Tales from the Trail

Haiti’s “Wizard-of-Oz” president – nowhere to be seen

January 17, 2010

QUAKE-HAITI/There’s something weirdly symbolic in the sight of thousands of homeless Haitians massed in a sprawling tent city bang in front of the collapsed icing-sugar white presidential palace.
 
They’re here because it’s the biggest open space in the capital, but it somehow looks like an appeal for President Rene Preval to come out and speak to his people and reassure them that he stands behind them, that together the country will get through the catastrophe caused by Tuesday’s earthquake.
 
Four days after Tuesday’s earthquake the Haitian flag that once fluttered above the National Palace still lies in a wilted heap over the toppled white ruin. In the park opposite, men and women strip to their underpants to bathe in a large fountain and scrub their clothes. The hang their laundry on the park rails.
 
Garbage is scattered everywhere and the smell of urine and excrement is getting worse.
 
Far from coming to address them, Preval is holed up in the judicial police headquarters near the airport, mumbling that he can’t do much when half the government’s offices are destroyed and he doesn’t even have a cell phone signal.
 
Meanwhile, the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who lost their homes and families have been left to fend for themselves, with no food handouts and no proper medical treatment. In many cases, they are seriously injured.
    
Foreign rescue workers are battling round the clock digging for survivors. But in the absence of a working government, the disaster relief teams who are supposed to be delivering food, latrines and medical supplies are still mostly dithering about sorting out logistics.
 
From the shambles outside the presidential palace, you wonder if anybody is in charge at all.
 
“The country is not working right now. It’s not even eating,” remarked Louis Widlyne, one of the countless people sleeping on a sheet that marks out his living quarters in the park.
 
A police officer called Joe was more sympathetic. He had received no orders since Tuesday’s disaster, but decided on his own on Saturday that it was time to go back on the beat.
    
“Preval should have come and spoken to his people, but he hasn’t,” he said. “He is like that. It’s just the kind of president he is.” 

QUAKE-HAITI/

 

Click here for more coverage of the Haiti earthquake.

Comments
8 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Juxtaposition…

Posted by MyLostReality | Report as abusive
 

Preval should be running some of the USA banks.
They do nothing & still get their bonus & raise.
Great show of leadership.
Regards
Dash

Posted by Dash496 | Report as abusive
 

A good leader would be on the street appointing deputies and chiefs, and utilizing the newly homeless to begin various clearing operations. That should have been started by dawn on Wednesday. What is this guy doing?

Posted by THeRmoNukE | Report as abusive
 

Unfortunately, Haiti is a failed state by any description. Haiti has been a charity case almost from its inception as a “Republic” and a succession of inept and/or despotic rulers has kept the populace at starvation levels. Preval is only the latest inept and unprepared “President”, essentially a placeholder until someone who has the talent and the heart to put his country firts and his pocketbook last comes to the fore. Forecasting Haiti’s future is simple; more of the same.
The U.S. and other donor countries cannot prop up this failed state indefinitely. At some point it can either contol its own destiny or become part of another country that can properly utilize its hard working people…

Posted by searider | Report as abusive
 

Lest we become uppity; this has occurred just recently in our own country. When we choose to just not think about issues and allow someone to tell us what we should think, then we make ourselves victims and then must get organized and fight ourselves out of what we voted for. The Haitians will be forced to decide eventually. I expect they did not understand when they rebelled against he French that they might be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Now, they must decide and they can do that, of course and will make a better decision with the help of all the missions dedicated to helping Haiti take care of Haitians but they must come to the understanding that is always up to the citizens to do this.

Posted by jclaudiemc | Report as abusive
 

Where was the content of our character during Katrina?

Posted by Streetfighter | Report as abusive
 

The US has a leader with Character now and he has proven himself over and over to be a great leader, he has almost brought our country out of the mess we were in and is going a great job.
The leader of Haiti has proven to be a horrible leader hiding out at the small police station at the airport and has complained that he does not have a Royal Palace anymore, I heard this on TV after Hillary Clinton left after her visit. He is useless and should be replaced for lack of duty taking care of his government. He could at least appoint someone to be in charge of Haiti to get things organized and get his police force up to par to help keep control in the cities. Haiti needs a leader right now not only when things are going his way and his money is coming in for him to hoard and not use for his Country’s benifit…
He is useless and the UN needs to step up and replace him…

Posted by janeycat | Report as abusive
 

Considering that the U.S. blatantly drove out President Aristide a few years ago — shortly before complaining vociferously about Putin being a world-threatening deadly dictator for trying to drive out Georgian President Saakashvili — we probably have a situation of a Haitian president the U.S. wants to marginalize, being effectively a prisoner of the U.S. occupying troops.

The only people with working radio transmitters in Haiti at the moment are the U.S. military. Are they at President Preval’s disposal?

In fact, has the U.S. set up a command center for him, located and brought in his surviving staff, given them all satellite phones — and started taking orders from them?

We think not. We think the U.S. is making its own orders while striding around in someone else’s country as usual.

Bringing aid is magnificent. And the first essential aid step is getting the independent Haitian government out of the rubble so it can rule the country.

Yes Haiti is a failed state. It’s possible that the Haitians are incapable of altering that. It’s even possible there is a racial basis to this — and that our liberal totem that all humans are equal needs to fall so that black countries can be governed as international trust territories, as the only way to keep their people from gruesome suffering and death.

But are we giving Haiti and the Haitians the chance to prove otherwise, with our culture of constant patronization and dependency that would be guaranteed to keep any small country neighboring the U.S. failed? Are all our efforts in the last two decades aimed at an actually independent Haiti — or a Haiti, like Rwanda and Zaire, seized from the French geopolitical sphere for the U.S. sphere to rule — via generated chaos and conflict?

There are no organized crews of Haitians digging the victims out, there are no organized teams of Haitian farmers carting food and water in — because everyone is waiting for America to come take care of them again. America should be coming this time — to give them shovels and water jugs and help in organizing THEMSELVES to deal with this disaster.

Let’s have America work with the French, not against them, and see if Haiti can in fact stand on its own. And then if it truly can’t, via open legal processes and not neo-colonialist subterfuge, set the territory up as a non-profit trust operated by an international board, for the interests of the Haitians, not the U.S. empire.

Posted by George_T | Report as abusive
 

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