Cholera and Conspiracy Theories in Haiti

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More than a thousand people have died of cholera in Haiti over the last few weeks. Now, a couple more have been shot dead by the UN peacekeeping force, MINUSTAH, during protests that erupted earlier this week. Rumors that the disease, never present in the country before, was brought in by Nepalese UN troops were exacerbated by a CDC announcement that the strain resembles South Asian cholera. The protests the peacekeepers are trying to keep under control are against the peacekeepers themselves. 

Or are they? Here’s what the UN says: “The way in which the events unfolded leads to the belief that the incidents had a political motivation, aimed at creating a climate of insecurity on the eve of the elections.”

Well, here’s what a lot of Haitians, who don’t have the benefit of using CNN as an outlet for their message, will tell you: They are honestly not wild about having 12,000 foreigners with guns walking around their country like they own the place and on occasion shooting unarmed civilians, or threatening to shoot unarmed civilians in the face, which many people feel may not be the best use of a lot of international money when their standard of living remains abysmally low. 

So far, the bulk of the violence and people setting up burning tires and barricades has been concentrated in Cap-Hatien, a city way north of Port-au-Prince. When I told one of my friends in the capital to please not get shot againhe took a bullet to the head in a robbery some years backhe said there’s no trouble whatsoever there: “My wife is out buying shoes.” But just like the quiet in Cap-Hatien this morning, the peace in Port-au-Prince, my friend expects, may not last. This is the guy who told me to calm down and quit overreacting when a hurricane was barreling toward the country. And he is, unlike the UN, not easily given to conspiracy theories. But in the face of the growing anger at MINUSTAH, the climbing cholera death toll, the oncoming elections? “Right now, we are fucked,” he says. “Shit is going to hit the fan.”

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