Crime and lawlessness are rampant in Haiti. The U.S. Department of State website (travel.state.gov), long before the earthquake, warned, "There are no "safe" areas in Haiti. ... Kidnapping, death threats, murders, drug-related shootouts, armed robberies, home break-ins and car-jacking are common in Haiti." The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade warns its citizens that, "The level of crime in Haiti is very high and the police have little ability to enforce laws. Local authorities often have limited or no capacity to provide assistance, even if you are a victim of a serious crime." Crime anywhere is a prohibitive tax on economic development and the poorest people are its primary victims.
Private property rights are vital to economic growth. The Index of Economic Freedom reports that "Haitian protection of investors and property is severely compromised by weak enforcement, a paucity of updated laws to handle modern commercial practices, and a dysfunctional and resource-poor legal system." That means commercial disputes are settled out of court often through the bribery of public officials; settlements are purchased.
The way out of Haiti's grinding poverty is not rocket science. Ranking countries according to: (1) whether they are more or less free market, (2) per capita income, and (3) ranking in International Amnesty's human rights protection index, we would find that those nations with a larger free market sector tend also to be those with the higher income and greater human rights protections. Haitian President Rene Preval is not enthusiastic about free markets; his heroes are none other than the hemisphere's two brutal communist tyrants: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro.
Haiti's disaster demands immediate Western assistance but it's only the Haitian people who can relieve themselves of the deeper tragedy of self-inflicted poverty.