AT A STRIP Haitians call "Kuwait City," hundreds of people
wave tin funnels along both sides of a rutted road and shout at
cars and trucks streaming through.
We must drive this gantlet to buy diesel fuel because of the
U.N. oil embargo. What we find is Haiti's only booming industry,
What we discover, too, is what the French-speaking people here
call "chien-mange-chien" - a "dog-eat-dog" world.
"It is very hard here, but I do what I need to do," says Gayda
DeRois, 27, a mother of two. She will take home $3 today from
A hard life indeed. Sewage flows with gasoline spilled from the
thousands of jugs, buckets and barrels. Pigs run behind barefoot
children selling mangoes and picking through garbage as tall as the
buses that have come here packed with Haitian people.
Alongside this fuel market, bodies are buried in the field of
an old military barracks - a reminder of the terror always near the
A few hours later, the fears become reality: Fire and
explosions roar through "Kuwait City," spread by the open fuel
containers. A sector of the strip has been destroyed, but the
people escaped what could have been an apocalypse.
We were lucky. We were no longer in the area. A young Haitian
named Pierre Benoit filled our jeep with diesel fuel for $7 a
gallon - a bargain. A few days before, diesel was going for over
$10 a gallon.
Benoit is among a new class of entrepreneurs that the U.N.
embargo has spawned. Before we left, he told us of his trips to the
Massacre River on the border with the Dominican Republic and the
smuggling that keeps this country limping along.
"The trips, they are very dangerous," Benoit says.
SHORTAGES BREED SUFFERING
At the storied Oloffson Hotel in Port-au-Prince, a 14-member
Caribbean band performed last week beneath an angry-looking voodoo
mask. "Embargo, embargo, embargo," they sang, their biting lyrics
fused with the pounding of Haitian drums.
Nowhere in Haiti do you escape the embargo.
In plain view of the Haitian coastline, U.S. warships watch
vessels coming and going, stopping many of them to prevent
shipments of fuel. On Sunday, 6 million Haitian people are
awakening to the first day of new, tougher U.N. sanctions.
These U.S.-orchestrated actions are part of an effort to coerce
the security forces to allow the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide,
the president deposed and exiled in a coup three years ago. Most
Haitians are convinced that the United States will invade any day
Even before these latest sanctions, life here has been turned
upside down. Haiti is operating on less than half of the gasoline
and diesel fuel that it needs, a U.N. official estimated.
The fuel embargo has worsened problems of the country's mass of
poor people and generated new ones for an emerging middle class. In
Port-au-Prince, the roughly 30 percent of people who have jobs have
difficulty getting to work.
The fuel embargo has created burdens in Haiti that few
Americans will ever know. Electricity is scarce throughout the
nation, which means that water pumps and refrigerators can't work.
In the city of Cap Haitien, in the north, the power company
went out of business last month after people figured ways to tap
into the lines and steal electricity.
The cost of food and medicine has doubled. Outside Cap Haitien,
a man breaking rocks for paving said he had doubled his price for
the rocks because that's what everyone else had done.
Haiti's wealthy suffer fewer inconveniences. They have
generators to keep power flowing. In Port-au-Prince, the oil
embargo has meant less traffic for them to negotiate with their
Mercedes-Benzes and Range Rovers. Many of them have grown richer in
the oil business. …