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Haiti’s situation is worsening

It appears increasingly certain that the possibility of governance at least in the short term is untenable given the political climate in which the country finds itself. Eerily similar to the call for a lockdown of the country some four months ago, February 7th through February 18, 2019, all forms of commercial and political activities have come to a standstill following the call for a general strike by opposition and labor groups, with two main demands; the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse and the prosecution of those implicated in the PetroCaribe embezzlement scandal. The new mobilization which began on Sunday, June 9, 2019 came as a result of the publication of the revised and complete version of the 612-page audit report on the misuse of PetroCaribe funds that implicated President Moïse and his company Agritrans. The call for a general strike across the country was made by the Petrochallengers who have vocalized demands for bringing those implicated in the report to justice, through social media platforms since mid-August 2018, are also calling for the President to step down.

On Monday, most public institutions, banks, supermarkets and gas stations were closed across the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, students who trying to attend school had to return home as their schools were also closed. The only economic activity registered in the area were some underground economic activities as several small business owners took the risk of selling their wares in certain public areas, resulting in price gouging across the city. While the gourde stands at 96 gourdes to the US dollar, the price of a 5lb bowl of corn flour, maïs moulin, which usually costs 175gourdes as late as last week was selling for more than 200gourdes this week. A large bowl of petit mil which costs 300 gourdes climbed to 350 gourdes while other food items that are basic necessities have seen similar a rising costs. Most people have taken to walking in order to buy these items, with the transportation sector obediently observing the strike action. Certain major arteries have been blocked by burning tires, for instance areas on Martin Luther King Avenue, popularly known as Nazon in Delmas 31 and Delmas 45. Officers from the national police have been deployed across the capital in strategic areas and patrolling certain neighborhoods to restore order or ensure things do not go out of hand. Unidentified individuals have been throwing stones at government vehicles in certain areas, while signs and flyers have been dropped at specific areas in the capital, calling for more civil disobedience and demonstrations until President Jovenel Moïse resigns.

 

The mass mobilization of Sunday, June 9, 2019 resulted in several casualties. According to Police Spokesperson, Michel-Ange Louis Jeune, two people were fatally shot, four wounded and two houses burnt down in the western region of the country, whereas the opposition is reporting seven (7) fatally shot, hundreds of wounded, and several persons were arrested, across the country during the two days of demonstrations. In Gonaïves, protesters ransacked offices of the Justice of the Peace, and threw stones at government buildings. In Saint Marc, protesters took to the streets calling for the resignation of the President vowing to continue their demonstration until their demands are met. But in Petit Goâve, it was the pro-government factions that attacked the protesters as they gathered to start their march, while in Arcahaïe, protesters put up barricades to block the national highway in the area, forcing the security forces to intervene to open the roads.

 

Meanwhile, despite all the chaos in the country, SOS village d’enfants d’Haïti organized a peaceful march in Cap-Haïtien last Friday, June 7, 2019 in prelude to the international Children’s Day on Sunday, June 9, 2019. The march which took to the major streets in town found its way through the boulevard and ended at the Cathedral where the authorities of the organization delivered speeches calling for the protection and welfare of Haitian children. Speaking on the behalf of the children, Lourdena Calizte called on leaders to fight against the abuse of Haitian children, despite the fact that Haiti is signatory to many treaties that ensure the safety of children. She further called on lawmakers to enact laws that protect children and allow them to grow and have a future in which they are able to realize their dreams, and to protect them when in danger.  The local director of SOS village, Hubert Chery was delighted at the turn of the events, which were largely peaceful and called on all who participated in making the march a success to work hard for each Haitian child to develop the taste of life; that each child has his or her place in a family, and grow up in an environment of respect, affection and love so that each child finds the help to build their own future. SOS villages across the country provide educational and psychological help to children, and to parents, economic help so that they can take care of their children. Inspector Alcy Calito, head of the child protective services, Brigade de la Protection des Mineurs (BPM) in Cap-Haïtien, called on parents of children who are abuse victims to report such abuses to the competent authorities so that the perpetrators are brought to justice. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the SOS Children’s Village worldwide and 40th in Haiti.

 

Elsewhere, in Port-de-Paix, one of the businesses belonging to President Jovenel Moïse and the first lady, known as JOMAR Auto Parts was sprayed with fecal matter last Friday, as witnessed by residents in the area who woke up to the repugnant act. Employees arriving in the morning to work were surprised to find the entire entrance to the building covered with feces. A cleaning crew had to be dispatched to clean the mess before employees were able to enter the premises. This act which could be a simple act of vandalism has taken on a life of its own, given the owner who is presently plagued with bad press, as a result of his inability to govern and deliver on the promises made during the campaign and his current implication in the PetroCaribe scandal.

 

Finally, the former head of the drug enforcement agency, Brigade de lutte contre le trafic de stupéfiants (BLTS), Joris Mergelus was arrested at the Fort Lauderdale Airport while carrying cash amounting to US$7,000. The former head of the anti-drug agency was not supposed to leave the country without prior authorization from the national police, and according to the PNH, Mergelus has received money from drug traffickers to muddy an ongoing investigation into the Manzanarès ship scandal. Police investigations revealed that at the Varreux Terminal, the ship Manzanarès which was to be bringing in sugar from Colombia was found to have onboard between 700 to 800 kilograms of cocaine and 300kilograms of heroine. Others were arrested and extradited to the US earlier last month, including GrégoryGeorges alias Ti Ketan.

Haitian journalists are mourning the death of one of their colleagues, Rospide Pétion, and the attacks on Radio Ginen, the very act he was condemning on his radio program the same day. The journalist who works for the private radio station, Radio San Fin (RSf), was on his way home after presenting his show where he denounced the attacks on a sister station where 3 cars were burnt by unknown assailants.  The nationwide demonstrations have put journalists in a precarious position to report and also watch their own backs. The President of the Haitian journalists’ association, ANMH, Mr. Duval called on journalists to be careful in doing their jobs while calling on the police and security forces to protect them in informing the people at large.

Dela Harlley

 

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