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This essay was first printed in The Dream Antilles on March 23, 2008. I’m republishing it here, because it might help in putting the horrific events in Haiti in perspective.
This morning’s NY Times has an extremely strange story about Haiti. The premise is that things are now so bad in Haiti, that some Haitians wish they still had Papa Doc or Baby Doc Duvalier back as their military despot:
But Victor Planess, who works at the National Cemetery here, has a soft spot for Mr. Duvalier, the man known as Papa Doc. Standing graveside the other day, Mr. Planess reminisced about what he considered the good old days of Mr. Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude, who together ruled Haiti from 1957 to 1986.
“I’d rather have Papa Doc here than all those guys,” Mr. Planess said, gesturing toward the presidential palace down the street. “I would have had a better life if they were still around.”
Mr. Planess, 53, who complains that hunger has become so much a part of his life that his stomach does not even growl anymore, is not alone in his nostalgia for Haiti’s dictatorial past. Other Haitians speak longingly of the security that existed then as well as the lack of garbage in the streets, the lower food prices and the scholarships for overseas study.
Haiti may have made significant strides since President René Préval, elected in 2006, became the latest leader to pass through the revolving door of Haitian politics. But the changes he has pushed have been incremental, not fast enough for many down-and-out Haitians.
The article is worth reading in its entirety, primarily because of its conceit that Haiti, seething on one end of the island of Hispaniola in the midst of the US sphere of influence in the Caribbean, has developed its present dystopia all by its lonesome self, without any assistance worth mentioning from its gigantic hemispheric neighbor, the United States.