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Published: Saturday, 3/3/2012


Poor Haiti

Haiti is compounding its already grave economic and social problems by creating a political tangle that cripples governance of the Caribbean nation.

Last month, Prime Minister Garry Conille quit after only four months in office. He cited a breakdown of his working relationship with his cabinet and his inability to work effectively with Haitian President Michel Martelly.

Nature and man present Haiti with problems that sentence its long-suffering population of 10 million to poverty and misery, despite efforts by the international community to respond to its externally imposed burdens. In January 2010, an earthquake leveled much of the capital, Port-au-Prince. It killed an estimated 220,000 people and displaced many more. The earthquake was followed by a cholera epidemic.

Politically, Haiti held necessary but dubious presidential elections in December 2010. The incumbent president, Rene Preval, had shown himself incapable of dealing with the earthquake and cholera epidemic, despite generous international aid to address the humanitarian crisis.

One of the candidates in that election was Mr. Martelly, a popular entertainer in Haiti. He finished third, but his supporters made such a fuss that he was moved up into the final runoff and won.

The next drama was the choice of a prime minister. The post remained vacant for months after Mr. Martelly took office, until Mr. Conille finally was chosen and approved by the parliament last October. Now he is gone, because of political wrangling that made it impossible for him to do his job.

About $4.5 billion has been promised to Haiti to deal with shorter-term problems left by the earthquake and cholera epidemic, including $1.1 billion pledged by the United States. But only half that amount has been delivered. Many would-be donors who survey what passes for government in Haiti express doubt that they can trust its politicians to administer the money properly.

In the meantime, pathetically poor Haitians -- including a half-million who still live in tents -- struggle to meet their daily needs, while those who profess to be their leaders play political games.

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