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The aid groups promised they would do this and that, fix a toilet, bring more food. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t. The committee squabbled. People stole what they needed.

Behind Aliodor’s shack, the backhoes and bulldozers at the national palace had been sitting idle for months.

“The country needs to have a national palace. But if it’s under these guys who are in power now, the palace will never be built,” Aliodor said.

He looked at Dessalines again, waving on his horse. Maybe he was trying to leave, too.


Rumors had been spreading for weeks. A strange disease was killing people in the countryside: like diarrhea, but it could kill you in hours.

In mid-November, it arrived on the Champ de Mars. A woman everyone said was crazy walked into her tent one day and did not leave. In two days, the tent gave off a nauseating smell. A brave soul opened the tarp and found her lying dead in her own filth. A fight broke out between neighbors and police about who would clear her out.

The next day a young man was found dead in a toilet. Word came in from the Cite Soleil slum that dozens of children were dropping dead. The foreigners called it cholera.

Then the news spread that U.N. peacekeepers might have brought the disease to Haiti.

“I’m not supposed to be here, waiting for cholera to kill me in a public park,” Aliodor said, jutting out his lower teeth.

As the year drew to a close, the international community pushed for a presidential election. Donor countries provided $29 million, including $14 million from the United States. Black-and-white pictures of the 19 candidates were hung on the palace gates.

The Nov. 28 election was, by most measures, a failure. Hundreds of thousands who had died in the earthquake were still on the rolls, and untold thousands of survivors were turned away because of disorganization or alleged fraud. There was violence and voter intimidation. Nearly all the major candidates called for the vote to be canceled.

When results were announced days later, the city was shut down with flaming barricades. Gunmen wearing shirts of the ruling-party candidate called for people on the Champ de Mars to come out and celebrate. Then they opened fire. Up to three people were killed and several injured. Aliodor and others took turns keeping lookout at night.

Nearly 3,000 people died of cholera and more than 100,000 were infected.

Clinton’s commission had approved billions of dollars in projects, but many remained unfunded. Less than $900 million of the donors’ conference pledges was delivered.

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