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David L. Wilson Reports from Port-au-Prince

Tuesday, January 12, 2010, at 8:41pm

I’m writing from the southern part of Port-au-Prince; I have been in Haiti since last Thursday on a delegation in support of Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP), the Papay Peasant Movement.

The earthquake hit less than 12 hours ago, and damage here is extensive.  The Olaffson Hotel, where I was waiting to be picked up by Paul from Batay Ouvriye, hasn’t had serious damage, but one of the walls in front fell.  Street vendors were working there; at least one was injured and taken away.  Another was killed.  Her body is still lying under the blocks — there’s no time to deal with the dead.

In the hour after the first shock, people passed by carrying the injured, one in a wheelbarrow, another on a stretcher improvised of planks.

People come here and report damage all through the city, although the stories are contradictory: the National Palace is totally destroyed, the National Palace is partly destroyed, the General Hospital is destroyed, no, it’s a little hospital in Petionville.

To add to the trauma, there are aftershocks, mostly small, some substantial.  Many people in the neighborhood are singing.  I suspect they’re praying, but I can’t make out the words.

What is most obviously missing from this picture is any organized relief.  Where is the 9,000-strong U.N. mission?  One helicopter flew over the city about an hour after the first shock, but we’ve seen and heard nothing since then.

This is a country where the infrastructure was already collapsed, despite decades of “international aid” — or because of it.  Will the U.S. and the other countries do anything, even now?

David L. Wilson is co-author, with Jane Guskin, of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers (Monthly Review Press, 2007), and co-editor of Weekly News Update on the Americas.

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