Amy Wilentz

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The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti on Wednesday will force a reluctant Biden administration to focus more carefully on its next steps concerning the troubled country. Credit Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters

For years, the United States has adopted a wary tolerance of Haiti, batting aside the horror of kidnappings, murders and gang warfare. The more convenient strategy generally seemed to be backing whichever government was in power and supplying endless amounts of foreign aid.

Donald Trump supported President Jovenel Moïse mainly because Mr. Moïse supported a campaign to oust President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. And in February, the Biden administration accepted Mr. Moïse’s tenuous argument that he still had another year to serve despite opposition calls for his departure and large street protests. Mr. Moïse, though initially elected to a five-year term due to end in 2021, did not take office until 2017, thus his claim to an extra year as president.…  Seguir leyendo »

We live in a time of mass shootings and suicide attacks.

This means it is possible that, in the ordinary hours of what you view as your daily life, you are actually participating in a largely invisible war that may break out at any moment.

When it does, you may find yourself on the front lines, facing the cannons. This war has no specific geography. It can erupt anywhere, as it did early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida.

Nothing can save us when these events unfold, no claim of innocence: We are cannon fodder. So are our killers.

We still don’t know what may have motivated the killer who attacked patrons in a packed Orlando nightclub – a well-known gay club called Pulse.…  Seguir leyendo »

I understand why some Israelis, intending to go vote for Isaac Herzog and the Zionist Union, went in and voted for Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud at the last minute.

Yesterday I was wondering, really, how I would vote if I were Israeli — knowing what I know and having lived through what I lived through in Jerusalem during the peace process in the late 1990s.

A Bibi voter is, perhaps, a liberal whose city has been bus-bombed. Or maybe, better yet, a liberal who is watching Islamic State videos.

The last time that peace between Israelis and Palestinians was a serious solution to what many Israelis refer to as the situation, the streets of Jerusalem were not safe.…  Seguir leyendo »

Almost five years since the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti, the country remains adrift, and in recent weeks, even more than usual. In town after town, as well as in the capital, Port-au-Prince, large, angry crowds have gathered regularly to express their dissatisfaction with Haiti's president, Michel Martelly. United Nations peacekeeping forces have fired on these crowds.

Confronted with the unrest, Martelly did what officials often do in such situations: He appointed a commission, stuffed with ancient politicians and apple-polishers, to recommend actions. In Haiti, not unlike other places, such commissions generally have one purpose: to advise officials to do exactly what they wanted to do all along.…  Seguir leyendo »

A little more than a week after a 45-second earthquake ravaged Haiti in January 2010, I drove into Leogane, the epicenter of the catastrophe, where tens of thousands of people had been killed. At the emergency clinic of Doctors Without Borders, hundreds of the injured were waiting in the hot sun for care. There, sitting on his mother’s lap, was a boy named McKenly, then almost 3.

During the quake, a wall of his house had fallen on him and his sister, killing her and lopping off his left hand and his right arm to the elbow. Now he had run out of pain medication.…  Seguir leyendo »

It has been painful to watch as Jean-Claude Duvalier, who inherited the brutal dictatorship that once ruled Haiti, swanks around the hot spots of Port-au-Prince, flanked by the dregs of his regime — including former members of the dreaded secret police, the Tontons Macoute — as if he were just another member of the capital’s thoughtless, partying elite.

Since his return in 2011 from a 25-year exile, Mr. Duvalier — Baby Doc — has managed to insert himself into semi-polite society, even finagling a seat near the new president, Michel Martelly, at the memorial ceremony for the victims of the 2010 earthquake.…  Seguir leyendo »

Say the name Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti this week, and it’s as if the revolutionary slave leaders Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines were still riding over the plains and mountains here, astride Delacroix-worthy steeds, making their descent with sabers drawn upon the vast plantations of the French masters.

The Haitians one meets on the street or in their little shops or in the market or on the byways of the countryside and in the shantytowns of the provincial capitals are for the most part pleased at the prospect of former President Aristide’s return this week from seven years’ exile in South Africa.…  Seguir leyendo »

Here's what's wrong with Haiti right now: A year after an earthquake ripped through the capital and nearby towns like an atomic bomb, killing an estimated 300,000 people, the Haitian government is wasting its limited energies politicking rather than working on a serious recovery plan. Pushed by an international community that wants to know what government it will be dealing with as promised foreign recovery monies come into the country, Haitian officials have fallen into a vortex of farcical horse-trading to determine who will next take hold of this bucking and plunging country and try to ride it into the future.…  Seguir leyendo »

In Haiti, there’s a worker called a bayakou. The bayakou comes in the middle of the night to clean latrines, which generally get shoveled out only once every year or so.

Few people ever see a bayakou. In fact, he has a status somewhere between a magical, fairy-tale figure and an untouchable. To get a bayakou to come and do his work, a homeowner must negotiate with a middleman who arranges the assignment, but won’t let you know exactly when the cleaner is coming. You tell the middleman where you want the sewage from the latrine buried; he tells you that during the next three nights, you shouldn’t worry if you hear a noise in your garden.…  Seguir leyendo »

So many of the scenes from this earthquake have reminded me of the early days.

I first stepped onto the broad central square that was the heart of the Haitian government on the morning of Feb. 7, 1986. Just hours earlier, when it was still night, I’d seen Jean-Claude Duvalier, heir to his father’s dictatorship, flee the country with his wife, children and mother, driving a BMW sedan down the airport road and taking it onto a United States cargo plane bound for France. He’d left so late that I was exhausted when dawn came, but still we all descended on the sprawling plaza to see what the new day would bring.…  Seguir leyendo »