At six in the morning in Cite Soleil, the poorest zone of Haiti’s capital city, the sun is already up. It’s the start of another workday for Lurene Jeanti, making cookies from mud, butter and salt. She’s been mixing the ingredients on the side of the road to sell to her neighbours for the past eight years.
Nearly two months since U.N. troops began launching heavy attacks that they say are aimed against gang members in poor neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, roadblocks and barbed wire remain in place and the atmosphere is grim.
“I’mgoing to do everything possible to raise my daughter. My daughter is my future. And I can see my future in her,” says Mirlene Saint Juste, a rice merchant in the Opoto market of Gonaives in northern Haiti.
Gonaives, the third largest city in Haiti, is rushing to prepare for an expected highly active hurricane season. The city was flooded by three hurricanes in the past six years – Hannah and Ike in 2008, and Jeanne, which killed at least 2,500 people in 2004.
After weeks of delays, Haitian President René Préval confirmed this month that presidential and legislative elections will take place on Nov. 28. The U.N. and Western donor nations are pledging millions of dollars in support of the polls, but with at least 1.5 million people still homeless from the January earthquake, questions loom over how to ensure voter participation.
Furious demonstrations continued across Haiti on Wednesday following the Nov. 28 highly contested election in which thousands found themselves unable to vote.
Government authorities in Haiti face recent criticism over allegations that they continue to jail political dissidents.
Weekend senatorial elections in Haiti are mired in controversy as Fanmi Lavalas (FL), the political party widely backed by the poor majority, has been disqualified.
Cars crossing Gonaives Avenue shoot plumes of murky water from their rears. Men on motorcycles stick to the shoulder of the road, dodging large puddles. As the flooding in this coastal city begins to slowly recede, residents are starting to assess the measure of destruction.
Late last month, President René Préval announced that Haiti’s public telephone company, Téléco, would be privatised. Meeting recently with the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Senator Jean Hector Anacacis of Preval’s Lespwa political party, the president finalised plans to sell off the aging enterprise.
A two-day transport strike last week gripped Haiti’s major cities and underscored a mounting crisis over fuel prices, which rose nearly 20 percent in just two weeks.