Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 29th 2014 Contents Former Haitian President Leslie
Manigat, who took power in
a controversial military-
organised 1988 presidential election
only to be ousted four and a half
months later, would regularly ask
visitors to his modest Port-au-
Prince home: "Do Haitians really
want change? Is Haiti prepared for
It is a question that Manigat also
quietly posed to himself as an author,
historian and one of Haiti s most
prolific intellectuals and political sci-
entists who helped mould foreign
diplomats from Europe to the
Caribbean to Latin America.
Manigat died Friday after a long
illness, including a week-long bout
with chikungunya, a mosquito-borne
virus ravaging Haiti and the
Caribbean, a representative of the
family said. He was 83.
"He loved Haiti, and he always
wanted Haiti to arrive on the route
of progress, development and tol-
erance in politics," said former Hait-
ian Prime Minister Gérard Latortue,
a friend of more than 60 years who
had served as his foreign minister
in the short-lived Manigat cabinet.
"This is a man who believed a lot
in democracy even if he knew that
democracy couldn t function well in
a country where there is a lot of ille-
gality, poverty and ignorance,"
Latortue said. "He believed in the
intrinsic value of the individual, and
he believed in the existence of polit-
Former first lady and presidential
candidate Mirlande Hyppolite Mani-
gat, who had tirelessly cared for her
husband even while maintaining her
high-profile role as an opposition
leader, said she was devastated.
"I ve suffered a huge loss," she
said in a brief interview from Port-
A former student of Manigat in
Haiti, she became his second wife
in 1970 after the two reconnected
in Paris. She was getting her doctoral
degree in political sciences, and he
was living in exile in France, doing
research and teaching.
Haiti's leading power couple
Over the years, the two would
become Haiti s leading political
power couple, supporting each other
as each unsuccessfully sought after
his short presidency to return to the
presidential palace under the banner
of the party Leslie Manigat created,
the Assembly of Progressive National
Democrats (Rassemblement des
Démocrates Nationaux Progressistes,
That unapologetic political support
has often been the target of critics
who begrudged Manigat s partici-
pation in the 1988 presidential elec-
tions, which opponents said were
rigged. He was also criticised for
comments after he failed to advance
in the 2006 presidential elections
against René Préval, and his wife
subsequently withdrew her candi-
dacy for the Haitian Senate in the
But unfettered by critics, they
continued their support of each
other. In 2011, as Mirlande Manigat
prepared to face off with Haitian
President Michel Martelly in a
he was pu
keeping a low
Haiti s polit-
become a d
wife s campa
after the elections, Manigat s health
began failing. Suddenly, the man
who had penned several books and
been an avid reader of mostly polit-
ical science and foreign journals,
reviews and nonfiction books, had
little to say.
"Even though he was sick, you
could still sense his frustrations with
the country," said Nesmy Manigat,
a close cousin and Haiti edu-
, he still
of Haiti s
ons. He is
this also in his
offering of con-
dolences to the
family. Manigat, he said, had "long
contributed to the training of several
generations of Haitians and
enhanced national pride."
"With his passing goes a whole
era of Caribbean-wide history," said
Anthony Maingot, a retired Florida
International University professor
whose forthcoming book, Race, Ide-
ology and the Decline of Caribbean
Marxism, will focus on Manigat s
rise and fall.
Leslie François Manigat was born
in Port-au-Prince on August 16,
1930, into a middle-class family,
whose origins were from northern
Haiti. His father, François Saint Surin
Manigat, was a secondary math
teacher, and his mother, Haydée,
taught primary school.
"I come from a family whose tra-
dition has been to give the country
educators and politicians," Manigat
said in a 1988 Miami Herald inter-
view shortly after coming to power
on January 17.
His grandfather, François Manigat,
was a general and presidential can-
didate. He was exiled as ambassador
to France in the late 1800s and died
In 1949, Manigat would himself
go to Paris on a scholarship to study
political science. He returned to Haiti
in 1953 and joined the foreign min-
istry. He told the Herald that he was
an early supporter of dictator
François "Papa Doc" Duvalier and
voted for him as president in 1957.
His break with Duvalier came in
1960 after Duvalier arrived in a jeep,
wearing a helmet and carrying a rifle,
to close down the university and fire
all the directors because of a student
Duvalier had suspected the influ-
ential Manigat of instigating the
strike---a claim Manigat had always
denied---and jailed him in the
National Penitentiary in January
1961. Before his February 23, 1961,
release, Manigat had refused several
offers to go into exile. He finally
went into the Argentine Embassy on
April 26, 1963, and left Haiti a month
later under Argentine protection.
His first year-and-a-half of his
exile was spent at Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore. He then
went to Paris to teach and research.
Moved to Trinidad in 1974
Wanting to be closer to Haiti,
Manigat moved to Trinidad in 1974.
He became director of the Institute
of International Relations at the Uni-
versity of the West Indies campus.
Among his students: the current
head of the United Nations Peace-
keeping Stabilisation Mission in
Haiti, Sandra Honoré; and Colin
Granderson, the assistant secretary
general of the 15-member Caribbean
Over the years, both have spoken
fondly of their former professor, who
is also survived by five daughters.
After four years in Trinidad, Mani-
gat moved to Simon Bolivar Univer-
sity in Caracas where he taught polit-
ical science. He was a leading
advocate for Haiti to develop closer
ties with Venezuela and African
"He believed in external cooper-
ation," said Latortue. "Haiti had
something to contribute."
Latortue said while historians will
debate Manigat s political legacy, he
believes that Manigat would have
changed the trajectory of Haitian
politics had he been allowed to com-
plete his five year-term.
"He was not into corruption, he
didn t believe government is where
you come to make money. He had
a vision for Haiti," Latortue said.
"Government was poor, and it
should not act like it was rich.
"Maybe now that he is gone, peo-
ple will finally see what he always
used to say, and they will do what
he always wanted to do for Haiti."
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
SUNDAY, JUNE 29, 2014
Haiti former president Leslie Manigat,
who ruled for 130 days in 1988.
Manigat was ousted after four-and-a-
half months in office after winning
presidential elections in January 1988.
He died on Friday after a long illness.
He was 83.
Former Haiti president Leslie Manigat.
PHOTO: GOVERNMENT OF HAITI
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