Life has never been easy in Haiti, and that may be why the current nightmare there is not getting more attention. For about seven weeks now, a struggle between President Jovenel Moïse and the opposition has fed a storm of violent demonstrations, burning tires, looting and arson, all but shutting down transportation, schools, gas stations and medical services and leaving at least 30 dead.
The ostensible goal of the demonstrations is the ouster of Mr. Moïse, a businessman who came to power in 2017 after a two-round election plagued by accusations of fraud and a meager turnout. Before that, he had been involved in a scandal over whether he received funds for road repairs that never took place, allegations he denies. He refuses to step down, and few Haitians have put forward any ideas on who or what should come next, or how Haiti can pull itself out of its tailspin.
At the heart of the crisis is a broad despair that the existing political and economic system has not overcome the rampant corruption, spiraling inflation, food and drinking water scarcities, lawlessness and endless other indignities that have steadily worsened the lives of people in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. The country has had at least 10 presidents since its first democratic election in 1990; only three have completed five-year terms.
Compounding the misery is a sense that nobody cares. During the Cold War, the United States tacitly supported the dictatorships of François Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier because of their anti-Communist stance, and in the 1990s Washington first propped up and then helped force out the first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.