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Haiti’s newsreel

As of this past Saturday, the number of Covid-19 cases in the country has crossed the 5,000 mark, with 5,211 confirmed cases and 88 deaths out of 10,662 suspected cases, according to representatives from the Ministry of Public Health. The Port-au-Prince metropolitan area remains the epicenter of the pandemic with 4,025 cases and 45 deaths resulting there. Again, within the capital area, the communes of Delmas, Port-au-Prince and Petionville have led the highest number of cases, 1,008, 891 and 640 cases respectively. The other affected areas include Tabarre with 504 confirmed cases, Croix-des-Bouquets, 356 and Carrefour with 312 confirmed cases. As of now, Haiti is the most heavily affected country in the Caribbean by the corona pandemic and one of the ways the government is looking to stem the numbers, beyond the sanitary measures recommended by health officials is for the Executive to follow recommendations from the Ministry of Justice and Public Safety.  In an Executive order published in the official gazette, Le Moniteur, on June 19, 2020, President Jovenel Moïse ordered the reduction of the number of prisoners in some 17 prisons across the nation. A total of 415 people currently in jails and prisons across the nation have been pardoned and their sentences commuted by the President, who in spite of the recommendation from the Justice Department feels it necessary to release some low-level offenders especially in this time of Covid-19, with the confined spaces of the jails a magnet of propagation in the country. Jérémie is the commune with the most pardoned convicts (90) followed by Mirebalais with 51, Saint-Marc, 38, Port-au-Prince, 31 and Cayes with 30 convicts. Others include Jacmel (29), Fort-Liberté, (27) la Grande Rivière du Nord, 26, Port-de-Paix, 25 and Aquin, 20. The rest include Anse-à-Veau (15) Croix-des-Bouquets, 9, and 5 each from Cap-Haïtien, Coteaux, Hinche, Gonaïves and Petit-Goâve,

 

While still on the issue of the pandemic, President Jovenel Moïse announced that the Toussaint Louverture International Airport will open and resume activities on June 30, 2020, three months after it was closed when the first two cases were registered in the country. During a visit to the airport, the president made it known that the government intends to open the nation’s airway by the end of the month but could be sooner, because most countries have opened their land borders and airways already and Haiti could follow suit. The closure has had a negative impact on the economy. But this formal opening will depend on recommendations by the Task Force, following predetermined parameters. Speaking of the risks involved with opening and what that could mean for the further spreading of the corona virus in the country, the President assured the nation that the decision to open the airport and allow air travel has been seriously studied at cabinet meetings and promised that work is ongoing to respect the recommendations from the World Health Organization, and the air travel governing body, the International Organization of civil aviation.

 

Elsewhere, any talk of economy must take into consideration the artificial fuel shortage in the country that has crippled economic activities for some time now. Speaking at a press conference on the issue of fuel shortage on Monday, the President said his administration is aware of the cartel like atmosphere within the sector and taking steps to address the shortage. Since last week, the Director of the office of monetization and development aid programs, Bureau de monétisation des programmes d’aide au développement (BMPAD) Fils-Aime Ignace Saint-Fleur had condemned the cartel running petroleum products in the country and accused them of specifically creating a shortage in the country. According to him, a tanker carrying 250,000 barrels of fuel could not deliver on June 16, because of lack of space to store it. The Minister of Economics and Finance, Michel Patrick Boisvert, also made the point at the press conference showing clearly that those in the energy sector are purposely controlling the fuel supply and increasing their profit margin through undue profits, by manipulating information on the international market which allows them to increase their profit to the tune of 40cents on the gallon, causing the state more than 24billion gourdes in revenues since President Moïse came to power. The President also laments on how similar tactics have been used to limit electricity supply in the country and promised to work to change things. He sees these tactics as ways to destabilize his government by an elite bent on not sharing the national cake with the rightful owners, the people.

 

In the same manner of confronting the energy sector, the President expressed his reservation on a directive from the financial sector to provide payment of transfers in gourdes. Not in favor of such decision, the president stressed that such decisions must be made in the interest of the population and that the banks are not exchange offices and that entrepreneurs in the sector must respect profit margins. He announced a decision by the Cabinet on the exchange rate gap. The financial authorities have launched a campaign against cash exchange operators to curb the exchange rate of the gourde against the dollar. The Governor of the central bank, Banque de la République d’Haïti (BRH), Jean Baden Dubois expressed his satisfaction with the new decree coming out Monday which modified the 1989 decree on the good functioning of exchange bureaus. The new decree accords the central bank more powers to regulate the money transfer market. A study by the financial authorities revealed the large amount of profit these exchange bureaus make on the backs of the poor who use their services. In order to control the free fall of the gourde, the bank will publish a paper that will fix the modalities under which the foreign exchange bureaus operate.

 

Finally, the notorious death squad leader of FRAPH, Emmanuel ‘Toto” Constant has been deported Tuesday June 23rd to Haiti despite the government’s efforts to block his deportation amid the corona virus pandemic. The plane carrying him, and other deportees landed at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport early afternoon. A detachment of the judicial police was on hand to ensure proper processing while representatives from the Ministry of Public Health were present to ensure proper health protocols are followed in testing the newly arrived deportees.

Dela Harlley

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