Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Devil's neighbors

BON REPOS, HAITI -- He calls it "the devil's house," refusing to allow anyone to refer to it by its real name, the Presidential Palace.

It is what Carlos Jean Charles has to look at every time he steps out of his home in the tent city just across the street from the crumbling white government building that he says makes him think of the greed of President Preval; greed and carelessness he feels are responsible for the condition this country is still in 6 months after the quake.

Charles's tiny tent, that is just big enough to fit a twin mattress on the dirt, is made of burlap sacks and tin. A bright dinosaur print bed sheet is his front door.

And this is where he lives with his eight year old daughter, five year old son and wife, who lost her leg when the family's house crumbled on top of her during the 'quake.

Theirs is one of approximately 3,800 tents in this one tent city, where Charles explains violence is rampant.

He introduced me to a woman named Natalie who claims she was brutally raped by several men just a month ago.

People living in the tent cities have "lost their minds," he says, and thus turned to crime.

He claims people steal because they can't get food or water and children as young as 8 have turned to prostitution in the tent cities just to earn a few dollars to feed their families.

"I know they say so many donations been made to Haiti. Where are they? I don't see anything," Charles says.

He sells paintings just outside of the "devil's house," but doesn't make enough to feed his family.

Today, he said his wife went out to a place where they heard there would be hand outs.

He said he would have been turned away if he went to ask for food, so his wife offered to go, even though it is a struggle for her to get around on crutches and with no transportation.

"I'd almost rather die than live in this misery," Charles says, "That's really terrible."

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