December 17

This Day in History

General Interest

Dec 17, 1990:

Aristide wins Haiti's first free election

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a radical Roman Catholic priest and opponent of the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier, is elected president of Haiti in a landslide victory. It was the first free election in Haiti's history. However, less than one year later, in September 1991, Aristide was deposed in a bloody military coup. He escaped to exile, and a three-man junta took power.

In 1994, reacting to evidence of atrocities committed by Haiti's military dictators, the United Nations authorized the use of force to restore Aristide. On September 18, the eve of the American invasion, a diplomatic delegation led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter brokered a last-minute agreement with Haiti's military to give up power. Bloodshed was prevented, and on September 19, 1994, 20,000 U.S. troops landed unopposed to oversee Haiti's transition to democracy. In October, Aristide returned and served as president until the expiration of his term in 1996. He was succeeded by his close friend and handpicked successor Rene Preval, who was elected president in a landslide victory the previous year. In 2000, Aristide was again elected Haitian president in an election marked by violence and corruption.

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