Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Haiti Makes Strides; Some Say Too Few

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Haiti Makes Strides; Some Say Too Few

Article excerpt

The streets of the bleak capital city of the Western Hemisphere's poorest country haven't looked this clean in years.

The trash has been swept aside. Pedestrians no longer have to dodge fetid mounds of garbage. The stomach-turning sight of mosquitoes, rats and mangy dogs swarming pungent piles of waste is not as prevalent.

But it's not that the trash has been eliminated. It's simply that the garbage has been shoved to some street corners where it accumulates in six-foot-high mounds. The government laments the situation but says it doesn't have enough trucks or workers to make the garbage vanish.

The story of Port-au-Prince's street trash is an apt metaphor for Haiti since the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide last Oct. 15: The country has managed a few strides forward, but it still must climb a giant mountain built out of decades of brutal dictatorship, government corruption and abject poverty.

Aristide's detractors say he has moved too slowly to tackle the array of social, political and economic ills plaguing Haiti. "There is still a lack of uncertainty," said one prominent businessman who asked not to be identified by name. "There is still a lack of confidence."

But Aristide's defenders say it is too soon to judge a government that essentially had to start building a country from scratch. "We should understand that the government started at zero," said Mayor Evans Paul of Port-au-Prince.

Meanwhile, in the slums and working-class neighborhoods that are the backbone of Aristide's support, residents have not lost faith in the president.

Some say it is enough that they can walk the streets at night without fear of being beaten or killed by Haiti's now defunct security forces and their allied "attaches," or thugs. …

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