When I was in college studying journalism, there were several practices that were preached. After entering the real world, I found that the preached practices were often, in fact, not practiced. One of those was the idea of follow-up. This is especially true with television. Back in January, Haiti was rocked by a devasting earthquake. However, it seems after the body counts were complete the press left. Now we get an occasional story in which the reporter will do “people stories” relating to the plight of individuals, but, rarely is there a story relating to the overall condition of the country. I had written about a member of a group called Edge Outreach who moved his entire family to the Dominican Republic (DR) for the purpose of developing wells to bring clean water to remote locations in the DR. When the earthquake struck, he immediately traveled to Haiti and Edge Outreach began digging wells to bring clean water to Haiti.
A couple of days ago, he said that the DR had an earthquake of magnitude 5.1 and said that there had been some deaths. I have been unable to confirm that report except that, indeed, there was a 5.1 earthquake in the Dominican Republic but that it was centered 86 km below the surface, or about 53 miles, which is so deep that one would not expect any exceptional effects on the surface. He went to Haiti the next day and, upon his return, found that there was an extreme fuel shortage.
There is the old philosophical question, “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear or see it, did the tree really fall?” In the case of Haiti, even if there have been no recent stories regarding the relief effort going on in Haiti, it does not mean that nothing is happening. There is still a massive UN presence and numerous international relief agencies and good samaratins working to help the ailing country. There was supposed to be elections in Haiti last February that were cancelled. Most elected positions in Haiti are slated to expire soon. So, the Haitian Parliament has voted to basically turn over control of the country’s rebuilding effort to others. President Bill Clinton will co-chair the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission which will oversee the use of more than $5.3 billion in aid scheduled for dispersement to Haiti over the next 18 months. Clinton’s co-chair will be Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and the Haitian state of emergency will be extended to cover the 18 month period. All of this makes the fuel shortage all that more perplexing.
It’s a bit difficult to ascertain the underlying cause of the fuel shortage but the basic problem is a delayed shipment of fuel. One might think with the United States and its refining capacity and transportation ability so close that this would not be an issue. Just after the quake, there were fuel shortages due to damaged infrastructure that prevented its delivery. Black markets for fuel sprang up as people bought pirated fuel from barrels off of trucks or from broken fuel tanks. But, the fuel delivery infrastructure was repaired. As it turns out, Venezuela had offered a subsidized deal to provide fuel twice a month to Haiti. But, the most recent shipment was delayed as ships were diverted to Antigua and Barbuda. I suppose that in Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program, even a nation that gets preferred terms like Haiti has to wait its turn. In the interim, trucks from Haiti’s next door neighbor, the Dominican Republic, tried to plug the gap by making a delivery. But, the Miami Herald reports that trucks were turned back at the border after Haiti’s Minister of Finance ordered the shipments halted.
It’s amazing that a recent survey by Oxfam of 1700 Haitian respondents found that 40% of the Haitian people want foreigners to run the reconstruction project. With President Clinton teaming with Prime Minister Bellerive, it appears that the efforts for the next 18 months will be a joint venture of local and international leadership. I think most people have confidence that President Clinton will be able to steer the process in the most efficient direction as possible. Yet, it will be interesting to see how the commission is able to work through the politics and bureacracy of the region.
Weather Bottom Line: Forecast going on just fine. Scattered t’shower or two may pop up on Friday but this weekend may be interesting. There is a strong disturbance coming out of the west that will be breaking into pieces and it will be difficult to determine how it shakes out until we get closer to the weekend. But, I’ve been talking about the weekend looking interesting and the SPC has an area in the Lower Mississipppi Valley that they are looking at for a good shot for widespread severe weather including tornadoes. I would not be surprised if sometime on Saturday and or Sunday that our region will be a potential spot for some troublesome weather…probably not wide spread, but the threat will probably develop. Lots of “probably” there, so at this point just be aware that there is some potential for some rough spots this weekend.