If only I (k)NEW(s)!


Earlier this week my friend Lisa at “Notes from Africa” suggested I begin periodic news updates about Haiti.  I thought that a fine idea, as most of Lisa’s are, so today I’m here to deliver news, of sorts.

“Why ‘of sorts’?” you might ask.

A reasonable question—

For here in Haiti, the fact remains, it’s hellaciously hard to get good news.  And by “good news” I mean accurate news.  More often than not, I’m misinformed, ill-informed, or not informed at all.  More often than not I’m confused.  More often than not I throw my hands in the air and exclaim in utter and complete newsless-ness, “C’est la vie, la vie.”  Indeed—whatever will be will be—cause I’m not gonna be able to change it and I’m sure as hell not gonna know about it ahead of time.

In Haiti I think we have accurate news about like we have free and fair elections—rarely, if at all.

But here goes.  Here you have—

Haiti’s Week in Review:

Earthquake anniversary

If you’ve been reading this blog, you should know that January 12th was the one year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, an event which, I hear, got significant coverage in the US and around the world.  (I know the national director for Sara’s NGO here in Haiti was interviewed on CNN the night before last.)

–At least 230,000 were killed.

–More than 300,000 were injured.

–Only 5% of rubble has been cleared in the last year.

–Still 1.3 million are homeless in and around Port-au-Prince.

A couple of great articles on the anniversary have appeared at Time.com this week.  I suggest you take a look at:

                “Who Failed on Haiti’s Recovery?”

                “Haiti’s Quake, One Year Later: It’s the Rubble, Stupid!”

 Cholera

Not as much in the headlines this week, but I heard in an interview on NPR this morning that we are officially in the epidemic phase of the disease. 

–The death toll as of yesterday was 3, 759 according to the Haitian Health Ministry.

–Officially 181,000 have been sickened to date.

For more news on the cholera outbreak I recommend an article from the Montreal Gazette:

                “Haiti cholera toll tops 3,750”

Haitian Presidential Elections

Here’s where things get complicated and more than a little fuzzy.  And here’s where I wish I knew a whole lot more, not only because it’s important to the democratic process, but also because, in purely practical and selfish terms, what happens here over the next several days will impact my life most significantly.

First a bit of background in case you’re new to this issue: 

–On November 28th Haiti held nationwide elections, with 18 candidates running for president.

–Ballot boxes arrived at polling places stuffed with votes for the candidate from the ruling political party and soon-to-be son-in-law of current Haitian president Preval—Jude Celestin—causing most of the other candidates to accuse the government of fraud.

–Rioting broke out when election results were announced a week later and the top two vote-getters were Mirlande Manigat and Celestin—excluding hugely popular musician candidate Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly from a run-off between the top 2 vote-getters on January 16th.

–Port-au-Prince streets calmed down when Preval’s government agreed to a recount of votes by the OAS (Organization of American States).

–The announced results of that recount have been delayed multiple times since December 20th, when they were originally to be made public, so the January 16th run-off has been delayed.

–Official results of that recount have yet to be announced.

However—and this is a big “however,” indeed—

–Monday results of that OAS recount were leaked to the press.  And BBC News reports that the OAS will recommend that the candidate from the ruling political party be disqualified from any run-off.  If this story interests you, check out the BBC piece,

                “OAS to give Haiti presidential election verdict.”               

 What does this all mean? 

There was actually some debate about this at a dinner party Sara and I hosted the other evening, but I will mention an idea discussed by folks who had just left a meeting with presidential candidate, Lesley Voltaire.

Our dinner guests mostly speculated which announced outcome would result in the most violence on the streets of Port-au-Prince and when that announcement might be made.  Some thought that announcement could come as early as last night, which didn’t happen, but was more likely on Sunday evening, January 16th.

Surprisingly to me, most agreed that more violence would result from Jude Celestin being left out of the run-off, since Preval’s government would pay protesters to take to the streets, despite the fact that few in the country actually support Celestin’s candidacy.  They said the omission of Martelly from the run-off would cause problems and likely riots, but fewer problems than Preval could pay the poor to incite on the streets.

So, there you have it, folks, the news from Port-au-Prince, as I know it.  Yes, I wish I  (k)NEW more—but I don’t.  We’ll just have to see what happens Sunday, whether an announcement is made then, and if so, who will be allowed to participate in a run-off.

The last time an announcement came, we were stuck in our house for 4 days because of city-wide violence.  For descriptions of that rioting and how it affected our lives you should click here and here  and here .

I’ll keep you posted———-

Ghost of Hamlet Haunts Haiti’s Presidential Election


Things sound eerily quiet here this morning in my little corner of Haiti—especially after all the angry, sometimes violent,  protests yesterday against election fraud.  I can only image that, like me, folks are reluctant to go out into the streets.

The big picture looks like this, however:

Haiti held nation-wide elections yesterday for president, senators, and other lesser offices—elections that were to have been scheduled for last February but were delayed following the earthquake that leveled most of Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010.

Yesterday ballot boxes were said to have arrived at polling stations already filled with votes for the protégé and future son-in-law of current Haitian President Rene Preval—Jude Celestin.  Mid-morning yesterday 12 of the 18 leading opposition candidates alleged “massive fraud” on the part of Preval and Celestin’s Inite (Unity) coalition and called for election results to be cancelled.  These candidates included former first lady and front-runner in pre-election polls, Mirlande Manigate, whose husband again ran for president in 2006, coming in second.  In that election Manigate was denied the legally required run-off, even though Preval failed to get 50% of the vote.

(And we think politics in the US are bad!  This makes the Bush/Gore Florida controversy in 2000 look like child’s play.)

It has seemed for months that things weren’t likely to be fair, not so much because hip-hop star Wycliffe Jean was denied a spot on the ballot, but more importantly because no candidates of the truly grass roots opposition party Lavalas (still figure-headed by former President Aristide), were allowed to run for any office.

It seemed surprising yesterday, at least to me, that thousands of protesters took to the streets even here in the usually quiet suburb of Petion-ville—led by candidate and entertainer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly and joined by Wycliffe Jean himself.

(The noise kept our dogs unsettled and barking into the night.  Actually though, we were bothered no more than that.  And to be honest, ours are not the quietest of canines to begin with!)

Today there’s a planned march on the presidential palace, during which protesters, we are told, will call for President Preval to resign. 

But damage to the palace itself during the earthquake last January, the palace on which protesters will march today, may suggest, at least in metaphoric terms, that something is indeed “rotten in the State of [Haiti].” 

The ghost of Hamlet here is haunting?