Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You're on your own

A couple of reports on the lawlessness, looting and violence going on in Haiti:
Aid groups in Port-au-Prince said the relief effort could be hampered by the deteriorating security situation as criminals and desperate locals fought for the scarce resources.

More than 3,500 US troops are due to arrive in the country by the end of the week to bolster around 3,000 police and international peacekeepers who were said to have been deployed to secure the airport, port and main buildings.

But charity workers said they had seen little evidence of the security measures and warned of widespread looting and fights breaking out over dwindling water supplies.


"All the policemen are busy rescuing and burying their own families," said tile factory owner Manuel Deheusch. "They don't have the time to patrol the streets."

With law enforcement stretched thin even before the earthquake and the UN's 9,000 peacekeepers distracted by the collapse of their headquarters and the loss of up to 100 staff, the country is ill-equipped to deal with major unrest.

A Boston-based medical charity said it had been trying to get the UN to secure a small area where its doctors could treat injured people only to be told that such a request was not a UN "priority".

Valmir Fachini, a spokesman for the Brazilian charity Viva Rio charity, said he had not seen a single UN peacekeepers on security patrol. [emphasis added] ...

Article here. As is typical, the UN is totally useless. And in a disaster, as we saw with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, lots of cops will be busy taking care of their own families.

And another report:
... Much like the days after Hurricane Katrina, looting has become a problem very quickly.


What made the situation that much more tense was sightings of gangs of young men with machetes. On Wednesday they were seen getting into stores and taking all the supplies they could carry. The armed men were seen marching up and down the streets with machetes raised and the competition among the gangs turned quite fierce.

Fights between gangs were seen on the streets. Machetes were flailing and it was impossible to predict what would happen next.

There was no sign of police or any kind of law and order. [emphasis added]

You're on your own. That's always been true, but sometimes the forgetful need a reminder. And those who put their faith in big government to protect them in a disaster will likely be sorely disappointed.

And note the study in contrasts between corrupt Haiti and the other half of the island it shares with the Dominican Republic:
It's easy to blame poverty for the magnitude of the devastation in Haiti this week, but poverty is the result of poor governance. The island of Hispaniola provides a useful comparative laboratory in this regard, like the Korean Peninsula or the two Germanys during the Cold War. Haiti is on the western side of the island, and the eastern two-thirds make up the Dominican Republic, a functioning democracy with a relatively strong economy. The 2008 per capita income in the Dominican Republic was $8,200, making it 119th in the world. In Haiti, income was $1,300, ranking 203rd, the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Satellite images of the island clearly show the divide between the two countries because of deforestation and a lackluster agricultural sector on the Haitian side. ...

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