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Haiti’s newsreel by Della Harley

This past week, Haiti reached the 4,000 mark in the number of corona virus cases recorded to date, with 4,309 cases reported by officials of the Ministry of Health, 73 deaths recorded, following tests by the national laboratory. Although, the numbers seem small, observers fear that the number of deaths may in fact be higher, given the high number of suspicious deaths recorded in the regions. The Department of the West has about 80 percent of all cases (3,434 cases) with Delmas still leading the pack with 862 cases, Port-au-Prince with 815 cases and Pétionville with 551 cases. Without adequate testing across the country, these numbers can only serve as a rough guide to how the disease is steadily advancing. It does not provide a clue as to whether we have reached the peak and have plateaued or still have long ways to go in controlling the pace of the disease. One thing that is certain, the virus is now reaching those areas considered sanctuaries such as Anse à Galet, the main city in La Gonave where the first three cases of the virus have been recorded only in the past week, and also Thomazeau, where the first case was also confirmed only a week ago. The corona virus is being considered as an urban phenomenon or a disease for the cities, so in the rural and small towns, people are reluctant to take protective measures such as wearing a mask and are going about their daily activities such as going to the market and congregating in communal places as usual.

 

If the rural areas are not taking the national health authorities’ warning and guidelines, it seems they are not alone, because most Haitians have openly expressed their apprehension about going to the hospital when feeling ill. Numerous stories circulating on social media and other avenues of information leaves the impression that going to the hospital is an automatic death sentence. Disinformation abounds everywhere, locals have resorted to drinking teas and other locally brewed tisanes to prevent colds and other illnesses or fever like conditions. The avoidance of hospitals when one is feeling sick approach to addressing the pandemic has claimed countless number of lives. However, according to the local residents, there have been sudden deaths in several neighborhoods in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, whereas the health facilities are inadequately functioning.

 

Elsewhere, the citizens’ organization for a new Haiti, L’Organisation des citoyennes et citoyens pour une nouvelle Haïti (OCNH), has criticized the new revised 2019/2020 budget adopted last Friday, June 5, 2020, for the allocation to certain vital state institutions. According to the organization, the Jouthe administration’s budget has ignored funding to such  national institutions such as the corruption watchdog, l’Unité de lutte contre la corruption (ULCC), the judiciary watchdog, la Cour supérieure des comptes et du contentieux administratif (CSCCA), and the other national watchdogs, l’Inspection générale des finances (IGF) and la Commission nationale des marchés publics (CNMP).  The group contended that these institutions are essential for the establishment of the rule of law in the country.  Other entities that have seen meager budgetary allocation are the Ministry of Environment and the state university, l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti (UEH), while the legislature which is virtually empty, given that two-thirds of the senate and a number of seats in the house of deputies have been vacant, yet their budgetary allocation is high. The human rights organization further criticized the state for increasing the budget for workers in the legislature instead of coming up with a clearly defined employment policy to get people back into the labor market and jumpstart the economy. The new budget, just like the preceding one, is not in line with the commitments of the state to guarantee everyone the enjoyment of their fundamental rights.

 

Meanwhile, the Minister of Justice and Public Safety, Lucmane Delille called for the disbanding of the group of police officers known as Fantôme 509, impressing on the Police Commissioner to fire the members of this group, responsible for numerous acts of violence in the capital. The Ministry made public a group of 40 police officers that it is looking for and will hunt them down and treat them as the terrorists that they are, and that the government will no longer tolerate  acts of violence from this group. The Minister also revealed that the group has planned to attack the presidential cortege, and his men will not allow that to happen and would not bow to pressure and threats.

 

Also, there were virtual candles on the cake to mark the 25th anniversary of the national police, which was created on the 12th of June 1995. With the ups and downs over the years, the national police have gone through some rough times over the years and the candles were to honor the memory of all the civilians, politicians, diplomats and teachers, police and the military, Haitians and foreigners and all others involved in the building of this national institution.

 

Finally, the recent protests and demonstrations across the globe against racism and discrimination in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, US, provided the opportunity for people fighting anti-Haitian discrimination in the Dominican Republic. A vigil organized by a local organization known as Reconocido, make up of Dominicans of Haitian descent, was recently held at the Parque Independencia and drew a large crowd of people to speak out against the mistreatment of blacks and to memorialize George Flyod. The group was met by a counter protest, by members of an ultranationalist organization, Antigua Orden Dominicana. Although the vigil was peaceful, actions of the counter protesters degenerates into a confrontation with the police, who were earlier on looking on, but stepped in and took the Reconocido leader; Ana Maria Belique and another member to jail. A classic example of how Haitians are treated in the Dominican Republic, a land both countries share on the same island.

Dela Harlley

 

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