Op-Ed / Latin America & Caribbean 1 minutes

Haiti's Hidden Hope

The colossal earthquake that struck Haiti last week raises a profound and recurring question for this fragile nation. As they bury over 100,000 dead - some of them in mass graves - and more than a million survivors seek water, food, shelter and medicines, can Haitians ever move beyond mere survival to build a more viable state? For a nation battered by two centuries of misrule, divided by garish contrasts between rich and poor, stripped of its forests, victimized annually by vicious hurricanes, built astride a ghastly seismic fault-line and situated on a favored route for cocaine traffickers, one may well conclude that misery here is endemic.

Yet it is one of the terrible ironies of this latest calamity - the worst natural disaster in the history of the Western hemisphere - that in the year preceding the earthquake, Haiti had made considerable progress. Just last year, I sat in the now destroyed presidential palace with President René Préval as we discussed the need to move quickly on training and vetting new judges and relieving the pressures on vastly overcrowded jails. President Préval, who was elected in 2006 with broad popular support, initiated reforms of the police forces and judiciary, with some success. Following last year’s hurricane, the government was able to forge a national consensus on a recovery plan emphasizing rapid creation of jobs in industries benefiting from special U.S. trade offers and tourism, primary education, sustainable small-scale farming, and rural development. These little noted achievements could - if resurrected - provide the beginnings of a new Haiti.

Read the full article on The New York Review of Book's website

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