Port-au-Prince, Haiti — Is it taking baby steps forward for a country learning how democracy works and what freedom means, or is it a country that cannot grasp the concept of democracy and is tumbling into chaos?
As Haiti's elections are cancelled for the second time, and the current president makes preparations to leave office without a replacement on February 7, there are no clear answers. In Port-au-Prince and throughout the country functioning on a day-to-day level is almost impossible, leaving the masses living in fear.
Every Saturday, I go to a clinic in the slums of Port-au-Prince with the Missionaries of Charity. We see 300 to 400 people in a space given to us at St. Joseph Church in the middle of a huge street market. As we were getting ready to leave this past Saturday (January 30), we heard gunshots very close to the church. The people with stalls in the market ran for cover. We waited inside the clinic. The sisters said it would be safe to leave when the people returned to their stalls in the market. After 10 minutes or so, all was quiet, and in another 15 minutes, everything was back to "normal" so we headed home.
I have lived in Haiti for 14 years and experienced the chaos and upheaval that was everywhere at the time Aristide left the country. I have seen two presidents remain in office for their entire terms of election, offering hope that the seed of democracy was fragile, but alive.