| Sténio Joseph Vincent
Former President of Haiti
Sténio Joseph Vincent was President of Haiti from 18 November 1930 to 15 May 1941.
In October 1930 Haitians chose a national assembly for the first time since 1918, which elected Vincent as President of Haiti. He was a light-skinned Haitian of Spanish ancestry, graduating from law school at age 18 before ascending to head of Haiti's Chamber of Deputies by 1915. He ran a nationalist campaign for the presidency based on his fierce opposition to the American occupation of the Haiti.
After US Marines left in 1934, Vincent turned to a more authoritarian leadership style. Leading dissidents like Jacques Roumain and Max Hudicourt were followed, spied on, and imprisoned for their political activity. The United States became Haiti's largest trading partner. By mid-decade, Vincent was considered "one of the staunchest pro-Americans in the hemisphere." In 1935, a plebiscite extended his term to 1941 and amended the constitution such that future presidents would be elected by popular vote.
In October 1937 troops and police from the Dominican Republic massacred thousands of Haitian labourers living near the border in the Parsley Massacre. As reports of the slaughter swiftly reached Port-au-Prince, Vincent restricted local press coverage, worrying that it would inflame tensions between the two countries. He had enjoyed a cooperative relationship with and financial support from the government of Dominican President Rafael Trujillo.
The news could not be contained. After two years of relative quiet in Port-au-Prince, protests from various sectors of the population broke out against the Vincent's weak response to the massacre. Security was doubled around the National Palace, to the irritation of black soldiers who felt the army should be deployed on the border.
The Dominican government agreed in 1938 to compensate the slain workers’ relatives the following year in return for the cancellation of an independent investigation. But only part of the promised amount was actually paid. By that time, two coup attempts within the Haitian army had been averted. A US government State Department dispatch described Vincent as dealing with his political opponents in "Hitlerian fashion."
With mounting opposition and upcoming elections, Vincent declared his intention to step down and the presidency was peacefully transitioned in 1941 to his successor, Élie Lescot.
Sténio Joseph Vincent died on 3 September 1959, aged 85.