Haiti became the first independent state in colonial-era Latin America and the Caribbean and the first black-led republic when it overthrew French rule in the 19th century.
But it has suffered cycles of violence, invasion and repression for most of its later history, including the Duvalier dynastic dictatorship.
President Jovenel Moise was shot dead by unidentified attackers overnight, sparking fears of further turbulence.
Here are some key events in Haiti’s political history:
1492 – Spain colonizes the island of Hispaniola after the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Two hundred years later Spain ceded the western half to France. The plantations worked by slaves of African origin produce sugar, rum and coffee that enrich France.
1801 – Former slave Toussaint Louverture successfully leads a revolt and abolishes slavery.
1804 – Haiti becomes independent with former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who is assassinated in 1806.
1915 – The United States invades Haiti, withdrawing in 1943, but maintaining financial control and political influence.
1937 – In the worst incident of long rivalry with the neighboring Dominican Republic, thousands of Haitians in the border area are massacred by Dominican troops under the dictator Trujillo.
1957 – Francois “Pope Doc” Duvalier takes power with military support, ushering in a period that sees widespread human rights abuses.
1964 – Duvalier declares himself president for life. His dictatorship is marked by repression, forced by the dreaded secret police of Tonton Macoutes.
1971 – Duvalier dies and is succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude, or “Baby Doc”. Repression is on the rise. In the following decades, thousands of Haitian “ships” fled by sea to Florida, many dying on the way.
1986 – The popular uprising forces Baby Doc to flee Haiti to go into exile in France. Lieutenant General Henri Namphy takes over.
1988 – General Prosper Avril takes over from Namphy in a coup.
1990 – April declares state of siege amid protests but resigns before elections under international pressure.
1990 – Former parish rector Jean-Bertrand Aristide, poor left-wing champion, wins Haiti’s first free election. He was ousted in a 1991 coup.
1994 – American troops intervene to expel the military regime and Aristide returns. The UN peacekeeping forces were deployed in 1995 and Aristide’s protégé, René Preval, is elected president.
1999 – Aristide is elected president for a second term despite the results.
2004 – Political unrest forces Aristide to flee but the country descends in violence.
2006 – Preval wins the election.
2008 – 2010 – Series of protests, triggered by food shortages, an outbreak of cholera and then by elections.
2010 – A catastrophic earthquake kills between 100,000 and 300,000 people, according to various estimates, causing widespread damage in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere. Despite an international relief effort, the country is almost overwhelmed and exacerbates political, social and economic problems.
2011 – Michel Martelly wins the second round of the presidential election.
2012-14 Frequent anti-government protests fueled by corruption and poverty. Protesters are demanding Martelly’s resignation.
2017 – Jovenel Moise, a banana exporter turned politician, is declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election.
2019 – Moise constantly accumulates power and rules by decree after Haiti does not hold elections due to political blockade and unrest.
2021 – Thousands take to the streets singing “No to the dictatorship” and calling for Moise’s resignation.