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Hungry for change in Haiti

Amid riots and political upheaval, Haiti needs the right kind of relief.

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This month's riots and a change in Haiti's government aren't extraordinary news items; upheavals in this Caribbean island are as frequent as seasonal changes. What is significant is that the democratic process to remove the prime minister by the legislative body defied a tradition of violent overthrows and military interventions. And it worked.

President René Préval, who himself overcame maneuvering by opponents before taking office in 2006, must now choose a new government. It won't be easy. There is no majority in the bicameral parliament. Various sectors hope to regain some of the power they lost in recent years, including those loyal to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The charismatic but controversial leader was forced into exile in 2004, two years shy of completing his five-year term. In addition, industrialists, who profited from Haiti's dysfunction, hope to influence the direction of the new administration, as do former Army officers who lost their status when the military was dismantled in 1995.

Choosing a prime minister who will satisfy various, if not competing agendas, is a formidable challenge. As are rising food and fuel costs. Lavi che, the Haitian expression for the high cost of living, was the battle cry in this month's demonstrations that degenerated into rampant lootings and at least six deaths, including that of a United Nations peacekeeper. Today, Haitians jest that Clorox is the best medicine for their hunger. If that doesn't work, they recommend battery acid because it kills more than the pain.


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