Prosper Avril

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Prosper Avril
36th President of Haiti
In office
September 17, 1988 – March 10, 1990[1]
Preceded byHenri Namphy
Succeeded byHérard Abraham
Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Haiti
In office
September 17, 1988 – March 10, 1990
Preceded byCarl-Michel Nicholas
Succeeded byHerard Abraham
Member of the Provisional Government of Haiti
In office
February 7, 1987 – March 21, 1987
PresidentHenri Namphy
Personal details
Matthieu Prosper Avril

(1937-12-12) December 12, 1937 (age 82)
Thomazeau, Haiti
Spouse(s)Marie-Ange Nazon

Matthieu Prosper Avril (born December 12, 1937) is a Haitian political figure who was President of Haiti from 1988 to 1990. A trusted member of François Duvalier's Presidential Guard and adviser to Jean-Claude Duvalier, Lt. Gen. Avril led the September 1988 Haitian coup d'état against a transition military government installed after Jean-Claude Duvalier's 1986 overthrow. He was President until March 1990, in a period which according to Amnesty International was "marred by serious human rights violations". He was arrested in 2001, but released in March 2004 after the 2004 Haitian coup d'état overthrew Jean-Bertrand Aristide.


Avril was born in the small town of Thomazeau, near Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.[2]


Avril was forced into retirement by Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1983, but reinstated and promoted to Colonel in 1986, in the face of the popular revolt which would ultimately see Duvalier overthrown.[2] Avril's 1986 joining of Henri Namphy's interim military junta saw protest demonstrations, and he was forced to resign; but he quickly returned, and assisted Namphy in the June 1988 Haitian coup d'état which overthrew Leslie Manigat, who had been elected in military-controlled election and took office in February 1988.[2]


In September 1988, a week after the St. Jean Bosco massacre, Avril overthrew his former ally Namphy,[2] and served as President of Haiti from September 17, 1988 to March 10, 1990. He was accused by human rights organizations of committing serious crimes and numerous human rights violations. Amnesty International states; "Prosper Avril, who had been head of security under former President Jean Claude Duvalier, led Haiti following a military coup in 1988 until March 1990, a period marred by serious human rights violations." [3]

Paul Farmer later wrote that

"A US District Court found that his regime engaged in a ‘systematic pattern of egregious human rights abuses’. It also found him personally responsible for enough ‘torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ to award six of his victims a total of $41 million in compensation. The victims included opposition politicians, union leaders, scholars, even a doctor trying to practise community medicine. Avril's repression was not subtle: three torture victims were paraded on national television with their faces grotesquely swollen, their limbs bruised and their clothing covered with blood. He suspended 37 articles of the constitution, and declared a state of siege."[4]

In December 1994 the Haitian police attempted to arrest Avril at his home, but were thwarted by the appearance of US soldiers, who caused sufficient delay that Avril was able to escape. "Police searching Avril's house found military uniforms, illegal police radios and a cache of weapons."[4] He was finally arrested in 2001, shortly after Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected President, for allegedly plotting against the state.[5] Amnesty International said his arrest could be step forward for Haitian justice, and called for Avril to be tried for the grave human rights violations committed under his Presidency.[4] Avril was freed on 2 March 2004, a few days after Aristide was ousted in the 2004 Haitian coup d'état.[4]


At the time Aristide came to power, Prosper Avril lived in Miami, Florida under an assumed name despite the fact that he would be easily recognizable. This high-profile also made him the target of rumors, and so when two Haitian radio journalists were assassinated during the first weeks and month after Aristide took power, Avril became the target of rumors that declared his involvement. He recounts this experience in his book, An Appeal to History: The Truth about a Singular Lawsuit.[6]

See also[edit]

List of heads of state of Haiti


  1. ^ "MAJOR CHANGES IN HAITI'S RECENT HISTORY". New York Times. March 11, 1990. Retrieved March 7, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d Don Terry (September 19, 1988). "Man in the News; Artful Career Officer: Prosper Avril". New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  3. ^ "Human rights in Haiti 2002". Archived from the original on 2011-02-18. Retrieved 2010-05-14.
  4. ^ a b c d Paul Farmer, Who removed Aristide?, London Review of Books, Vol. 26 No. 8. 15 April 2004, pages 28–31
  5. ^ "Former Haiti President Prosper Avril arrested". CNN. May 26, 2001. Retrieved March 23, 2010.
  6. ^ Avril, Prosper (1999). An Appeal to History: The Truth about a Singular Lawsuit. Universal-Publishers. pp. 229–231. ISBN 9781581127843.
Political offices
Preceded by
Henri Namphy
President of Haiti
Succeeded by
Hérard Abraham