Revolt in Haiti

Translated by Célia Courteix and edited by Lauren Valentine

Haiti is the first free Black Republic. Its motto is “Unity makes strength”. Yet, since 2019 the country has faced a serious crisis due to a huge corruption scandal worth more than 2 billion dollars. The population then rallied to protest and dismiss the current president, Jovenel Moïse.

A Catastrophic Situation

Since October 2019, Haiti has been witnessing a political, social, humanitarian, economic and now a health crisis. According to the World Bank, more than 60% of the population lives below the poverty line on less than 2.41 dollars a day. Some families can only eat one meal a day. Besides, inflation has reached 20%, leading to numerous redundancies. Due to its poverty, the right to health is non-existent in the country, and schools are currently closed due to the ongoing demonstrations.

Haiti is known for being an unstable state because of coups, political crises and natural disasters. Despite the 14 billion dollars given to Haiti following the January 12, 2010 earthquake, the government has not stemmed poverty. On the contrary, since the disaster, the country is even poorer, and the law is no longer followed.

The population tries to survive as best it can since the promises made by the government and NGOs have not been kept. The International Red Cross is no longer present even though poverty is extreme there. The Haitian Red Cross is trying to help, but it has almost no means.

The Canaan Region, Reflecting Poverty

Located about twenty kilometres from the capital, Canaan has now become a slum. About 300,000 inhabitants live in the region. Running water and electricity are non-existent. Numerous donations were given to the region which was heavily impacted by the 2010 earthquake. And yet, the citizens claimed that they have never seen a penny of these donations and that the government kept the money.

The only new buildings in the region were built by the citizens themselves. There is no hospital, no first-aid building and no doctor. The only water source available for the whole population in Canaan was built by a pastor. Therefore, the government did not take part in it.

Canaan locals claimed that no NGO came to help rebuild or support the inhabitants.

The Beginning of a Crisis in July 2018

Everything started in July 2018. The government, led by an inexperienced friend of President Jovenel, wanted to raise the price of fuel sharply, but this measure triggered demonstrations. The government therefore renounced it.

The Reasons for the Current Crisis: Corruption and PetroCaribe

Demonstrators have been asking for a change in the governmental system ever since the High Court of Auditors disclosed information on the government involvement in a corruption scandal. The enquiry led by the High Court of Auditors is still ongoing. Demonstrators also protest against some countries such as the United States, Canada, and France. According to them, these countries deliberately allow Jovenel to be in power. Haitians also denounce food and petrol shortages.

Moreover, they would like to see transparency on the various aid measures provided by Venezuela under the PetroCaribe programme from 2008 to 2018. Created in 2005, PetroCaribe is an alliance between several Caribbean countries and Venezuela which allows Caribbean countries to buy petrol at a lower price. This programme has in fact been a real corruption attempt on the part of the Haitian Government since 2008.

The cost of corruption of the various Haitian governments would reach more than 2 billion dollars. The demonstrators are therefore demanding the arrest of all those allegedly involved. The emergency law passed following the 2010 natural disaster has been abused by the six previous governments, allowing some ministers to become wealthier.

Moreover, Venezuela has lent money to Haiti, which the already poor population now has to pay back, even though it has not benefited from it.

Haitian President and Corruption

Jovenel Moïse, current President of the Republic of Haiti, is a former entrepreneur. He came to power in February 2017. Nevertheless, his victory, which is based on only 20% participation in the elections, is suspected of fraud. He is said to be involved in the PetroCaribe scandal with his company Agitrans.

In addition, the 2019 legislative elections were not organised as they should have been. Jovenel formed a new government in March 2020 without parliamentary support.

Jovenel Moïse, President of the Republic of Haiti since 2017

Facing the demands of the population, the President blamed the oligarchs who had taken control of the government. In a press release, he said that violence would not be used against the demonstrators. However, many people were injured and killed during the demonstrations. In the face of this revolt, the Haitian President lost all legitimacy, and his impeachment has been requested.

The demonstrations

Numerous clashes take place with law enforcement officials during the rallies. In January 2020, the revolt had already resulted in about 50 deaths and 100 injured people.

In the city centre, the main roads are blocked by traffic lights to prevent cars from driving by, which are associated with wealth in Haiti. The country is completely paralysed. Universities are also closed, and students are participating in demonstrations. They want a change of system in their country.

Some police officers have joined the demonstrators and are confronting the military, including the group “Fantôme 509”.

Guns are used and the Haitian crisis has become a civil war.

Covid-19: Another Crisis to Face

Covid-19 only worsens the Haitian crisis and its poverty. The government and its President have not been able to calm the demonstrations linked to the corruption scandal, nor have they been able to manage the Covid-19 health crisis. The price of basic necessities has been rising steadily. Due to a lack of structure, the majority of students, who had already missed school because of the demonstrations, were also unable to attend distance learning courses. The government thus announced that the year would not be evaluated academically.

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