One day in October, 81-year-old Mascary Mesura was working in his garden of corn and coconut trees when the mayor of this small island off the southern coast of Haiti approached and told him to get out of the way.
“He said 'the tractors are coming. We are going to build a lake to grow fish,'” says Mesura. “I asked for an explanation. I told him all the things we grow there. I was standing in my garden and he told the tractor to advance.”
The mayor, Fritz César, stood and watched while police handcuffed Mesura and his wife, forcing them to watch as their livelihood was uprooted, all 28 of their coconut trees toppled to make room for a fish pond to feed tourists.
The demolition was part of the Haitian government’s $260 million plan to develop Ile-a-Vache into a Caribbean tourism destination akin to the Bahamas or St. Martin.
Five years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravished an already troubled nation, Haiti’s leaders hope tourism along with mining, manufacturing and agriculture will help the country leave its legacy as an impoverished nation behind.
“The truth is that we are making tremendous progress,” President Michel Martelly said in a recent interview. But progress hasn’t come quickly enough to keep thousands of people from protesting in Port-au-Prince last month to call for Martelly’s ouster.
Expectations for the former pop-musician were high when he entered office in 2011. But a rift between President Martelly and parliament about oversight of elections has gone on for so long that legislators’ terms were set to expire this month with no one to replace them.
That would cause Haiti’s legislature to legally stop functioning, leaving President Martelly to rule the country by decree. But as Martelly continues to unilaterally implement his version of development, there’s one challenge in particular that seems poised to thwart it: Five years after the earthquake rattled Haiti, the ground remains perilously unsteady.
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