Haiti Protests - 2018-2019
Protests, tire burning, and road blockages are frequent and unpredictable. Violent crime, such as armed robbery, is common. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents, and emergency response, including ambulance service, is limited or non-existent. Sky-high inflation, crime and unemployment sparked massive nationwide protests demanding the president's resignation. People also complained openly about not having a representative government, not being able to afford basic necessities, and not being able to pay for their children's education. The demands have fallen on deaf ears.
Since coming to power in February 2017, Moise has had to face the anger of an opposition movement that refuses to recognize his victory in an election widely seen as dubious. Protests began in July 2018 after an increase in fuel prices. Following the July 6-7 protests against the government’s decision to increase fuel prices, Port-au-Prince prosecutor Dameus ordered the arrest of 64 individuals accused of looting. These individuals included three who were living on property owned by opposition senator Antonio Cheramy. Some members of the opposition called the arrests politically motivated and illegal because a prosecutor can arrest only individuals caught in the process committing a crime. Dameus denied the allegations of “political persecution” and stated the persons arrested were caught carrying numerous items that had been looted from various stores. The detainees were subsequently released.
Since August 2018 there have been more protests. General strikes have paralyzed the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince for days. Thousands have marched in various parts of the country demanding better living conditions, access to health, education, accountability from authorities, and an end to government corruption.
The president’s administration has been implicated in the massacre of upward of 70 people (some reports say closer to 300) in the Lasalin neighborhood of Port-au-Prince — a four-day torture and killing spree in November 2018. Suspected gang members brutally shot or hacked the victims with machetes in the impoverished La Saline neighborhood. On 13 November 2018, a police truck with uniformed men drove into La Saline. The witnesses said they thought the men were police officers looking to head off a gang war. Instead, the men opened fire before going from house to house, dragging out unarmed males and fatally shooting them or slicing their bodies with machetes. Surviving victims of the Lasalin massacre said that their communities were politically targeted to punish them for their protests against Jovenel Moise, and for their support for Lavalas, the party of Aristide. A UN report verified there were in fact ties between the perpetrators and Moise’s government, specifically implicating Pierre Richard Duplan of the PHTK (Parti Haïtien Tèt Kale, the ruling party of Jovenel Moise).
Haitians took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise, with increasingly violent protests virtually paralyzing the country. In Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, banks, schools, businesses and fuel stations remained closed, some of which had been looted by angry citizens who joined the riots that began on 07 February 2019.
Street demonstrations began on 07 February 2019 with many demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise as well as urgent calls to address the socioeconomic crisis that haunts the Caribbean island. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published a report 25 February 2019 which revealed that at least 26 people had died and 77 others were injured since the protest started on Feb. 7. IACHR expressed its concern about the continuing violence in the country and said the organization has "collected disturbing information about blockades of streets, avenues, and roads; violence directed at protesters; sporadic shooting and arrests of people during the protests."
"The country is getting ready to explode!" Haiti's newly elected Senate Leader Carl Murat Cantave said during a midday press conference 14 February 2019, in which he denounced the violence that has left at least seven people dead and property damaged. For eight consecutive days, thousands had protested inflation, corruption and what they consider to be the government's ineffectiveness to resolve the country's problems. Cantave called on President Jovenel Moise to address the nation without delay. "We're asking the executive branch to act responsibly. The president can't remain silent," he said. "He must address the nation quickly. He must show the nation that it has a leader who is in charge. He needs to do that today." Cantave asked the opposition democratic sector to observe a truce to allow members of the various political sectors to meet and engage in a dialogue to try to find a solution.
Moise broke his silence on February 14, 2019 after eight days of violent protests during which protesters demanded his resignation. Moise sought to diminish tensions by saying he understands the frustrations that led to the mass protests. Moise has been widely criticized by politicians and citizens alike for failing to publicly respond to the demands of the people. He has also been vilified for his government’s lack of transparency and its ineffectiveness. But his words also mostly failed to calm the popular anger that continues to crystallise around him, in a country where 60 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day and where inflation has exceeded 15 percent for the last two years.
There are currently widespread, violent, and unpredictable demonstrations in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti. Due to these demonstrations, on February 14, 2019, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their family members. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Haiti.
President Jovenel Moise was accused of fraudulently benefiting from funds generated by the PetroCaribe oil alliance with Venezuela. The allegations were made in an official report handed to Haiti’s Senate leader on May 31. Haiti's Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigation (Cour Superieure de Comptes et du Contentieux Administratif), a non-partisan institution tasked with overseeing the government's budget, spending and allocation of funds, prepared the report detailing irregularities and alleged abuse of funds generated under the PetroCaribe agreement.
PetroCaribe was launched in June of 2005 as a Caribbean oil alliance, with Venezuela giving members preferential treatment for energy purchases, at a discounted price with low-interest deferred terms and an option to pay in kind instead of currency. Several audits have shown that much of Haiti's PetroCaribe revenue (about $3.8 billion) disappeared, having been disbursed for government construction contracts on projects that were never finished. The funds had originally been earmarked for infrastructure, social and economic projects.
The judges of the High Court of Auditors said in a voluminous report 01 June 2019 that Moise was at the center of an "embezzlement scheme" that had siphoned off Venezuelan aid money intended for road repairs. The judges of the High Court of Auditors said in a voluminous report last week that Moise was at the center of an "embezzlement scheme" that had siphoned off Venezuelan aid money intended for road repairs. The magistrates discovered, for example, that in 2014 Haitian authorities signed contracts with two different companies – Agritrans and Betexs – for the same road-repair project. The two turned out to have the same tax registration number and the same personnel. Moise, before he came to power in 2017, headed Agritrans, which received more than 33 million gourdes ($700,000 at the time) to do the road work, though the company in principle did nothing but grow bananas. The Petrocaribe scandal gave rise to parliamentary inquiries in 2016 and 2017, and public protests goaded the High Court of Auditors to examine how the $1.6 billion in Venezuelan funds were spent by succeeding Haitian administrations.
Barricades appeared between June 6-8, 2018, when the country went through its first “closure,” which in turn led to the resignation of Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant. Since then, the strategy has been used in Port-au-Prince and some provincial capitals by protesters demanding a "clean slate."
Thousands took to the streets in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, 09 June 2019 to protest corruption and to demand the president resign. Protesters vowed to continue marching “non-stop” until their demands are satisfied. Haiti experienced a situation of tension marked by violent demonstrations and police repressions in response to fuel shortages and government corruption amidst long-term poverty. The lack of gasoline has weighed even heavier on citizens and residents of the highly impoverished country as hunger and insecurity grow.
Protesters denouncing corruption blocked roads and paralysed much of Haiti's capital 10 June 2019 as they demanded the removal of President Jovenel Moise. Two people were killed and five injured in clashes, according to police figures. Demonstrators burned tires and threw stones during the march in Port-au-Prince, where the scent of burning rubber filled the air. Many stores and gas stations were closed and travel between some cities was impeded as protesters blocked roads with cars, stones and other large objects. Similar protests were held in the Haitian cities of Jacmel, Cap-Haitien, Saint-Marc and Gonaives. Demonstrators came from a wide cross section of society, including political parties, religious groups and community organisations.
The start of a new school year was scheduled for September 9, but the vast majority of state and religious schools had been closed for around a month and a half. Some stayed open for a short while, before being forced to close after pressure from protesters. Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General, said at the beginning of October that around two million children and young people, out of a population of around 11 million, had been left without any access to education.
Barricades have popped up every morning in Port-au-Prince since the protests broke out 16 September 2019 against President Jovenel Moise, despite the authorities’ repeated attempts to evict them. For more than seven weeks, Haiti has gone through a new popular uprising sparked by a fuel shortage in the context of a country plagued by corruption, inequality, insecurity and hunger.
October 11, saw a national mobilization of tens of thousands of protesters out in force throughout the country demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. Pasha Vorbe, a member of the executive committee of the political party Fanmi Lavalas, told Truthout in a call from Port-au-Prince that Lavalas has counted 28 total protesters killed by police during the current revolt.
Thousands of Catholics demanding the resignation of Haiti's president marched through the capital 22 October 2019, becoming the latest group to join an outcry against him. They gathered outside one of the main churches in Port-au-Prince and denounced President Jovenel Moise as corrupt and incompetent.
Hundreds of teachers protested peacefully 21 October 2019 in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise as they warned this would be the only precondition for the resumption of the school year. The teachers were joined by students, parents and other protesters who for a whole month have been demanding the resignation of the president, who they accuse of aggravating the socio-political and economic crisis the country is going through.
In other cities such as Cap-Haïtien in the northern part of the country, and Les Cayes located in the south, hundreds of demonstrators joined the teachers' mobilization, vowing they will continue the fight until the president steps down. The teachers constitute one of the last groups to join the growing mass of social organizations and political platforms that demand the initiation of a new government capable to address the population’s most pressing problems.
More than 100 social, political and economic organizations and institutions signed a document calling for the creation of a national rescue government in order to achieve a successful transition, after more than two years of a failing presidency. In their statement, they denounced the government’s loss of control of the state apparatus, and they stressed the chaotic situation the country is facing and that is paving the way to an imminent humanitarian disaster. Within the opposition front, although the common objective is the removal of Moise, there is still dissent on the issues of the power transfer process and the formation of a new administration.???????
For his part, Moise, said in a controversial press conference that he will remain in office despite the pressure. “The Constitution is clear. People voted for me in the last elections. The Constitution specifies when I must leave power and how to do it. The power belongs to the people and the people have given it to me through the Constitution,” the head of state stated.
Several hundred police and their supporters demonstrated 27 October 2019 in Haiti's capital for better salaries for law enforcement, as anti-government marchers also took to the streets. Separately, a man was beaten to death and then burned by some demonstrators who claimed that he opened fire on a crowd of marchers demanding that President Jovenel Moise step down. With their faces hidden, several plainclothes police fired in the air near the anti-government protesters. As they have for two months, presidential detractors demanded that Moise resign; they were joined by some churchgoers on their way out of services.
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