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Road carries the hopes of a broken Haiti

Jul 18, 2010 11:56:00 PM - thestate.com

As dawn broke over this dusty border town, hundreds of people waded across the knee-deep Masak River into the Dominican Republic — carrying bundles of live chickens and sacks of clothing — as they dodged border guards waving them back onto the crowded international bridge.

It’s a chaotic scene that plays out every Monday and Friday as the two nations open their borders to exchange goods. And it has boomed since Haiti completed a 44-mile road that connects this once-sleepy outpost with the nation’s second-largest city, Cap-Haitien.

It’s just a two-lane road — and not a long one by most standards. But six months after the Jan. 12 earthquake killed 300,000, left 1.5 million homeless and paralyzed much of the country, the stretch of blacktop that fuels the market and snakes through northeastern Haiti has the hopes of a nation riding on it.

Once-isolated farmers dream of tapping new markets, industrialists imagine building textile mills to compete with those run by their Dominican neighbors, and regional boosters see the road as the backbone of a tourist route that will whisk visitors to colonial castles, pristine beaches and picturesque villages seen only by the heartiest of travelers.

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