Strong Administrator Louis Borno Rejects Free Elections

Louis Borno, a lawyer by profession, assumed the Haiti presidency in 1922. Elected by the State Council, he ruled alongside U.S. Major General John H. Russell, U.S. President Harding's appointee.


Borno had served as Foreign Minister under President Theodore, refusing to cede control of Haiti's finances to the U.S. The U.S. responded by seizing the National Bank of Haiti's assets. Serving again under President Dartiguenave, Borno's skill as a negotiator persuaded the U.S. to commit to Haiti's economic growth, without receiving any land in the bargain. When Borno became president, Haiti was still debt-ridden. He brokered a loan of $23 million dollars to balance the budget and also lowered import taxes to equalize the trade deficit.

Borno did much good for the country as president. He made government funds available to repair roads, build bridges, and erect hospitals and schools. He imported fresh water from rural areas into urban cities. In a first of its kind, Port-au-Prince received phone service, and agricultural infrastructure was built up with more farmlands. Borno was shrewd about how to make education affordable. He used the resources of the Catholic Church in France, who sent contractors and educators to build an inexpensive school system.

But Borno refused to hold free elections, and hand-picked members of the Council of State to re-elect him. When the news media found out, they criticized him. His response was to jail reporters. By 1930, Borno's presidency ended when the ruling political party appointed an interim president.

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