, corruption and trauma of the Duvalier dictatorship, Haiti held free elections that vaulted priest and populist Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency with around 67 percent of the vote. His tenure was short-lived, however. Less than one year later, Aristide was ousted by a coup and fled to Venezuela.

Eddie Adams/AP

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is lifted on the shoulders of security personnel after voting in a general election in Tabarre in June 1995.

Carol Guzy/ The Washington Post

Carol Guzy/ The Washington Post

After nearly three years of military rule in Haiti, U.S. intervention ushered Aristide back into power in 1994.

Carol Guzy/ The Washington Post

Two years later, Haiti had what is widely seen as its first smooth transition of power: Nearly 200 years after the country declared independence, René Préval assumed office in 1996. But ensuing coup attempts and a disputed election plunged the country further into political uncertainty.

Carol Guzy/ The Washington Post

A U.S. soldier protects a suspect from the crowd after an explosive device was thrown into a pro-Aristide march in September 1994 in Port-au-Prince, killing five and injuring over 40 others.

Carol Guzy/ The Washington Post

Carol Guzy/ The Washington Post

In 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 200,000 and sending buildings in Port-au-Prince, the capital, toppling to the ground. International relief efforts poured in, with promises to help the country recover from the devastation. But many Haitians say these initiatives fell short and did little to change their lives. Instead, Haiti experienced a major cholera outbreak that raged for nine years and killed nearly 10,000 people.

Carol Guzy/ The Washington Post

After days with little access to food or water following the earthquake, people converge on a store in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 16, 2010.

Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post

Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post

A 13-year-old is carried after fainting at a cholera treatment facility in Cabaret, Haiti, in November 2010.

Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post

Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post

The most recent turmoil stemmed from disagreement over Moïse’s time in office. The president’s five-year term was slated to begin in 2016, but a dispute over the election results delayed the start of his term by a year. Moïse claimed this entitled him to more time in office. The dispute led to protests and violence in the country. In 2020, he dissolved the parliament, sparking fears of a power grab.

Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post

Presidential candidate Jovenel Moïse in Carrefour, Haiti, in October 2015.

Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

Supporters of presidential candidate Jude Célestin tear down a Moïse campaign sign during demonstrations against preliminary election results in Port-au-Prince in November 2015.

Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

Moïse’s assassination Wednesday comes amid a worsening coronavirus outbreak in the country, which has not received any vaccine doses. At least 278 Haitians have been killed this year in attacks that have led some citizens to flee the capital, traveling by boat and plane to avoid dangerous, gang-controlled roads.

Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

Haitian police look for evidence outside the presidential residence on July 7 in Port-au-Prince after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP/Getty Images

Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP/Getty Images

A street market in Port-au-Prince in early June.

Joseph Odelyn/AP

Joseph Odelyn/AP

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Credits

Editing by Reem Akkad. Photo editing by Chloe Coleman.