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Hanging with the Robber Barons of Haiti

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  • We stop at his Texaco again. When a rough-looking drunk approaches the truck to talk to me, a security guard draws his pistol.
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  • Haiti Still Lacks Safe Drinking Water and the International Community Is Partly to Blame
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Mac McClelland, Mother Jones

Mike's Texaco station in Martissant. Photos by Mark Murrman

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For a guy who feels he needs to be armed at absolutely all times, Mike says he's feeling "perfect" surprisingly often. Like this morning, when he picks me up in a cushy silver truck from my Port-au-Prince hotel, early on a muggy Saturday: "How are you doing?" "Perfect." And there are two extra ammunition clips on the cup holder between us and a loaded .45 in the driver's-side door. "You never know," he says, smiling, when I express skepticism that all this is really necessary; we are just going to the beach. "I wished I'd had extra ammunition when we were firing and firing a few weeks ago." The half-Haitian, half-Puerto Rican, American-born 34-year-old stops smiling and shakes his head slightly when he says, "You don't know what it takes to do what I do."

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What Mike does is run a Texaco station in the Haitian slum of Martissant. According to Doctors Without Borders, the No. 1 cause of death in this neighborhood is violence. According to the eye-widening I see from aid workers and foreign journalists and even other Haitians when Mike tells them where he does business, it is not the type of place a lot of outsiders go. As we drive into one of the roughest neighborhoods in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, the crush of humanity gets heavier, the piles of garbage higher, taller than a man. Then there's Mike's gas station, a big smooth patch of cement with generously spaced pumps and a big building, right in the middle of it. Inside, there's air conditioning, wide aisles of sundries and snacks, a woman relentlessly mopping the black shoe prints people keep tracking onto the white tiles.

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Related:

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Haiti Still Lacks Safe Drinking Water and the International Community Is Partly to Blame, Beatrice Lindstrom, AlterNet
The international community of donor countries and humanitarian agencies share the responsibility.