February 7, 2010

Haiti: "Nobody in Charge" (As Far As U.S. Is Concerned)

Rene Preval Palace.jpg

It’s like “Where’s Waldo?” — except the guy nobody can find is René Préval.

What’s almost impossible to tell from watching U.S. TV or domestic news sites is how much President Préval and the Haitian Government have been devastated as opposed to how much — given America’s consistently heavy hand in Haiti — U.S. media would have it be true.

The photo accompanied last Sunday’s NYT article, In Quake’s Wake, Haiti Faces Leadership Void. If you only read the first half of the piece, you’d think the quake turned Preval into an ineffectual mouse. Reading the second half, however, you’d get an almost opposite picture. Not only do they paint him as nimble enough to be working away at circumventing the constitution in a quest of a third-term, but they actually suggest he just might, in fact, be getting his arms around the recovery, despite overwhelming obstacles.

Notice, though, how much the photo makes Préval look reclusive, helpless and even clueless, tucked behind the gates of the Presidential Palace during that near-food riot two week ago?

Given this perception — that nobody’s really in charge “down there” — it’s no wonder that band of Christian fundamentalists thought they could just fly down to Haiti, collect themselves a truckload of children, and whisk them back to Idaho.

Silsby Hait.jpg

That story only makes the “nobody in charge” meme ironic, though.

That’s because the arrest of the “New Life Children’s Refuge” members actually created a rare photo-opportunity to observe that Haiti — obviously just a country of indigents standing in food lines being ministered to by the American military and the international community, right? — actually has a government, and — surprise! surprise! — a functioning criminal justice system, with actual courthouses still standing, to deal with these kooks.

(photo 1: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. photo 2: John Moore/Getty Images. caption: Laura Silsby, (C), the head of New Life Children’s Refuge leaves a court hearing with another member of her group, Charisa Coulter February 4, 2010 after being accused of child abduction and criminal association in Port au Prince, Haiti. Five women and five men are part of a church organization that attempted to cross into the Dominican Republic with 33 Haitian children.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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