For most countries, a Category 2 hurricane, a devastating earthquake, and a massive cholera outbreak in the same year would cause its people—and its political leaders—to completely fall apart. But most countries aren't Haiti, and most leaders aren't President René Préval, the quiet mastermind behind the impoverished island nation's secret rise to unprecedented prosperity.

While many observers who can't see the big picture characterize Préval as a typical sycophantic politician who's overwhelmed by, and incapable of responding to, growing humanitarian crises, the president is, in fact, shrewdly devising a plan to turn Haiti's high poverty rate and woeful lack of education to its advantage and remake the country as a global economic superpower.

In a stroke of genius that will someday have the international community applauding, Préval has carefully crafted the persona of a leader who appears to kowtow to the 1 percent of the population controlling half the nation's wealth—and who appears to be leaving millions of homeless earthquake victims to their own devices. But what he's actually doing is setting the stage for a dramatic, albeit confidential, Haitian comeback.

Playing his usual coy self, Préval has been unwilling to speculate when all these carefully laid plans will bear fruit, but we guess it will be 2014, maybe 2015 at the very latest.