Today, newspapers around the world present yet another set of sad headlines about the state of affairs in Haiti. The riots are indeed sad but I can understand the indignation that so many Haitians are expressing. Of the nineteen presidential candidates from the November 28th election, the two with the most votes were announced yesterday for a runoff election in January. The third placing candidate, Michel Martelly, a very popular choice amongst the country’s poor, was edged out of the runoff election by a mere 6800 votes- this in a country of 9 million people where 4.6 million registered to vote and of which only 1 million votes were counted for president. The extent of the allegations of fraud perpetrated by the #2 placing candidate, government-backed Celestin, if true, is more than enough to produce this result. The #1 placing candidate, a woman by the name of Mirlande Manigat, is a highly educated former first lady who is very much a part of the wealthy Haitian oligarchy- understandably not entirely embraced by the poor majority. A possible remedy to the violence would be to allow Martelly to participate in the January runoff elections. Both Martelly and the hugely unpopular President Preval are expected to make press releases today; Preval will likely call for peace and understanding, while Martelly may well condone the citizenry’s revulsion with the results.
A group of volunteers who were scheduled to fly home today quickly had their plans quashed when the shuttle drivers could not even drive through Port-au-Prince to come pick them up in the pre-dawn hours. The city is completely gridlocked, the airport shut down, the streets filling with rioters, government buildings being burnt down; some other cities in the country are experiencing the same. Here in Leogane, roadblocks and protesters have cut off central thoroughfares. We are in lock down at our base, keeping a low profile and not even using noisy power tools because the community may perceive us going about work as a sign of support for the election results. We are expecting that this may continue for some days. As such, we are being very conservative with all our resource consumption. The diesel to run our pumps and generators, the veggies and meat to balance our diets, and even the toilet paper to, you know, is of limited supply. That being said, there are tonnes of rice and beans to keep our bellies full, and we have the means to filter well water for drinking with the fantabulous bio-sand filters that we produce for the community. We are all in good spirits; as I write, in the spirit of this “snow day”, a floor hockey game is getting started in the courtyard.
I’m due to be back in home sweet Canada in a week. Granted, this developing unrest makes me all the more antsy to get on that plane, but I was fully aware of the country’s precarious situation prior to coming down. I will patiently sit tight, read books, and give the Americans some hockey lessons until that day comes.