In a country that has known natural disasters regularly with devastating loss of life, the year 2018 was no different, with its share of natural disasters, albeit not as devastating in the loss of human life as the effect of insecurity on the lives of the people. Armed gangs have held entire neighborhoods hostage, practically imprisoning people in their own communities, and many Haitian citizens have lost loved ones victimized by the constant violence. The Episcopal commission on justice and peace of the Catholic Church, Commission épiscopale nationale justice et paix (CE-JILAP) de l’Église catholique, has deployed a vast network of researchers across the nation who document injustices perpetrated against the population on a regular basis.
According to JILAP, the first quarter of the year recorded 101 violent deaths, 65 of which were the result of gunshots. There were 44 deaths in January, 20 in February and 37 in March. In spite of these numbers, the authorities do not seem to have a handle on the crime wave or how to address and assure the population of their security. While former Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant was assuring the legislature that the country is safe, there were several killings across the board around the same time. According to SOHDDH, the human rights solidarity group, there were 29 killings and two disappearances in the month of May. This is in addition to the tragic disappearance of photo-journalist Vladimir Legagneur in March as he went to cover a story in Grand-Ravine, and whose body has yet to be found nor the perpetrators identified to be brought to justice. The last quarter of the year was not better as more lives of civilians and police are no longer sacred. Unable to contain the criminal gangs, the police themselves become victims of the armed gangs. In Malpasse, border guards were killed and burnt within the compounds of the police station, and the police had to run for their lives. Across the nation, there have been gangs burning down police stations and damaging property and it’s not clear whether the national police PNH, have the capacity to enforce the laws and maintain order. The inability of the police to contain the violence can only be explained in terms of complicity with some of the state actors. It is now clear that some politicians are behind these gangs and have sanctioned their activities.
In other news, the UN Secretary General’s report to the UN Security Council indicates that the macroeconomic situation has deteriorated in the country in the past few months. The Secretary’s report noted an increase of 10% in expenditure in the revised budget, with a decrease of some US$100m in fuel revenues. The inability to reform the fuel subsidies further weakened the already low domestic revenue mobilization resulting in serious budget deficit as spending increased. By the end of August, fuel subsidies and transfers to the state energy sector represented 2.2% and 1.5% of GDP, while combined spending on education and health accounted for 2.4%. Forecasts indicate that the budget deficit should now reach 4% while inflation reached 14.1% by the end of August, while the gourde has depreciated 10.4% since October 2017.
Mark Green of USAID undertook a four day visit to Haiti to inspect projects being sponsored and undertaken by the agency across the nation. Projects in the areas of health, agriculture and entrepreneurship were the targets of his visit. But the embassy reported that the visiting envoy also had fruitful meetings with leaders in the private sector as well as government officials from President Moïse to Prime Minister Céant and leaders in the non-profit and donor communities. During his meeting with the political actors, Mr. Green stressed the need for a transparent government based on rule of law and the primacy of the citizen, the need for budgetary reforms that will stabilize the country and make it attractive for investment opportunities. He also took the opportunity to thank all the partners who work with USAID to build a better Haiti, stable and economically viable focused on promoting resiliency, stimulating economic growth, job creation, and provision of basic health amenities, education, food security and independence and the improvement of the efficacy of the government.
Finally, the author of Le Cri de l’oiseau, Edwidge Danticat was awarded the Neustadt International prize in literature 2018, last month. The prestigious award is the equivalent of the Noble prize in literature in the United States. With a long list of achievements over the years, Danticat has distinguished herself as one of the brightest writers to come out of Haiti in recent years.