Posted at 09:56 AM ET, 02/ 9/2006

Haitians Await Election Results


A girl checks preliminary election results in Port-au-Prince. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for washingtonpost.com)

By all accounts, Haiti had a relatively peaceful election.

There were moments of chaos and lack of preparation on all sides, but the early word here is that more than 50 percent of Haitians voted. Now people are just waiting to see the results. Already the Rene Preval campaign is claiming a first round victory of over 60 percent of the vote, enough to win outright without a runoff.

Though the official count is still underway, local election officials were posting unofficial results at polling places throughout Port-au-Prince. In Preval strongholds such as Cite Soleil, he seemed to be ahead with as much as 90 percent.

As his supporters await word -- some with guns and others with dreams -- the capital has begun to regain some normalcy. Traffic is picking up, schools are to open and the checkpoints and U.N. patrols are fading.

Here again is the cycle of stilted democracy that has existed in Haiti since 1990: Election, overthrow, election, overthrow and now hopefully, a new era of sustained peace.

Award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv documents Haiti's presidential and legislative elections from Port-au-Prince. >>About This Blog

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Posted at 10:50 AM ET, 02/ 8/2006

Haitians Cast Ballots Despite Chaos


Haitians rush a polling station guarded by U.N. soldiers. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for washingtonpost.com)

Thousands of people took to the streets of Port-au-Prince early Tuesday, some to vote and others to protest that they couldn't. Many polling stations opened hours late and others were without the proper paperwork. Some ballot registrations were sent to precincts miles away. The largest show of frustration came in Preval's stronghold of Cite Soleil, where the election commission had barred polling stations. By late Tuesday, U.N. troops were able to restore order and election officials extended polling hours to allow everyone to vote. >>Full Story: After Chaotic Start in Haiti, Election Lurches Forward

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Posted at 09:40 AM ET, 02/ 7/2006

Election Day Met With Uncertainty


Hatian women read from the bible outside a polling place ahead of Tuesday's vote. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for washingtonpost.com)

A calm has descended over Port-au-Prince. No one really knows why.

Some suggest that the chimeres (the ghosts) -- ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's supporters in Cite Soleil and other poor areas -- have decided to keep the calm ... at least until the election is over.

Haiti is an amazing place in that it never fails to surprise even the most hardened observers, not to mention the Haitians themselves. The election that has been postponed so many times over recent months is finally taking place today. And everyone has a theory about what will happen afterward and what it all means. There are so many theories, in fact, that it becomes apparent that no one really knows.


A U.N. soldier searches a Haitian man outside a polling station. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for post.com)

But people keep asking: What will happen? Will violence erupt again if frontrunner Rene Preval does not win outright in the first round? Will his supporters react only if Preval seems sure to lose the election? Will Preval's opponents and their supporters cause problems?

There are so many factors. All one can do is wait and see.

The location of the polling stations is still confusing to many. As of last evening, many stations had not received their voting materials. Within a one-block area, people answer differently when asked if there is a polling station there. Polling stations were removed altogether from the hot spot of Cite Soleil. But not everyone knows where to go to cast their vote.

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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 02/ 6/2006

Preval's Final Push

Audio: Photojournalist Ron Haviv speaks to presidential candidate René Préval. >> More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for washingtonpost.com)

Tomorrow, Haitians will vote to establish a new presidency and parliament. The new president will be in office from 2006 to 2011. The hope on the street is that this president will be able to serve his full term, something not always guaranteed in Haiti.

On the streets of Port-au-Prince and through the countryside, posters representing more than 30 candidates are plastered on every wall space. Murals and giant portraits wrap street corners. The slogans of front-runner René Préval (a message of hope) and of parliamentary candidate Ronald Jonauel ("No Free Lunch") are made into songs. The campaign, low-key by Haitian standards, ended officially on Sunday with rallies and meetings across the country. Préval, who hadn't been seen in Port-au-Prince in a number of days, left for the countryside to vote.

Préval, a slight man with a graying beard and easy smile, met with people along the road near Gonaives before making his way to Ennery for a rally, where he was welcomed like a king. People lined the main street to meet him. Guarded by Argentinean United Nations troops and Haitian police, Préval took every chance to jump into the crowd, exchanging words and rubbing elbows.




A Hatian child at a René Préval rally in Ennery. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for post.com)

Rallies were also held without the candidate. In the Bel Air section of Port-au-Prince, a Préval rally was canceled, reinstated and canceled again. His core supporters, having no interest in being told they couldn't march, gathered and headed toward the palace. Haitians, many waving flags, followed a truck laden with speakers and another displaying a giant, smiling Préval. Music led the crowd as the number of marchers grew into the thousands. Intermittent political slogans pierced the air above the sounds of song.

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Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 02/ 5/2006

'I Had a Lot to Give'


Susan Scott Krabacher with a child at the Mercy House Orphanage . >>Narrated Slideshow (Ron Haviv / VII for washingtonpost.com)

The child was stiff, unable to move her arms by even a few inches.

The young girl, appearing almost like a doll, had just been found abandoned in a hospital and wasn't thought to have much life left in her. But in her last days, Carol would find some comfort at the Mercy and Sharing Foundation, sharing space with many other orphans.

Susan Scott Krabacher comforts Carol in her arms, noting how she responds to human touch. But she is surprised Carol is still alive.

"We got her too late," she says. "When I saw her she had that death stare. I don't think she has a lot of time left."

Krabacher, a former Playboy model, founded the orphanage in 1995. Returning to her religious roots, she left her life at the Playboy mansion to establish a group that now cares for thousands of Haitian children.

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Posted at 10:59 AM ET, 02/ 4/2006

The Plight of Haiti's Children

Haiti's Children | Photos and Audio by Ron Haviv; Edited by Steven King / washingtonpost.com

You can turn left or right, walk straight or backward -- the direction doesn't matter. In the streets of Port-au-Prince and surrounding slums, the children of Haiti are everywhere.

Maladies that strike the children here are similar to those plaguing strife-ridden Darfur, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The main difference is that Haiti is not officially at war. Less than four hours by plane from New York and even closer to Miami, this country's next generation is in serious danger of not growing up.

The future -- and that is all Haiti has -- lies with this country's youngest generation -- and with nearly 4 million children, almost half of Haitiā€šs population is under the age of 18. But children facing a serious lack of education, medical care, nutrition and housing are forced to live their lives doing nothing. Haiti is so poor that the child labor common in other parts of the developing world doesn't exist -- there is simply no work at all.

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Posted at 08:55 AM ET, 02/ 3/2006

Healing Haiti's Wounded


A patient at the Doctors Without Borders clinic in Port-au-Prince. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for washingtonpost.com)

The Gingerbread House stands on a crowded street, a towering, mustard-colored structure that housed U.S. troops during the military intervention of 1994. Today, Doctors without Borders (MSF) runs the space as a rehabilitation clinic.

Opened in December 2004, the clinic has become a lifeline of hope to Haitians. As violence has continued relatively unabated in the post-Aristide Haiti, the number of gunshot victims has steadily risen. Since opening, MSF says its personnel have treated nearly 2,500 people for violence-related injuries, including 1,500 gunshot victims and 500 stabbing victims. In the last month alone, there were 47 gunshot victims from Cite Soleil.

As Haiti continues to implode, havens of medical care have become beyond necessary for survival. Walking through the wards of the Gingerbread House, as locals call the clinic, victims as young as 10 years old lay on beds being cared for by their mothers. Jean Michelit turns to his mother and winces. A six-inch bullet wound, bound by Frankenstein-like stitches, starts on the top of his forehead and reaches just above his right eye. Jean's story is similar to those of the many other gunshot victims strewn about the ward's two floors.

Nearly two weeks ago, 10-year-old Jean was walking home from school and had just entered his home in the Grand Ravine neighborhood when he suddenly fell to the ground -- struck in the head by a gunshot that no one heard and no one expected. The area had been peaceful until that time. Jean and his family's lives were changed instantly. Jocelyn, his mother, is no longer able to care for her other two children. Jean is paralyzed from the waist down and requires full-time care.

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Posted at 08:49 AM ET, 02/ 2/2006

Glimmers of Hope in Cite Soleil


A girl on a street in Cite Soleil, a slum just outside Port-au-Prince. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for washingtonpost.com)

Cite Soleil has long been a poster child for the poorest of the poor. It is a slum of Haiti, one of the poorest countries in Western Hemisphere. But in the last few years, it has been changing its image. This slum on the edge of Port-au-Prince is also becoming one of the most dangerous poor places in the Western Hemisphere.

In the last few months kidnappings, shootings and robbery have led people to refer to it as a cross between Baghdad and Mogadishu. Every few blocks is controlled by different gang leaders; the number of gangs is said to exceed 32. Stuck in the middle of the slum are United Nations forces, Jordanians who would rather be in places like Ethiopia. When two Jordanian soldiers were killed last week, their mothers in Jordan began to ask: Why are our sons in Haiti?

The answer is simple. Haiti is in desperate need of help -- help from an international community that has deserted the country's citizens time and time again.

As you walk through a section of Cite Soleil under the watchful eye of local gang leader Tin Blanc (Little White Man), he attempts to show how he and his colleagues are forced to fight in order to improve their living conditions.

Stepping over garbage -- through a type of mud that perhaps began as clean water but now seems to be a type of sewage cement -- it's obvious that the infrastructure here has seen better days.

One of the more amazing sights is the children in their school uniforms. In a place where there is more dirt than pavement, the school uniforms remain immaculate. Pressed and cleaned, the children make their way through daily obstacles to school.


Election officials have said Cite Soleil is too dangerous to put polling stations there. >>More Photos (Ron Haviv / VII for post.com)

It's said that the slum's population has begun to leave due to the violence. And it seems true that streets once packed from side to side and top to bottom now have more breathing room. But as you look down an alley and pass through grated metal, your shoulders scraping the wall, you find yourself in someone's courtyard with very little room to breathe, let alone live.

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Posted at 08:40 AM ET, 02/ 1/2006

About This Blog

Haiti has long struggled to overcome poverty, violence and political instability, descending deeper into turmoil after the fall of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. Since then, the country has remained in limbo, led by an interim government as violence and political controversy mount.

On Feb. 7, Haitians are expected to vote in the first presidential elections since Aristide's ouster. The elections have been postponed four times in recent months in the wake of political chaos.

Award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv is on the ground in Port-au-Prince to document the struggle for a stable, democratic Haiti.

Haviv, a co-founder of the independent photo agency VII, has photographed conflict and humanitarian crisis in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Russia and the Balkans. His work has appeared in various publications, including Vanity Fair, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Stern and Paris Match. He has also published two collections of his photography, Blood and Honey: A Balkan War Journal and Afghanistan: On the Road to Kabul.

More Photography by Ron Haviv | Latest Headlines from Haiti

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