Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dancing and Dying in the Streets

The situation IS tense here in Port-au-Prince.

Politics and corruption do not mix well with the many sick people coming from the slums to St. Catherine's Hospital in Cite Soleil.

Yes, there is alot of cholera here in the slum, but there are the usual illnesses too.

There was a 10 day old with neonatal tetanus yesterday. And this was totally preventable if his mother had been vaccinated and had not delivered him at home.

But when a population has been ignored and worse for a couple of hundred years, we should not be surprised of these atrocities that occur every day here.

(The internet signal is to weak right now to post pictures or video from yesterday.)

Please see article below which explains perfectly the tenseness in the city and slums as the election approaches.

My guess, for what it is worth, is that there will NOT be near as much violence tomorrow as people expect. But the poor will continue to be poor and ignored after the new leaders are elected.

November 26, 2010
Death and Dancing Coexist on Haiti’s Tense Streets
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — One body gets a light kick and tumbles into the pit.

Another — this one the body of a 7-year-old boy — sails briefly in the air before dropping with a sickening thud. He was named Stanley Faustin and fought cholera in the hospital for 11 hours, a government paper shows.

Nachena Bien Ame, 18, landed here, too. And so did Roberto Dupitan, 49; Jean Mary Mirat, 30; Pierre Gasnes, 40; heavy sacks colliding with rock over and over.

This city’s body collectors work quickly and unceremoniously, dragging the bodies of people who died of cholera from trucks and converted pickups known as tap-taps and sending them into pits freshly dug at the edge of town.

Cholera overtook them in hospitals, on the streets, at home — more than 1,500 Haitians dead in the past month and 28,000 more made sick.

The government, fighting to control the epidemic, has decreed that their bodies are contaminated, and so Haiti, again, is busy with mass graves, this one a little more than a half-mile from the mounds where tens of thousands of victims of the January earthquake are buried.

Back in the city, the bustle of life presses on. The place is pregnant with anxiety and sporadic political violence just a few days from the selection of a new president.

But here the men focus on nothing but avoiding getting sick themselves as they spray a bleach solution on the bodies, on the plastic in which the bodies are wrapped, on their boots, on the trucks, inside the cabs, on their hands, legs, backs — even a splash on their faces.

One of the workers, Andral Jasmin, 33, gingerly holds a small plastic bag by his fingertips and walks to the pit. The bag contains a newborn, but, he said later, he preferred not to think about that. The information was scrawled on a piece of cardboard that he did not read as it dangled from the bag, noting simply that she was a girl, that she was born and died Nov. 24 and that she came from a region called Lily.

No name.

“I don’t feel anything, because it is not the first baby we have had,” Mr. Jasmin said. “We have had many.”

The afternoon sun dropped lower. The shift, 6 in the morning until 6 at night, drew to a close. Soon a bulldozer would come to push the earth over Stanley Faustin and the others, now sinking under the weight of those they never knew.

Campaign’s Last Rallies

As in the United States, negative campaigning is scorned here.

But unlike in the United States, here going negative often means deploying provocateurs who disrupt rallies with rocks, bottles and sometimes gunfire.

Most campaign stops are lively affairs, taking on a free-wheeling, dance party feel.

Candidates typically appear on moving floats similar to those used for carnival celebrations, and no contender can be taken seriously without his own pounding jingle.

So it was in the suburb of Carrefour for the last rally on Friday night — all campaigning was to end at midnight before the voting on Sunday — for Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady seeking to become the country’s first elected female president. Just a few days earlier, one of her campaign rallies in Cap Haitien ended when gunfire erupted.

One of her chief rivals, Jude Célestin, whom President René Préval supports to succeed him, planned a rally a few miles away around the same time on Friday, setting off jitters.

As hundreds of Ms. Manigat’s supporters waited and waited — the city’s epic traffic jams make starting times for anything a mere guess — Mr. Célestin’s motorcade suddenly emerged, bobbing and weaving through the masses on its way to his rally.

Catcalls competed with the blaring sirens.

Then, a large group of his supporters, blowing horns and chanting his jingle, danced and marched through Ms. Manigat’s throng, which responded with jeers and some shoving.

But this time the interruption was taken in stride, as somebody cued up her jingle, “Vote, vote, vote for Mirlande!”

Charm Offensive

In at least one neighborhood, for a short while, it was all smiles and charm as United Nations peacekeepers mounted a patrol. A patrol, that is, modified to show the news media the peacekeepers’ workaday tasks and to counteract reports of poor relations with Haitians.

Many Haitians have blamed the United Nations troops for the outbreak of cholera here. A strain of the disease that is common to Nepal originated near a camp used by Nepalese soldiers where reporters observed what appeared to be sewage flowing into a river.

Even before then, some Haitians viewed the peacekeepers as heavy-handed outsiders.

But now the troops, part of a 12,000-member force that since 2004 has maintained order here, form the backbone of a security force seeking to maintain order for the presidential election on Sunday.

Nine thousand troops will be deployed that day, delivering ballots and other voting materials and patrolling some polling sites.

A contingent of peacekeepers from Brazil says that reports of friction with Haitians are overblown.

Sure, said patrol Capt. Sergio Demique, “the mood of the population is volatile,” and the troops must help control or even end demonstrations and potential riots. But he insisted that, by and large, the public appreciated their presence.

As the troops roamed in their trucks, young men fixed hard stares. One called out, “This is Haiti, we can do what we want!” Other people jeered.

But while the peacekeepers walked in the Fort National neighborhood, women greeted them amiably with “bonjour.”

Several children gave them thumbs-up signs or called out “Hey, you!” in English, the universal greeting here for anybody thought to be an American.

But one little girl was apprehensive.

“Give me a high five!” a soldier called to her in English, holding up his hand in anticipation of a friendly slap.

“Give me a high five!” he repeated twice more.

“I said,” now a little more sternly, “give me a high five.”

Sheepishly, she complied.

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