Following up on my previous post about the politics of earthquakes, my colleague Jim Walsh showed me some research that has been done on the topic.
Dawn Brancati, "Political Aftershocks: The Impact of Earthquakes on Intrastate Conflict," Journal of Conflict Resolution 51, 5 (2007): 715-743. Gated link here.
Although many scholars, policy makers, and relief organizations suggest that natural disasters bring groups together and dampen conflicts, earthquakes can actually stimulate intrastate conflict by producing scarcities in basic resources, particularly in developing countries where the competition for scarce resources is most intense. Capitalizing on a natural experiment design, this study examines the impact of earthquakes on intrastate conflict through a statistical analysis of 185 countries over the period from 1975 to 2002. The analysis indicates that earthquakes not only increase the likelihood of conflict, but that their effects are greater for higher magnitude earthquakes striking more densely populated areas of countries with lower gross domestic products as well as preexisting conflicts. These results suggest that disaster recovery efforts must pay greater attention to the conflict-producing potential of earthquakes and undertake certain measures, including strengthening security procedures, to prevent this outcome from occurring.
This is not really surprising, but highlights the need to address potential sources of conflict right away when starting the rebuilding process. And really, that description fits the 1972 Nicaraguan case very well. Unfortunately, it also fits Haiti.