By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service
PETIONVILLE, HAITI — Through decades of coups, hurricanes, embargoes and economic collapse, the wily and powerful business elite of Haiti have learned the art of survival in one of the most chaotic countries on Earth — and they might come out on top again.
Although Tuesday’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed many buildings in Port-au-Prince, it mostly spared homes and businesses up the mountain in the cool, green suburb of Petionville, home to former presidents and senators.
A palace built atop a mountain by the man who runs one of Haiti’s biggest lottery games is still standing. New-car dealers, the big importers, the families that control the port — they all drove through town with their drivers and security men this past weekend. Only a few homes here were destroyed.
“All the nation is feeling this earthquake — the poor, the middle class and the richest ones,” said Erwin Berthold, owner of the Big Star Market in Petionville. “But we did okay here. We have everything cleaned up inside. We are ready to open. We just need some security. So send in the Marines, okay?”
As Berthold stood outside his two-story market, stocked with fine wines and imported food from Miami and Paris, his customers cruised by and asked when he would reopen. “Maybe Monday!” he shouted, then held up his hand to his ear, for his customers to call his cellphone.
The full story can be found here.
For people unfamiliar with the history of the US and Haiti, Noam Chomsky’s essay, “The Tragedy of Haiti” provides an historical backdrop to our long-standing relationship with the country. It is not a pretty picture, but its a great read and a lesson on how big states and interests suppress small nations, creating an economic gulf between the rich and poor that we see today, and as the article suggests.-–fb