Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 161: Election Backlash

For those of you not aware, a few weeks ago Haiti had the third democratic elections in the nation's history. Since then, rumors of massive electoral fraud have surfaced, but the ruling government body overseeing the elections has said that, despite some issues, the elections were valid. Yesterday night they announced the results.

Leading up to the announcement, many people and organizations had Mirlande Manigat, an ex-First Lady of Haiti, and Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, a musician, as the two front runners. They were expected to be the two candidates chosen for the second-round run-off that will happen in January. That wasn't what was announced. Instead, Mirlande Manigat and Jude Celestin, a technocrat backed by current president Rene Preval and his ruling Inite (Unity) Party, were announced as the two front runners. This has resulted in violent protests in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and demonstrations around the country, including here in Leogane. I'd imagine our base is once again going to be in lockdown today - nobody coming in, nobody leaving.

Sometimes I forget, because I get comfortable here in the bubble of the base, and because in the immediate vicinity of the base the local Haitians know me, and because I have a good circle of Haitian friends now, that this is definitely not my home. I live here now, but Haiti isn't mine. It never will be. To 99.99% of the Haitian people, I'm just a random blanc, and right now, that isn't necessarily a good thing to be. Recently, two of our volunteers, veterans that have been here for a long time and have been out and about in the community for months and months, were in the market shopping. People started pointing at them, saying "Li gen cholera.". "She has cholera." It was an accusatory statement, pushing the idea that we brought cholera to Haiti. Truth be told, blancs most likely did - it's expected that the UN will soon announce that the Nepalese UN troops brought in to Haiti are the source of the outbreak - but clearly that isn't our doing. It didn't happen here. It happened in the north - the Artibonite Valley. Still, when the level of fear surrounding cholera is a reality all over this country, paranoia and rumors hold more power than they should.

So yes, recent events here are reminders that I am indeed an outsider in this place, even if I feel comfortable enough in moments to forget that. I don't expect anything bad to come of that, but it can still be a bit sobering to be reminded.

I hope the post-election announcement violence isn't substantial. Until further updates though, it's time for me to retreat into my audiobook.

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