Haiti is suffering from the massive Jan 12 earthquake and needs our help. Below I've posted some first-hand accounts of the quake from people in Haiti. Please consider a donation to an organization in Haiti. If you would like to give directly to a Haitian family, please contact me (anna.versluis@gmail.com).

Monday, June 19, 2006

The two students I am working with are Ludger and Andrenor. They are 5th year students in the Dept of Natural Resources and Environment at the ag univeristy in Damien. They've finished with classes and only need to do their thesis to graduate. As is unfortunately the case here, they will probably find great difficulty in getting work once they graduate even though the ag univ at Damien is a very competive program to get into. They are both from the city of Cayes on the south coast of Haiti. They were roommates for several years in the dorm at the university and are good friends.
The current president, Rene PREVAL, and the new prime minister, Jacques Edouard ALEXIS, are both agronomists by training, though I'm not sure if either went to the university in Damien. Two very positive recent developments in Haitian politics are the almost anonymous confirmation by the parliment last week of Alexis as prime minister and the confirmation that Mario Andresol will remain as the head of the police force. Andresol is about as good as they come in the police and has been working to rid the police force of corruption and abuse. Alexis has appointed his cabinent of ministers, and, from what I gather, has been very diplomatic about appointing many ministers from opposing parties to create a sort of coalition government. No party has a majority in parliament. It is very encouraging to see the level of compromise and collaboration at the highest level of government right now. The former quasi-USA-appointed prime minister after Aristide fled the country over 2 years ago, Gerard Latortue, has returned to his home in Boca Raton, Florida, and supposively is more than happy to have passed on his post to Alexis and be able to enjoy his retirement watching the World Cup and enjoying his grandchildren.

Last night P was driving Stephanie and me home from the party. There are often police check points on the roads, especially at night. At one stop the car in front of us was seen giving money to the police--P pointed this out. P said that the police will sometimes indirectly ask for money--saying something like, "You know, a man can't even buy a beer around here these days." But he said that, unlike in places like the Dominican Republic or Brazil, if you don't give them anything they won't get mad or do anything to you. That strikes me as very (and uniquely?) Haitian! I've never had police ask me for money, but P says he might tell them he doesn't have any money on him and they'll just wave him by. In any case, they didn't even stop us last night.


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