Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti Vs Dominican Republic

Haiti and the Dominican Republic: A Tale of Two Countries
Haiti or Republic of Haiti, and Dominican Republic, occupy the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago. The Greater Antilles are one of four island groups in the Caribbean. Comprising Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (containing the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic) , and Puerto Rico—the fourth largest island of the Antilles and the only U.S. Territory—the Greater Antilles constitutes almost 90% of the land mass of the entire West Indies.

The day after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, Christian televangelist Pat Robertson sparked outrage with his comments on The 700 Club that the nation's history of catastrophes was due to a "pact to the Devil" its residents had made some 200 years ago. How else to explain why Haiti suffers, while the Dominican Republic - which shares the 30,000 sq. miles of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola - is relatively well-off? "That island of Hispaniola is one island," Robertson said. "The Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, et cetera. Haiti is in desperate poverty."(source: Times, 19-1-2010)

Robertson's rationale is more than suspect, yet the differences between the two nations are undeniable. The UN ranks the Dominican Republic 90th out of 182 countries on its human development index, which combines a variety of welfare measurements; Haiti comes in at 149th. In the Dominican Republic, average life expectancy is nearly 74 years. In Haiti, it's 61. You're substantially more likely to be able to read and write if you live in the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola, and less likely to live on under $1.25 a day.......

Map of West Indies

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The Greater Antilles

The islands of the Caribbean Sea, collectively known as the West Indies, are sorted by size and location into the Bahamas (or Lucayan archipelago, which includes the Turks and Caicos Islands), the Lesser Antilles, and the Greater Antilles. The "Greater Antilles" refers to Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and Puerto Rico. The smaller islands in the vicinity of these four major islands are sometimes also treated as part of the group. This includes the smaller islands that surround the main islands, but are still part of the main island country (for instance, the Republic of Cuba consists of the island of Cuba, the Isle of Pines, and several smaller islands around them.) The Cayman Islands are also often included in the Greater Antilles because of their geographical proximity to Cuba. The Greater Antilles are made up of continental rock, part of North America, as distinct from that of the Lesser Antilles, which are mostly young volcanic or coral islands.

The Yucatan Channel separates the Greater Antilles from Mexico, and the Florida Straits separate them from the United States. To the South of the Greater Antilles, and completely surrounding Jamaica, is the Caribbean Sea.

All countries are members of UN, except Puerto Rico, which is still a voluntary Commonwealth of the United States (by repeated votes by its people), which means that it is neither a state, nor an independent country, but is a U.S. territory.

Map of Hispaniola Island

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Hispaniola (from Spanish, La Española) is a major island in the Caribbean, containing the two sovereign states of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The island is located between the islands of Cuba to the west, and Puerto Rico to the east, directly within the hurricane belt. Hispaniola is perhaps most famous for marking the first European colonies in the New World, colonies founded by Christopher Columbus on his voyages in 1492 and 1493. It is the tenth most populous island in the world, and the most populous in the Americas. It is the 22nd largest island in the world.

Before Christopher Columbus arrived, the indigenous Taínos (meaning ‘Friendly People’) lived on the island now known as Hispaniola. Taínos gave the world sweet potatoes, peanuts, guava, pineapple and tobacco – even the word ‘tobacco’ is Taíno in origin. Yet the Taínos themselves were wiped out by Spanish diseases and slavery. Of the 400,000 Taínos that lived on Hispaniola at the time of European arrival, fewer than 1000 were still alive 30 years later. None exist today.(source: Lonely planet)

Two colonies grew on Hispaniola, one Spanish and the other French. Both brought thousands of African slaves to work the land. In 1804, after a 70-year struggle, the French colony gained independence. Haiti, the Taíno name for the island, was the first majority-black republic in the New World.

In 1821 colonists in Santo Domingo declared their independence from Spain. Haiti, which had long aspired to unify the island, promptly invaded its neighbor and occupied it for more than two decades. But Dominicans on February 27, 1844, Juan Pablo Duarte led a bloodless coup and reclaimed Dominican autonomy. Feeling threatened by Haiti in 1861, the Dominican Republic once again submitted to Spanish rule. But ordinary Dominicans did not support the move and, after four years of armed resistance, succeeded in expelling Spanish troops in what is known as the War of Restoration. DR then started their independence.

Geographical difference
The mountains that lie across the island can cut off Haiti's rainfall. The northeast trade winds, and so the rain, blow in the Dominican Republic's favor. Haiti's semiarid climate makes cultivation more challenging. Deforestation - a major problem in Haiti, but not in its neighbor

Haiti/Republic of Haiti
Map of Haiti

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The native Taino Amerindians - who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when it was discovered by COLUMBUS in 1492 - were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola. In 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island, which later became Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. In the late 18th century, Haiti's nearly half million slaves revolted under Toussaint L'OUVERTURE. After a prolonged struggle, Haiti became the first black republic to declare independence in 1804. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. After an armed rebellion led to the forced resignation and exile of President Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE in February 2004, an interim government took office to organize new elections under the auspices of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Continued violence and technical delays prompted repeated postponements, but Haiti finally did inaugurate a democratically elected president and parliament in May of 2006.(source: CIA)

Social & Cuturally
A "forlorn, hate-filled little Caribbean island" in 1965. On the eastern part of Hispaniola, you'll probably speak Spanish; in the west, it's more likely to be French or Creole, a division that's the result of centuries of European colonization and numerous power struggles. (Not to mention the decimation of Hispaniola's indigenous Taino people - who, of course, spoke neither.)

When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492, he named the land La Isla EspaÑola; it served as a Spanish colony and base for the empire's further conquests, though was never particularly profitable. In 1697 the Spanish formally ceded the western third of it to the French, already present and more heavily invested. The Hispaniolan outposts of both empires imported African slaves, though the latter did so to a much greater extent. The colonies - Santo Domingo and Saint-Domingue, respectively - subsequently developed vastly different demographics. According to a study by the American Library of Congress, by the end of the 18th Century there were about 40,000 white landowners, 25,000 black or interracial freedmen, and 60,000 slaves in the Spanish colony, compared with approximately 30,000 whites, 27,000 freedmen, and at least 500,000 black slaves in its French counterpart.

Domestic Security

For many years now, not only with the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, Haiti has been breaking up politically, socially and economically.The consequences have been growing insecurity and violence, the loss of institutions, authority and power dispersion, and widespread poverty.

The international community carried out five military interventions in the last fifteen years; nonetheless, the causes leading to these interventions, especially the lack of governability to ensure the security of the population, seem to be prevalent still today.

The negative legacy of these failed interventions also contributes to the current instability. Furthermore, Haiti is the most corrupt country in the world and the level of insecurity and violence has affected even the United Nations forces working in the country, with the death of two blue helmets in mid-November.(source:

Poverty and Instability
A report from a U.N. fact-finding mission to Haiti said widespread poverty is undermining ongoing operations to stabilize the country. The current levels of extreme poverty, with 80 percent of the population subsisting on less than two dollars a day and 50 percent with less than one dollar, it is incompatible for achieving the goal of attaining stability in the short term."


There are no "safe” areas in Haiti. There is a persistent danger of violent crime, which can be subject to periodic surges sometimes not obviously explained by other events or conditions. Haiti is among the four most important countries for drug transit to the United States. Law and order in Haiti has steadily deteriorated as a result. Kidnapping, death threats, murders, drug-related shootouts, armed robberies, gang fight, home break-ins and car-jacking are common in Haiti(source: Haiti is called Kidnap Capital by the world. Crime become a culture and norm?.....

There were negative report of fighting and looting for food during the 2010 earthquake; but however there were also stories of how Haitian help each others and the foreigners, even with limited resources.

Map of Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic (Spanish: República Dominicana, pronounced [reˈpuβlika ðominiˈkana]) is a nation on the island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are occupied by two countries. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 48,442 km² and an estimated 10 million people.

Inhabited by Taínos since the seventh century, the territory of the Dominican Republic was reached by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, namely Santo Domingo, the country's capital and Spain's first capital in the New World. In Santo Domingo stand, among other firsts in the Americas, the first university, cathedral, and castle, the latter two in the Ciudad Colonial area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In 1821 colonists in Santo Domingo declared their independence from Spain. Haiti, which had long aspired to unify the island, promptly invaded its neighbor and occupied it for more than two decades. But Dominicans never accepted Haitian rule and on February 27, 1844, Juan Pablo Duarte – considered the father of the country – led a bloodless coup and reclaimed Dominican autonomy. Fearing an invasion and still feeling threatened by Haiti in 1861, the Dominican Republic once again submitted to Spanish rule. But ordinary Dominicans did not support the move and, after four years of armed resistance, succeeded in expelling Spanish troops in what is known as the War of Restoration . (Restauración is a common street name throughout the DR, and there are a number of monuments to the war, including a prominent one in Santiago.) On March 3, 1865, the Queen of Spain signed a decree annulling the annexation and withdrew her soldiers from the island.

The young country endured one disreputable caudillo (military leader) after the other. In 1916 US President Woodrow Wilson sent the marines to the Dominican Republic, ostensibly to quell a coup attempt, but they ended up occupying the country for eight years. Though imperialistic, this occupation succeeded in stabilizing the DR.

The rise of the caudillo
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, a former security guard and the eventual chief of the Dominican national police, muscled his way into the presidency in February 1930 and dominated the country until his assassination in 1961. He implemented a brutal system of repression, killing and imprisoning political opponents. Though he was himself partly black, Trujillo was deeply racist and xenophobic. In October 1937 he ordered the extermination of Haitians along the international border. In a matter of days some 20, 000 Haitians were hacked to death with machetes and their bodies dumped into the ocean.

During these years Trujillo used his government to amass a personal fortune by establishing monopolies that he and his wife controlled. By 1934 he was the richest man on the island. To this day there are many Dominicans who remember Trujillo’s rule with a certain amount of fondness and nostalgia, in part because Trujillo did develop the economy. Factories were opened, a number of grandiose infrastructure and public works projects were carried out, bridges and highways were built and peasants were given state land to cultivate.

Caudillo redux

Joaquín Balaguer was Trujillo’s puppet president at the time of Trujillo’s assassination. Civil unrest and another US occupation followed Trujillo’s death, but Balaguer eventually regained the presidency, to which he clung fiercely for the next 12 years. And like his mentor, Balaguer remained a major political force long after he gave up official control. In 1986 he became president again, despite frail health and blindness. He was as ­repressive as ever and his economic policies sent the peso tumbling.

Dominicans whose savings had evaporated protested and were met with violence from the national police. Many fled to the USA. By the end of 1990, 12% of the Dominican population – 900, 000 people – had moved to New York.

After rigging the 1990 and 1994 elections, the military had grown weary of Balaguer’s rule and he agreed to cut his last term short, hold elections and, most importantly, not run as a candidate. But it wouldn’t be his last campaign – he would run once more at the age of 92, winning 23% of the vote in the 2000 presidential election. Thousands would mourn his death two years later, despite the fact that he prolonged the Trujillo-style dictatorship for decades. His most lasting legacy may be the Faro a Colón, an enormously expensive monument to the discovery of the Americas that drained Santo Domingo of electricity whenever the lighthouse was turned on.

Breaking with the past

The Dominican people signaled their desire for change in electing Leonel Fernández, a 42-year-old lawyer who grew up in New York City, as president in the 1996 presidential election; he edged out three-time candidate José Francisco Peña Gómez in a runoff. But would too much change come too quickly? Shocking the nation, Fernández forcibly retired two-dozen generals, encouraged his defense minister to submit to questioning by the civilian attorney general and fired the defense minister for insubordination – all in a single week. In the four years of his presidency, he oversaw strong economic growth, privatization and lowered inflation, unemployment and illiteracy – although endemic corruption remained pervasive.

Hipólito Mejía, a former tobacco farmer, succeeded Fernández in 2000 and immediately cut spending and increased fuel prices – not exactly the platform he ran on. The faltering US economy and World Trade Center attacks ate into Dominican exports as well as cash remittances and foreign tourism. Corruption scandals involving the civil service, unchecked spending, electricity shortages and several bank failures, which cost the government in the form of huge bailouts for depositors, all spelled doom for Mejías’ reelection chances.

Familiar faces appear again and again in Dominican politics and Fernandez returned to the national stage by handily defeating Mejía in the 2004 presidential elections. Though he’s widely considered competent and even forward thinking, it’s not uncommon to hear people talk about him rather unenthusiastically as a typical politician beholden to special interests. The more cynical claim that the Fernandez administration is allied with corrupt business and government officials who perpetuate a patronage system different from Trujillo’s rule in name only. In 2007 the faltering US economy, the devastation brought by Tropical Storm Noel, the threat of avian bird flu and continued tension with Haiti provided challenges to Fernandez’s reelection campaign.
(source: Lonely Planet)

Although the economy is growing at a respectable rate, high unemployment and underemployment remains an important challenge. The country suffers from marked income inequality; the poorest half of the population receives less than one-fifth of GNP, while the richest 10% enjoys nearly 40% of national income.

Dominican Republic is on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to combat human trafficking, particularly in terms of not adequately investigating and prosecuting public officials who may be complicit with trafficking activity, and inadequate government efforts to protect trafficking victims; the government has taken measures to reduce demand for commercial sex acts with children through criminal prosecutions (2008)(source: CIA). Drug-related activities is also active in DR.

Politically - both countries struggled with democracy
As revolution raged in France in the 1790s, its colonial slaves in Hispaniola revolted; in 1804, they declared independence, and Haiti, which was named after the Taino word for "land of mountains," became the world's first sovereign black republic. The Dominican Republic wasn't established until 1844, after not just European rule but also 22 years of Haitian occupation. Strife between (as well as within) the neighbors, rooted in deep class, racial, and cultural differences, was constant. Interference by foreign powers was often the norm. The Spanish took back the Dominican Republic again in the early 1860s, and for periods during the twentieth century, the U.S. occupied both nations, supposedly to restore order but also, in the face of European threats, to assert its influence in the Western Hemisphere. Internal politics were characterized by multiple coups, revolts and dictators, the most infamous being Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and FranÇois and Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti. Juan Bosch, the first democratically elected president of the Dominican Republic in 1962, was almost immediately overthrown after taking office in 1963. Jean-Bertrand Aristide became the first freely-elected president of Haiti, in 1990; he was ousted as well, returned and was ousted again. Haiti is however a failed state....where there is disorder and instability, where the authority is not able to manage.

The difference: Ecomically -they began to diverge.

Haiti had long been exploited, by foreign powers, neighbors and its own rulers. France not only milked its colony for coffee and sugar production, it also extracted an indemnity from Haiti: the young nation had to pay a burdensome sum to its former colonizer in order to achieve France's diplomatic recognition.

The lighter-skinned Dominicans looked down on the darker-skinned Haitians: in 1965, even as the D.R. was embroiled in civil war, Haitians were working in Dominican fields and not the other way around. And while Trujillo at least encouraged economic development in his country, Duvalier pere et fils essentially sold their own people as cheap sugar cane-cutters to the Dominican Republic. This make the difference....

Dominic Republic is able to develop their economy, especially tourism; but Haiti was still indulged in their political instability, gang fighting and criminal/social unrest.They lost the opportunity to develop their economy, despite having great tourism potential similar to DR.


Today, with a lack of resources and a much higher population density than its neighbor, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The UN has sent peacekeeping missions to maintain order there since the mid-1990s, but terrible conditions persist. Haiti's dismal statistics have a long history; no Devil is necessary(source: Time).

Millions of Haitians live abroad.... a reflection of poor living condition of the country.

Did Pat Robertson speak the true?...... He claimed that the quake was divine retribution for a pact with the devil that was sworn long ago, during Slave Rebellion. An apocryphal tale of Haitian voodoo priests sacrificing a pig and drinking its blood in 1791 in order to secure Satan's aid in expelling the French occupation. In return, the priests are said to have promised Haiti to Satan for the next 200 years. The French were soon beat back, and in 1804, Haiti became an independent nation. Do you believe the story?....

Anyhow, the differences between the two countries in the same island; and even natural disaster seems to beset more on Haiti, just wonder is it act of God, or the warning of God to mankind for the disorder and disobedience....

As desperate believers gathered to pray Sunday across the shattered capital, the Rev. Eric Toussaint told a congregation gathered outside the ruined cathedral that the earthquake ''is a sign from God, saying that we must recognize his power.''

Haitians, he said, ''need to reinvent themselves, to find a new path to God.''

May be this is the answer from Haitian themselves.....

Reference/related articles:

1. Haiti and the Dominican Republic: A Tale of Two Countries, Times dated 19-1-2010
2. Dominican Republic,
3. Haiti,


  1. Excellent article. The joke is that, after the earthquake there are 3 million homeless Hatians - but there were 2 million homeless BEFORE the quake!

    Pat Robertson made a similar statement about the US after the September 11th terrorist attacks and people mocked him then. I'm not so sure he wasn't wrong ... We Americans need to reinvent ourselves and find The Path to God.