Monday, March 12, 2007

What is Wrong with Haiti?

What is Wrong with Haiti?
Author: Dr. John A. Carroll

Haiti does not get rave reviews as a place you want to visit or vacation. It is too bad because there are about 8 million good people that live here.

On Christmas Eve, 1492, Christopher Columbus “discovered” Haiti. He was looking for gold to take back to the Queen but didn’t find any. He did find Indians named Arawak who had lived here for a many years. Columbus described the Arawak that welcomed him as “docile” and he commented that they would be “good servants”. Over the next fifty years, things did not go well for the Arawak.

In the late 1700’s, the Haitian slaves brought from Africa to work Haiti’s hot and sunny fields, got tired of being buried in the sand up to their chins as a form of torture, and revolted against Napoleon. In 1804, after pummeling the French army, they became the first nation in history to be founded by freed slaves. The United States, of course, did not like this happening so close to home, and France, being bad losers and all, “fined” Haiti for winning the war.

Haiti is about the size of the state of Maryland. It is in the United States front door. A flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince only takes 90 minutes. Haiti is about 90 miles east of Cuba.

Haiti just finished the worst two weeks in its history.

One of the reasons Haiti has had a couple of bad weeks is that their democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was put on a plane and rudely forced out of Haiti in February, 2004. An interim government was placed with its Prime Minister coming from Boca Raton, Florida. That didn’t settle real well with the Haitian people. They get all hung up on little things, like their constitution.

So during the next year, with the guy from Boca running the show, Haiti got even worse. The rich people here don’t like the poor people and vice versa. Lots of people were going to jail for crimes they didn’t commit and judges are paid off right and left. Gangs with pro-Aristide sentiment started to proliferate in the slums of Port-au-Prince. The gangs carry machine guns and don’t play. The slums are scary, subhuman places which are homes to hundreds of thousands of individuals living in conditions not fit for animals.

The UN came here as a “Peace Keeping Mission” to help out. There are about 8,000 soldiers here from all over the world and not one of them speaks Haitian Creole. Ransoms are paid in front of their tanks, they are called “tourista” by the Haitians, and at times, the UN goes on these whacky shooting rages in the slums. Their bullets really make a lot of noise and create big holes in the peoples’ cinder block houses. The stress level in the slum is kinda high right now.

Haiti had another presidential election in May of this year. President Rene Preval was sworn in. Unfortunately, he has prostate cancer and is going to Cuba for his treatment. Haitians think he may not be up for the job.

Since July, Haiti has had a huge upsurge in petty crimes, carjackings, kidnappings, and beheadings. Prices are high and salaries are low for the small percentage of the population that have real jobs, even though all Haitians work.

The general hospital is on strike in the capital which is the only public hospital for the densely populated capital of two million.

Schools have let out before Christmas because so many kids were kidnapped in this area two weeks ago. Bad guys would even throw hand written notes into school yards demanding $25,000 NOT to kidnap a child.

A couple of mornings ago, while it was still dark, 400 Special UN forces with heavy artillery and very mean tanks, accompanied by certain unlucky members of the Haitian National Police, made a raid into the slum in order to kill a gang leader named Belony. The Haitian government had given their OK for the Peace Keeping UN Mission to do this. They failed to get Belony but did kill 9 innocent civilians and wounded 30 other people in the area.

Christmas day is tomorrow. Most Haitians have little to look forward to other than the birth of Christ. And that is what keeps most of them going. They are good with God and are very glad to tell you so.

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