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Haiti’s First ‘Modern Minded’ President Dead at 83

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Former Haitian President Leslie Manigat Dies at 83

Leslie Manigat

Reported by April Taylor

Former Haitian President Leslie Manigat has died at the age of 83.  He reportedly died after a long illness that ended with him contracting chikungunya, a mosquito-borne illness. Manigat was born in August 16, 1930 in Port-au-Prince and was one of four children.  He grew up in a family of educators and politicians, and in 1958, he went to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and became the first director of the School of International Studies at the University of Haiti.  In 1960, Manigat fled the country after being jailed for two months. He had been accused of helping instigate a student strike.  He taught in France, the United States, and Latin America while in exile for 23 years.

Manigat was a political scientist, author, and historian who was elected on January 17, 1988 in a race that was run by the army and widely viewed as being rigged.  The election was boycotted by Haiti’s main opposition parties and most of the electorate.  Three months prior to the election, a round of balloting had to be called off after gunmen shot into lines of voters and hacked other people to death killing more than 34 people.  Many believed the military had orchestrated the attacks in an attempt to ruin Haiti’s first free elections in three decades after dictator Jean- Claude Duvalier, known as “Baby Doc,” and his father Francois Duvalier, known as “Papa Doc,” had ruled the country for years.

Manigat’s presidency was short lived, as less than six months after he assumed office, he was removed in a military coup.  Manigat and military leader General Namphy had been locked in a power struggle that saw Manigat remove Namphy as commander of the armed forces for insubordination.  Namphy retaliated by using troops to seize the national palace and take Manigat into custody at his home.  Namphy then proclaimed himself to be president and set up military rule.

Manigat was a noted author who won the Haiti Grand Prize of Literature in 2004.  He ran for president again in 2006 but came in second to Rene Preval.  Manigat is known as Haiti’s first modern minded president, and he will be remembered as a man who tried to break the cycles of dictatorship and class-based violence in Haiti.  Manigat is survived by his wife and five of his seven daughters.

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