Sténio Joseph Vincent (1874-1959). A former mayor of the capital Port-au-Prince, he ran a popular campaign for the presidency by focusing on his opposition to the American occupation of the island. Upon assuming power, however, he adopted a dictatorial stance, culminating in a major conflict with Haiti's Senate in 1935. He created a new Haitian constitution giving him wide powers.
President Stenio Vincent of Haiti is a silver-haired, silver-tongued politician who is supported as loyally by the lesser politicians of Port-au-Prince as he is hated by Haitian exiles in Harlem. His friends say he is a statesman; his enemies call him a dictator; both agree that he likes a pleasant job. Such a job is the Presidency of Haiti.
More Spanish than any other kind of blood fills the veins of Haiti's Stenio Vincent. He is a natural orator and his oratory has carried him far. On the strength of it he had become President of the Chamber of Deputies when, in 1915, after years of ferment, President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam was massacred with 167 political prisoners and the U. S. Marines marched in. To a Marine officer who ordered the Chamber dismissed, Stenio Vincent answered: "Merde." That made him a sort of hero.
Out of a job, Stenio Vincent went to the U. S. to lobby for withdrawal of the Marines. He got nowhere and drifted back to Haiti. By 1930 he had convinced a majority of the people that he could get rid of the Marines, and so they elected him President.
Vincent picked Lieut. Magloire for his aide-de-camp.
Three years later Franklin Roosevelt inaugurated his Good Neighbor Policy: the next year Stenio Vincent went to see him and President Roosevelt withdrew the Marines. In his campaign Stenio Vincent had also plumped for a single five-year Presidential term, but when 1935 rolled around he changed his mind, ordered a plebiscite and was voted another five years in office. These five years will be up next May 15.
Under President Vincent Haiti has enjoyed one of the quietest periods of its history. The President's friends attribute this to his ability; his enemies attribute it to despotism. Whatever the reason, President Vincent's loyal Chamber of Deputies considered a resolution to the effect that "exceptional circumstances that confront the nation" make it imperative to continue him in office. Not a voice was raised in dissent. Four days later the Senate passed the same resolution, also unanimously.
His popularity waned further when in 1937 he failed to respond to the massacre of 15,000 Haitian guest workers in the Dominican Republic, when the Dominican Republic's Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, in a moment of rage, let his forces massacre an estimated 15,000 Haitian cane-cutters who had crossed the border to seek harvest work. The Haitian President settled for an indemnity of $550,000 from Trujillo. With murdered Haitians thus officially priced at $37 each, Haiti soured on Vincent, and his government succumbed in 1941 and was succeeded by Élie Lescot.