The lead photo in this story from Time on Haiti says it all: a close up of a young boy, clutching a stolen piece of meat to his chest, while behind him, a city street is in ruins.

The only people Haitians have left to trust are street-gang members, assassins and drug traffickers," a former high-ranking Haitian government officia tells Time, adding that "we still have a very, very violent period ahead of us."

The CIA factbook section on Haiti lays out the ugly details of life in this country. 80 percent of people in "abject poverty." Life expectancy is 51.61 years.

Since 2000, after the disputed election of former President Aristide, the US has withheld $500 million in aid to Haiti.

It's another ugly chapter in Haiti's more than 200 years of chaos since winning it's independance from France. As a long opinion piece in World Magazine puts it"

Haitian history since then is a story of short-lived "presidents-for-life,"
rulers with aversions to term limits, imposing palaces side by
side with unspeakable squalor and constitutions with the enduring value
of tissue paper.

World then goes on to quote historian James G. Leyburn:

"Of the twenty-two heads of state between 1843 and 1915, only one served out his
prescribed term of office, three died while serving, one was blown up with his palace, one
presumably poisoned, one hacked to pieces by a mob, one resigned. The other fourteen were deposed
by revolution after incumbencies ranging in length from three months to twelve years."

This piece in World seems to place much of the blame for Haiti's trouble's on Voodoo. which Aristide named the countries official religion last fall. Perhaps that's as good an explanation as any. Haiti certainly resembles hell on earth. 200 years of little boys having to steal their food will do that to a country.

For a more in-depth look at Haiti than President Bush's soundbytes--"It's the beginning of a new chapter" in Haiti's history he said--(More like, Meet the New Boss, He's the same as the old Boss), try The Rainy Season, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder or The Comedians by Graham Greene.


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