By David E. Hubler
Contributor, In Homeland Security
Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, is on the verge of revolution. Thousands of angry Haitians demonstrated in Port-au-Prince on Sunday. They were demanding that Haitian President Jovenel Moise step down, the French news agency AFP reported.
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The almost-daily protests in the capital and other cities and areas of this Caribbean nation have left 18 people dead so far in clashes with police, The Washington Post said.
According to AFP, followers of self-proclaimed prophet Mackenson Dorilas “moved through streets of the capital, followed by large groups of demonstrators, praying and chanting slogans against the president.”
Jean Ronald, a protestor, told AFP that “Jovenel is incapable and incompetent. He must pack his bags because Haiti must live.”
Moise Accused of Being Corrupt and Mismanaging Billions in Hurricane Aid
Moise, formerly an entrepreneur, came to power following a suspicious election victory in February 2017. Since then, he has confronted widespread anger exacerbated by deadly demonstrations this year that have left 34 Haitians dead and 102 others injured, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) recalled.
The Haitian president was accused of mismanaging billions in aid given to the country after Hurricane Matthew in 2010. In 2018, a Haitian court released a report on the Venezuelan oil subsidy program and government corruption. The report “found that two companies controlled by the president had been given the same government contract to build the same road.”
Overwhelming Sense of Panic Grows by the Day in Haiti
“There is an overwhelming sense of panic that’s growing by the day,” said Chris Bessey, CNA’s representative for Haiti.
“Roads are closed. People are trapped in their homes. Children are out of school. We are on the edge of yet another humanitarian disaster if the unrest continues unabated,” he added.
“We are feeling the early tremors of what could erupt into catastrophe,” Bessey warned. “Once the full disaster hits, a response will be complicated by [a] lack of security, transportation and other services.”
Many schools and businesses have been closed for more than a month as a result of the demonstrations and the barricades that demonstrators have erected across main roads.
Widespread Shortages of Basic Necessities
There are widespread shortages of basic necessities such as fuel and clean water. More than half of the 11 million Haitians live on less than $2.40 a month, the Post said.
“Before the newest round of protests began in early September, Haiti’s economy was already flailing,” the Associated Press noted. Inflation over the last five years has risen from less than 10% a year to almost 20%.
“The country had seen a reduction in funds from Petrocaribe, a Venezuelan-subsidized oil plan, given the drop in oil prices, and international aid for recovery from the devastating 2010 earthquake was dwindling,” AP added.
Demonstrations Are a Manifestation of a Systemic Crisis
“There’s not just a political fight going on today, but the manifestation of a systemic crisis,” Jake Johnson, an international research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research told the Washington Post. “Haiti is facing a broad rejection of a political and economic system that in 30 years has failed to deliver results for the majority of the population,” he noted.
In November 2017, the Trump administration announced an end to the temporary residency permit program that had allowed almost 60,000 Haitian citizens to live and work in the U.S. This program was instituted following the 2010 disastrous earthquake that may have killed as many as 300,000 people.
UN Secretary General Pledges Continuous Commitment to Support the Haitian People
Last week, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres pledged “the continuous commitment to support the Haitian people on their path to peace and development.”
The UN secretary general said the new UN Integrated Office in Haiti and the UN country team “will integrate their activities to support efforts to bring about lasting stability and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
Guterres also called on the Haitian National Police “to discharge its duties with due regard for all people and their human rights.”
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