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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

February 19, 2004
Vol. 1, No. 203




Dennis Coday Haiti spiraling into chaos

Dennis Coday, NCR staff writer

"Haiti is spiraling into chaos, and it won't end without outside intervention," says Judy Dohner, a Humility of Mary Sister who works as a nurse in Port-au-Prince. Dohner sent NCR a report from Haiti (Street level witness in Haiti) last week.

This week, Dohner is in Florida and spoke with NCR by phone. She fears that Haiti's police force, which is notoriously corrupt and extortionate, cannot control roving gangs of armed men supported by various political factions.

She also said the Haitian peoples are disappointed and disillusioned that Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had not brought change to Haiti.

That's an assessment shared by Auxiliary Bishop Pierre-Andre Dumas of Port-au-Prince. He told Vatican Radio Feb. 17 that in the 1990s Aristide "incarnated all of the hopes of the population which longed for peace and a better life," but now the president, a former Salesian priest, "represents the apple of discord for the nation."

Dumas, quoted in a news story from Catholic News Service, said he could not explain what happened or what led to such widespread suspicion that Aristide was involved in corruption, election fraud and violations of human rights.

But he said Haiti finds itself on "the verge of civil war and anarchy reigns over the island." Only international intervention and humanitarian aid can avert disaster, he said.

While some church leaders have said Aristide should step down, the Haitian bishops issued as joint statement Feb. 18 that called on political leaders to make a "personal and patriotic decision" and "the most salutary decision -- the best one -- to put an end to the current situation."

"It is not for the church to say which actions should be undertaken, but it is urgent that something should be done to stop the violence," the statement said

Other Today's Takes by Dennis Coday
Feb. 18 An old story
Feb. 16 Sudan's conundrum
Dec. 30 Justice, Power and the Incarnation
Dec. 24 Fighting the conspiracy against peace
Dec. 23 The true end of era
Dec. 22 Those who long for peace
Oct. 23 Keeping the rituals alive
Oct. 22 Making us bigger and better than we are
Oct. 20 U.S. agenda tops world agenda, again
Oct. 8 Fighting corruption
Oct. 6 Defiling language
Dohner said that some international attention would help as well. "All this trouble has been going on for months and months, and only when real violence broke out and it looked like there was going to be boat people coming to (U.S.) shores that we got covered" by U.S. and international media, she says.

Dohner works with a medical project of Little Brothers and Sisters of the Incarnation. As part of mobile medical clinic, she visits Port-au-Prince slums daily.

For months, she says, she has been telling her community members and friends in the United States about demonstrations and polictical violence. In January, St. Damien Children's Hospital where she lives, had to be evacuated in the middle of the night when a gas station across the street was torched.

While she says Port-au-Prince isn't dangerous, one learns that "safe" is a relative term. She concedes that her mobile clinic must make detours to avoid demonstrations and road blocks of burning tires. The city has avoid the open battles that have rocked the towns Gonaives, Hinche and St. Marc, bu Dohner says her clinic must deal with aftermath of pro- and anti-Aristide demonstrations: beatings, gun shot wounds, rapes and broken bones.

People come to the mobile clinics, she said, because they can't go elsewhere. It is known that the police search public hospitals searching for people involved with demonstrations.

Asked about the attitude of the Haitians she works with and meets at the clinics, Dohner says they are hopeful. She says people tell her:

  • "We've been through this before. We'll get through it again."
  • "We can't be forgotten by the world. Something will happen to help us."
  • "Someone has to come to help us."
"They wait and they hope," she says.

Dohner is headed back to Port-au-Prince at the end of this week. She has promised to keep NCR informed of developments. Watch this space of updates.

Dennis Coday is an NCR staff writer and coordinates the NCR Web site. His e-mail address is

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