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EDITORIAL: Six Years After The Earthquake, There Are Problems In Haiti That Still Need Fixing

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By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

The Caribbean island nation of Haiti is once more in a first-class political mess.

Its previous elected president, Michel Martelly, a former entertainer, stepped down in February with no successor in place. On June 14, the 120-day mandate of the provisional president, Jocelerme Privert, expired, with no permanent or provisional successor lined up.

Haiti’s two-house legislature, currently composed of 22 senators and 92 deputies, was supposed to meet either to extend Mr. Privert’s term or to choose another provisional president, but it didn’t, two days running.

Therefore, the nation of some 11 million, sharing the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, is left with no president at all and a clearly dysfunctional legislature, also incapable of governing.

Haiti’s problems remain manifold. It still hasn’t recovered from the 2010 earthquake that claimed an estimated 46,000 to 85,000 lives, originally overstated to be 316,000. That disaster attracted a considerable amount in aid pledges, including more than $4 billion from the United States.

Some of the promises of aid have turned sour. First, many donors have not respected their commitments. A just-released report by the U.S. Senate charges that the American Red Cross, one of the major organizations working in Haiti on earthquake relief, spent a disproportionate amount of its resources on fundraising, salaries and other administrative costs instead of on actual relief — which the American Red Cross denies.

Another major problem is that for years Haiti has depended on regional charity, particularly in the area of petroleum provided by neighboring Venezuela. That country, with the death of President Hugo Chavez, followed in its presidency by Nicolas Maduro, has fallen into disastrous circumstances.

Venezuelans, in spite of the country’s oil wealth, are suffering from major shortages of food and medicine, for example, and high inflation, which Mr. Maduro is showing no signs of ability to deal with. There is now pressure for a referendum to recall him. Venezuela’s ability to help Haiti has dropped to zero.

Haiti’s first order of business is to put in place an interim president. It is scheduled to hold new elections in October. The political mess is not new for Haiti, but that doesn’t relieve the situation of its very poor population, probably the most miserable in the hemisphere.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1989. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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