Haiti: The Curse of Deja Vu


April 1, 2006: The gangs of Haiti have become less political, and more just criminal and mercenary. The gangs make economic growth impossible, and play a major role in keeping everyone poor. It's believed that at least 20,000 police are needed to regain control of the streets from the gangs, but only 7,000 cops are available. The UN also has 1,750 foreign police available, who are limited by their limited language and cultural skills. The 7,300 UN peacekeepers really can't police, and are instead used for general security and raids on major gang operations. It would take 3-4 years to recruit and train 20,000 police. Even then, given Haiti's two century history, there's no assurance that this large police force would not be as corrupt as in the past. The biggest problem in Haiti is that no one has any new ideas that seem likely to break the cycle of corruption, poor government and poverty that has cursed the country since its founding.

March 20, 2006: President-Elect Rene Preval has been out of the country trying to raise some foreign aid for reconstruction. He wants a billion dollars. But potential donors remember that in the 1990s, his predecessor, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, also raised large sums for reconstruction, and most of the money was stolen. Preval has a hard time convincing donors that things have really changed.

March 16, 2006: Kidnappings have dropped sharply since peaking at 160 in December. In the first half of March, there were only six reported. For most of 2005, there were 40-50 a month. The decline is seen as a result of more aggressive police action against the gangs, better security measures by potential victims (middle and upper class people, many of whom have also fled the country to avoid the kidnappers.)

March 2, 2006: Two civilian security guards, who worked at the U.S. embassy, were shot and killed, separately, after they finished work.


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