Mauritius: Into the Vacuum

After he visited remote Mauritius in 1896, Mark Twain quoted an islander as saying: "Mauritius was made first and then heaven; and heaven was copied after Mauritius."

Two years ago, when the tiny (720 sq. mi.) Indian Ocean island won independence from Britain, one might have got the idea that it was serving as a model for a less elevated region. Ringed by silver sands and azure waters, dotted with scarlet flame trees and emerald sugar plantations, it was suffering nonetheless from economic stagnation, staggering unemployment and mounting racial tensions. At least 24 people died in savage riots just...

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