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Haiti : Business as usual

In an address to the nation Tuesday, President Jovenel Moïse announced the return to normalcy following the shutdown and confinement brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Though the pandemic is far from contained, with the country registering over 6,000 cases and the 100th death this past Saturday, the President announced the reopening of the country, starting from Tuesday’s reopening of ports, airports and the borders. It appears the decision to open the country’s borders was taken based on other places reopening while schools, houses of worship and other institutions are precluded from this initial reopening. The process of reopening does not seem to follow any detailed analysis of the data to warrant such return to normalcy, given that the government has given more priority to commercial activities, by requiring full functioning of the industrial zone starting on July 6, 2020, while the curfew was relaxed a bit from midnight to 4 am instead of 8:00pm through 5:00am. Mr. Moïse further asked his Prime Minister to work with the commission charged with managing the corona virus pandemic and come up with recommendations on when to start reopening houses of worship and schools. The President then encouraged those businesses and factories slated to open this Tuesday to take necessary precautions set out by the public health authorities to reduce exposure to the virus at various places of employment. But before signing off, the President took one more dig at his detractors, by differentiating between the progressive bourgeoisie that supports him and the pilferers and thieves who are aligned with the opposition, and concluded that most policies proposed by his administration and which are criticized by a section of the opposition are not only good for the majority of the vulnerable citizens but also the progressive bourgeoisie. As such, he intends to continue the fight for the economic liberation of the ordinary Haitian who has been living for some time under the domination of this bourgeoisie that only looks out for its own interests.

 

Meanwhile, there have been measures laid out for the reopening of the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, making sure the health of both passengers and employees are taken seriously. According to the new guidelines, passengers traveling to and from the country will have to have their temperature taken, and those registering a temperature above 1000 F (380 C) will be isolated and examined by a team of heath experts from the Ministry of Public Health, following the protocols laid out by the health department. After passing this basic health test, the passenger is then allowed into the public waiting hall, all the while respecting the social distancing guidelines in place, including the lines on the ground marking the distance people should stand from others in the public space. There are plexiglass protective screens in place to protect passengers and employees during check-in. While masks must be worn at all times in the airport, access to immigration will require a second check, while buses that transport passengers will operate at half capacity with those walking to the airport accompanied by security guards. With disinfectant gel dispensaries located throughout the airport, the whole facility will be disinfected every two hours. With such measures in place, JetBlue plans to resume flights on July 1, 2020, with Sunrise Air to follow suit on July 3, 2020, with flights to and from the Dominican Republic. American Airlines, for its part will resume on July 7, while Air Transat plans to resume its Montreal-Port-au-Prince line on July 29, 2020.

 

In other news, the current atmosphere of protests against police brutality seizing the world in the wake of the George Floyd assassination in the US seems to be lost on the national police, PNH members are increasingly seen as stooges of the current regime, in the way they are intent on suppressing free speech and peaceful demonstrations. This partisan process of policing was in evidence when a recent peaceful protest by the Nou pap Domi collective, in front of the Ministry of Justice to protest, of all things, police brutality, was violently crushed by the police, on orders from the National Palace. That the protests were meant to draw attention to the level of crime in the country and the impunity with which the security forces operate in the country under this regime, of which the group is very critical. Denouncing the recent killings, including that of two young dancers whose charred bodies were found in Tabarre this past Friday, three (3) days after they went mysteriously missing. The protesters want the Minister of Justice, Lucmane Délile, to take responsibility for the climate of insecurity and put measures in place to address the problem and seek justice for the victims and their families. Also, the level of gang activity and the police’s inability to rein them in makes it all the more difficult for residents in the neighborhoods where they operate to have trust in the security forces, especially after allegations of government officials involvement with procuring arms for the gangs. While the security situation in such a flux, it is no wonder that the leader of the human rights network, Pierre Espérance, who was at the protest march concluded that the police have become a political tool used to suppress the exercise of basic human rights by ordinary citizens.

 

Finally, the Minister of Justice has launched a new crusade against real estate operatives whose purpose is to appropriate other people’s land and property by force, a practice usually directed towards the diaspora. The Minister stated that investigators have found a link between drug traffickers and kidnappers on the one hand, and those involved in the action of appropriating other people’s property, homes and land. He instructed judges in all the 18 judicial jurisdictions to track these criminals down. With Haitians in the diaspora as the main victims of this crime, he regrets the fact that these criminals are able to enjoy their loot with total impunity. The authorities called on people to report such activities when they are victimized so that the authorities can deal with the culpable parties and put a stop to these illegal actions.

Dela Harlley

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