Haiti suffers year of crisis with nobody in charge

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It was a disaster. There were no trees and the site was too remote. Also, it turned out that the parcel belonged to Nabatec Development _ whose president was head of the relocation commission. And so the company stood to gain government compensation for its land.

Over the summer, a storm ripped through a quarter of the camp’s tents. People screamed and cried as, again, they lost their homes.

Only one more relocation camp was built. The rest of the project was abandoned.

In May, an old smell returned to the Champ de Mars: Tear gas. Parliament dissolved because an election could not be held to replace expiring seats. Its last act was to grant emergency powers to Preval and create a reconstruction commission co-chaired by Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Clinton was already the U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti. Aliodor and others wondered if he was now their governor.

When Preval announced that he might extend his term beyond February 2011, opponents marched to the palace. Police and U.N. peacekeepers fired rubber bullets and tear gas at rock-throwing demonstrators and into the camp.

Then Haiti settled in for a summer break. The World Cup was on.

In July, exactly six months after the quake, big cars pulled up to the palace. The government was moving back in. News conferences, once held under a mango tree at a police station, would now be in a new wooden gazebo. A defiant Preval said the lack of massive disease outbreaks and violence was proof that the quake response had gone better than people were saying.

Then came the medals. Twenty-three honorees _ including Penn and Clinton _ received certificates deeming them Knights of the National Order of Honor and Merit. There was no mention of the dead, or the giant shantytown a few hundred feet (meters) away.

The officials then announced that the previous six months of grinding inaction had merely been the emergency-recovery phase. Now, they said, reconstruction would begin.


Aliodor and Manette were losing weight. Food was scarce and there was no work. The shack boiled in the summer heat.

Every day Aliodor woke up in their cramped bed and walked out to the sight of a big rubber bladder, wider than his shack, that aid groups sometimes filled with treated water. Above it stood the statue of Dessalines on a horse, waving to his left.

The sun beat down until it gave Aliodor a headache. He had an eye infection. He was starting to get angry.

“The government, the ones who are responsible for us, don’t really want us to go because while we are in misery they are enjoying themselves,” he said. “Every day they are making money on top of our heads.”

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