Nothing brings out the big divide between rich and poor quite like the build up to a country’s general election. And in Haiti, perhaps even more so than in other places!
Last Sunday Jean Rabel was treated to the presence of Dr. Maryse Narcisse one of the candidates in the upcoming election, a member of the Fanmi Lavalas political party.
Of all the candidates to have arrived in the town over the past few weeks I would say Dr. Maryse Narcisse had the biggest turnout from all ages. Indeed she was accompanied by the Haitian National Police, unlike the other candidates who visited during the past week to make their last plea for votes (perhaps this was because she also had renowned former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide accompanying her).
What struck me mostly was the fact that she arrived by helicopter here to one of the poorest and least developed areas of Haiti to seek votes from people who often feel that what goes on in the halls of power in the capital of Port-au-Prince has little bearing on the daily lives of almost 150,000 people, living from hand to mouth from the land they toil around Jean Rabel.
In this area of Haiti, most people walk wherever they need to go, if they are lucky and have a job, they might take a taxi; that is a motorbike ride usually with up to 4 people on one bike! Very few people own a push bike or a donkey or even a wheelbarrow, and those with a car at their disposal are truly privileged.
So when a helicopter arrives, it really does create a stir. Of course, whether that stir is positive or negative depends on your political persuasion in this instance.
However, one thing that is universal in this regard is the distinct difference it shows among people’s norms and living standards.
Obviously there is money in Haiti somewhere if such modes of transport are available, even if they come at a high price, and are only available for the elite and the privileged.
The question I’d like an answer to is whether the money spent on suchlike wouldn’t be better off spent on basic needs for people in this area, who already are only surviving due the input of foreign aid, NGOs, faith-based organisations and concerned individuals and groups who have long supported the local people?
There are of course answers to such questions. There is of course money in Haiti. But there seems to be little political will to bring about the changes the people of Haiti need, and so the huge divide between those who have and those who have not continues.
I find it so difficult to believe that the people of this country have so very, very little of the bare necessities of life and yet they manage to survive. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I would not be able to believe the poverty in which they live day in, day out.
So when power and wealth appear on our doorstep in the form of helicopters and presidential candidates with armed security, I can’t sit idly by without questioning a system that so blatantly bears witness to such inequitable and inhumane social division.