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Friday, January 15, 2010

Behind the Quake

The news channels are currently and rightly devoting almost 100% of there air time to the devastating effects of the recent earthquake in Haiti with expected death tolls varying from 50,00 to 500,000 among those UN workers and members of the Government.
However, as I watched the slow slivers of news trickle in and the auto cue spew its facts to the newsreaders about ort au Prince and the crippling damage caused by the 2008 Hurricane season, I could only think of one thing. How soon will it all be forgotten?

Over the past few days we have seen Obama promise that the Haitians will not be forsaken and they will not be forgotten and and list of other world leaders quick to promise help to a country that has been ravaged, not solely by this one disaster but over the past decades by political tyranny and opression.

The country was occupied by the US until 1934. In 37 the Domican dictator Trujillo ordered his troops to kill all Haitians living on the border with the Domican republic resulting in the massacre of over 30000 Haitians in just 5 days. In the 50's the duvalier family turned the country into a hermit kingdom according to the "fountain of knowledge Wikipedia complete with personality cult and corruption. It seems like a pretty brutal regime from the small amount Ive read and it lasted right up until a popular uprising in 1986. In 1987 the first general elections were cancelled after bloodshed. In 1991 Jean Baptiste Aristide was elected president by two thirds of the people but was then forced into exile after a coup detat. In 9 4 the Us almost invaded Haiti but however before that happened Clinton gathered a team including Carter whos efforts resulted in the expulsion of the miilitary rulers and Artistide was re-instated. In more recent years his presidency has been dogged by allegations of corruption which lead to yet another coup in 2004. This time the President didnt have the support of the US who had him held by the Government of the central African Republic. In February more elections marked by further uncertainties were held leading to the controversial election of former President Deval who remains in power to this day.

Undoubtedly this constant political turmoil and corruption has lead to Haiti being declared as Im sure youve heard the poorest country in the Western hemisphere with it being ranked 149nth on the Un development index out of 182 and 80% of the population living in poverty in 2003.

So while the world keeps its gaze fixed firmly on Haiti over the next few days/weeks some of us may reach for our phones and feel proud of giving are ice cream money to the relief effort butlet us not forget that in a couple of months while we sit down to a slap up Sunday roast that all across the world be it in Haiti or Indonesia, perhaps even in New Orleans the compassionate words of our world leaders will have long been forgotten but the struggles will no doubt remain.

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