Army Returns to World’s Coup Capital

Haitian Army officers pictured in the 1950s.

Haitian Army officers pictured in the 1950s.

Haiti’s army has overthrown its own government 33 times since 1804. It’s a western hemisphere record so notorious that the Haitian armed forces were completely abolished in 1995 in the hopes that it might prevent future attacks. (The move emulated Costa Rica and Panama which have also stood-down their armies.) The elimination of the military slowed, but didn’t stop, Haiti’s coup culture, however. In 2004, veterans of the disbanded Haitian army – backed by France and the U.S. – once again intervened to depose the civilian government.

Even Haiti’s most infamous dictator, Papa Doc Duvalier, distrusted the Haitian army and had to dodge at least one coup attempt aimed at him. Duvalier, who came to power through a democratic election instead of military coup, was so concerned about the Haitian army that he famously formed the feared National Security Volunteers, known as the “Tonton Macoutes,” as a counterweight to it.

Now, the Haitian government has reversed its 1995 edict and ordered the remobilization of the armed forces. A just-enacted decree of the Council of Ministers has officially remobilized the Haitian military, Haiti Libre reports. The move was not unanticipated. For the last four years Haiti has been quietly laying the groundwork to remobilize its military; Haitian volunteers have been sent abroad to Ecuador and Brazil to train in combat engineering and military customs.