AT A STRIP Haitians call "Kuwait City," hundreds of people
selling fuel 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
Sewage flows with gasoline spilled from the thousands of jugs,
buckets and barrels. Pigs run behind barefoot children who are
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
The inferno destroyed a sector of the strip, but the people
managed to escape 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 said.
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.
In Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday, President Bill Clinton
signed an executive order directing the United States to take part
in the toughened U.N. sanctions.
He said any goods originating in Haiti are banned from U.S.
importation. He exempted only books and other publications needed
for the free flow of information.
No U.S. goods may be exported to Haiti other than medical
supplies, basic food needs, and books and other publications,
The actions are designed to pressure the security forces to
allow the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the president deposed
and exiled in a coup three years ago.
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.
Electricity is scarce throughout the nation, which means that
water pumps and refrigerators can't work.
The cost of food and medicine has doubled.
Outside the northern city of 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. …