From The Grio — When an earthquake heaped rubble onto Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city, one year ago, there was a sense from many people that this catastrophe could be turned into something positive.
After all, many Haitian professionals had mused that what Haiti needed, particularly in its capital, was a huge bulldozer to clear the mountain of anarchic construction that dotted the hilly city. While everyone knows that advocating such a policy publicly was akin to political suicide, the earthquake provided the notion cover.
Suddenly with more than half of the city destroyed, rebuilding it seemed less challenging than before. Raising the money required would be simple because the world was ready to open its pockets.
While rebuilding would not be an easy task by any yardstick, but the bold leadership that it requires from the Haitian government and the private sector has not materialized. Instead, a year later, Haitians have reverted to finger pointing, micromanaging and are unwilling to open up the country to real economic development, according to Haitians and foreigners who have followed the situation closely.
For a while now, talk of reconstruction seemed to have given way to the elections that consumed the local media as nearly 20 candidates vied for the presidency. The elections, which were supposed to be a democratic achievement for the Haitian government and the international community, turned out to be poorly managed and were, at best, a fiasco. A runoff scheduled for January 16th has been postponed. On Tuesday, the Organization of American States recommended that two candidates, Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly be declared the top two winners and head for a yet unscheduled runoff.
With so much riding on the outcome of this election and wanting to get the results right, the international backers of Haiti, intervened and pressured the government to make sure that the right candidates were declared the winner. It was widely believed that President Rene Preval threw full support behind and helped bankroll Jude Celestin, who finished in third place by most count, but was declared the second top vote getter behind Manigat by the Provisional Electoral Council.
That move resulted in two days of intense violence across the city that shut most of the country down, with major airlines canceling flights into Haiti and people unable to leave their homes as thousands burn tires, cars and property.