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Smarck Michel, once Haiti premier, dies

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Smarck Michel, a businessman who served for almost a year as Haiti's prime minister after the United States restored President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power in the mid-1990s, died Saturday, his son said. He was 75.

Kenneth Michel said his father died of a brain tumor in the family home in a neighborhood above Port-au-Prince.

Smarck Michel was born March 29, 1937, in St. Marc, and moved around the country during his childhood as his father served in the armed forces.

Michel attended college in New York, then returned to Haiti in the 1950s to help run the bakery his father had started. Later, he ran a grocery store in downtown Port-au-Prince.

He became prime minister in 1994, one month after a U.S.-led multinational military force restored Aristide to the presidency after three years in exile. Aristide's first term had been cut short in 1991 by an army coup.

The choice of Michel was seen as an effort to placate business leaders and many in the middle and upper classes who felt threatened by the return of Aristide, a left-leaning former Roman Catholic priest. Michel resigned almost a year later over opposition to his economic reforms, which advocated a privatization plan that was unpopular with Haiti's poor majority.

Before becoming prime minister, Michel served as commerce and industry minister for nearly four months in Aristide's first government, in 1991. He financed several of Aristide's endeavors, including an orphanage for street kids.

Michel was dismissed from the post by Aristide amid criticism that the government was unable to lower prices for food and other basic goods.

After his brief stint in politics, Michel returned full-time to the family grocery store until he closed it in 2010 and retired, his son said.

In addition to Kenneth, he is survived by his wife of 53 years, Victoire Marie-Rose Sterlin, and daughters Patricia and Marjorie.

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