Exciting, heart-wrenching dispatches among the poor and disenfranchised of Haiti and Latin America.
Instead of embarking on a meditation retreat, Hadden suddenly got a dream job offer from NPR and was sent first to Mexico City, just as Vicente Fox was gaining election as president in 2000, then to Haiti, where pro– and anti–Jean-Bertrand Aristide factions were threatening to derail an important election. In succinct, polished chapters, the author recounts his attempts to cover the action, interviewing Fox and watching over time the unraveling of his promised “guest worker” programs sanctioned by the United States. Gradually, Hadden gleaned the more complicated, real story, involving corruption, drug smuggling and waves of perilous human migration to the north. To cover America’s war on drugs, the author dragged a terrified “fixer” with him on a dangerous expedition through the Darien Gap separating Panama from Colombia, through which shipments of guns passed—literally the same guns the U.S. had paid for (“same defects, same serial numbers, different fingers on the triggers”) to conduct previous Central American conflicts. American indifference and inattention both to Latin America and Haiti had sown deep poverty and resentment in the respective regions, and 9/11 did not soften feelings against their untrustworthy neighbor to the north. In Haiti, Hadden attended a ghastly all-night Voodoo ceremony intended to help get Aristide elected, and visited the Duvalier dictators’ former prison on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, where children pranced on the beach and gleefully showed the author human bones that remained from the time of abundant executions. While Hadden was chasing stories for the radio, he also lived in a haunted house in Mexico City, helped a Guatemalan fixer through personal trauma and fell in love with a young married French woman.
Grim, sobering tales fashioned by a terrific writer brave enough to unearth the real story.