Haiti’s elite spared from much of the devastation

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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

Fe Bongolan

About Fe Bongolan

Planet Waves writer Fe Bongolan lives in Oakland, California. Her column "Fe-911," has been featured on Planet Waves since 2008. As an actor and dramaturge, Fe is a core member of Cultural Odyssey's "The Medea Project -- Theater for Incarcerated Women," producing work that empowers the voices of all women in trouble, from ex-offenders, women with HIV-AIDS, to young girls and women at risk. A Planet Waves fan from almost the beginning of Eric's astrology career, Fe is a public sector employee who describes herself as a "mystical public servant." When it comes to art, culture and politics, she loves reading between the lines.
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3 Responses to Haiti’s elite spared from much of the devastation

  1. Fe Bongolan Fe Bongolan says:


    You ask a very good question.

    The article reay addresses the generational disconnect from the rich who live in the hills to the poor who live in the towns. The poor are “them”, while the well-to-do can jet off to France like the Duvaliers. They are the plutocrats, whose comfort seems to afford them the ability to shut off what’s happening in the towns below.

  2. victorialynn says:

    I’ve been trying to not take in too many images of the devastation in Haiti, while sending out (some money and) strength and courage to those trying to cope with the chaos. I did, however, read an online article about the HORROR that some residents of a ruined nursing home are living. Starving elderly, lying in their own filth; why the FUCK didn’t Erwin Berthold load up his vehicle with imported food and feed those he could?

  3. jlo says:

    Oh, dude,.. this is the shit right here! The beauty of Unreality! “It’s good for me,.. Fuck you!”

    Bastards! I love this crap ’cause it wakes people up, but I hate the shit ’cause it’s nastie! It just plain hurts folks, globe around.. bad news!

    …people, people, people,… (If we worked to help each other out, imagine, we could eat, be sheltered, be healthy, educated, AND freakin’ entertained!)

    SCREW!!! the elite. FUCK YOU!!!! “I don’t like you, and I’m going to find a way around you that helps all the cats that you neglect. Your days have ended, and my focus no longer is funneled into your irrelevantism.” Even if they drop my ass, the vibe has already settled, I’m happy.

    (In my reality, shit on this planet is flowin’ smooth!)
    Time, and patience.. in all craw.

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