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Guest blog: Dris Prophete - letter from Haiti

Ben Sutherland Ben Sutherland | 10:30 UK time, Friday, 22 October 2010

Workers clearing rubble in Haiti 

Since wrting the post below, a cholera outbreak has left over 100 people dead in Haiti. We'll try and get Dris on the show today to tell us what's going on.

This blog post was written by Dris from Haiti. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect those of the wider BBC.


Port-au-Prince these days look like a city ready for a big carnival party; the election campaign was officially launched on 27 September.

The posters and billboards with the pictures of candidates wearing presidential masks are everywhere - mostly those of President Preval's INETE party. The walls of private properties, public administration offices, churches and historic monuments are not spared in this massive effort to win the votes of electors in November.

Elections are a fuzzy process in Haiti. Millions are spent by the international; the runners and their political parties invest huge amount from the financial backup they receive from various sources such as the government, drug trafficking, and other organized crimes and foreign governments which want to influence the future of the country, or preserve its nature of failed state.

The election fever has caught the country. It has become the main topics of small talk, and the main news items in the Haitian media.

But to many, those elections taste like bad leftovers. A perfume of deja-vu embalms the process.

Many people believe the Provisional Electoral Commission is just acting out a script. All the presidents who got elected through so-called democratic elections since 1990 have been the candidates of the ruling party - the Lavlas party and its subsequent metamorphosis.

That's why this year, Jude Celestin, this famously unknown figure on the political scene before he announced his bid for president, could potentially become our next president.

In fact, not only he received the official anointment of Preval - but a quick look at the wealth of his campaign, and one can presume he has also received the financial backup of the government.

However, the population has matured politically, and the January quake has made the people more aware of the needs of a different leadership - one that delivers.

The prevailing leftist ideology, which has been in power since 1990, has pitifully failed to improve the quality of life, and the living standards of the population. So now anyone who relates to those in power could be perceived as a relic of the past, a promoter of the old regime.

Today, nine months later, the country is not recovering, the situation is getting worse everyday - which fuels anti-Preval sentiment even more.

Schools are scheduled to reopen next month, and many families are complaining they can't send their children to school; indeed, in Haiti more than 80% percent of the schools are private, and tuition fees are very high, compared to the families income, or no-income in most cases; no need to explain why we have the highest illiteracy rate in the western hemisphere.

And the rain is there. The big storm and heavy winds last month exposed the fragility of the people. Tents - or what's left of them after eight months - were flying all over, yelling and crying could be heard from all over the city; the trauma of the quake was revived, fear and panic reclaimed its domain.

They were some casualties; some died in their tents when trees fell on them. This climatic condition is a reminder that nature is still the great master of the political agenda.

Since that day, there is no electricity in Port-au-Prince; many of the power lines didn't sustain the winds.

The state-owned electric company, one of the most dysfunctional institutions in the dysfunctional Haiti, is painfully trying to repair the network and restore power.

Foreigners sometimes have a hard time understanding why such a powder keg like Haiti has not exploded yet; all the conditions are there to have a social upheaval.

Eight months after the quake, people are still in tents; the schools that were destroyed were not rebuilt; and those that still stand can't meet the new and pressing demands; they ceased food distribution, and the people have to rely on their own; the daily rains join with the living conditions of the individuals make them even more vulnerable to the whims of nature.

But so far there have been no major outbreaks of violence. Why?

The answer relies maybe in the Cash for Food and Work programme initiated by the USAID, and other major international organisations and NGOs.

The project consists mainly of having the residents of the devastated areas cleaning the rubble in their community for 2400 gourde - $60 US every two weeks.

To many observers of Haitian politics, it is the social cooler, "the opium to the mass", that has kept this country stable. But for how long do they intend to have this programme running? And what situation should we expect after they phase it out? The next administration will surely have to answer these questions.

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