Haiti’s Struggle

The Washington Post is carrying a blog by
photographer Ron Haviv offerring views of Haiti in the run-up to the election on
February 7. It’s a view of Haiti from the ground that’s both hopeful and
discouraging, much as Haiti itself.

Ron Haviv is blessed with both a keen eye and the insight of a photojournalist. He puts words and pictures together in a way that tells the story simply, but compellingly.

His blog about life in Haiti is being carried by the Washington Post in the run-up to elections this week.

In one post he calls Cite Soliel, a slum neighborhood of Port Au Prince, a cross between Baghdad and Mogadishu. Having been in Mogadishu after the U.S. had pulled out and the U.N. was beginning its withdrawal, that image is instructive. Mogadishu was a violent place where the biggest gun ruled.

I went into a city market where AK-47s were being sold for the equivalent of twenty U.S. dollars. There was no central government and neighborhoods, as well as regions, were run by warlords who maintained their own militias. It was the Wild West mechanized. Toyota pickups were outfitted with small cannons and they patrolled the neighborhoods frequently engaging in firefights with militias from other areas.

Anarchy reigned.

Haviv writes of Haiti’s homeless children and he captures them in images that leave one feeling a sense of frustration that Haiti has been a nation in freefall for decades. He describes Cite Soliel as I experienced Mogadishu in those dark days, a place of violence run by neighborhood gangs constantly warring with each other. As Somalia eventually collapsed, Haiti teeters on the brink and one wonders how the people who cannot flee can endure.

There is hope in the upcoming election. However, there was hope in past elections and the problems of corruption, power grabs and death squads snuffed out the sliver of reform that the Aristide government introduced. The deposing of Jean-Bertrand Aristide by armed gangs in 2004 didn’t help. And the U.S. pulled back after a brief period of engagement leaving the country to fend for itself with an un-elected government lacking popular support.

Haiti seems to be the relative no one wants to claim. The world’s governments, especially the U.S., have been erratic, some say schizophrenic, in their relationship with with this frazzled country, appearing with aid and pulling back when the violence gets out of hand.

But, God bless them, religious communities in Haiti continue to feed hungry children and adults. They continue to provide schools and clothing and refuge. They haven’t pulled out, or run away. Haviv offers us a slide show with interviews from a Roman Catholic bishop providing food to hungry kids. Even in the worst of conditions we have to take hope, and give support, to those who refuse to give in to the violence, greed and hate that steal our humanity. Haviv is giving us a glimpse of this heroic struggle.

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