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Demonstrations, corruption, paralysis … Ten years after the earthquake of January 12, 2010, Haiti lives in a state of permanent crisis

Haitians continue to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse and demonstrate against poverty, shortages and corruption.

Article published in FranceTVInfo, referring to analysis by Frédéric Thomas, researcher fellow at CETRI.

It is a series of figures that Haiti would prefer to forget. On January 12, 2010, a terrible earthquake, of magnitude 7.3, hit the country with full force. The toll is appalling : 220,000 dead, 300,000 injured, 1.5 million homeless. Ten years later, the country has still not recovered and has plunged into an unprecedented social crisis. Initially sporadic, it has now been running without interruption for almost three months, Haitians demonstrating against poverty, shortages and corruption.

And for good reason. In October 2016, while it is still in the midst of reconstruction, the poorest country in the Americas is once again suffering from bad weather, with the passage of Hurricane Matthew which razes the South. A month and a half later, the election of Jovenel Moïse as president completes to shake his fragile stability. Elected in the first round of an election where the participation rate did not exceed 21%, this agricultural entrepreneur has since been entangled in several corruption scandals. Among them, the PetroCaribe file, named after the energy agreement between Haiti and Venezuela, which was to allow the country to acquire oil at a favorable price and keep 60% of the amount of the sale – to be reimbursed later – to finance social projects. On paper, anyway.

The country’s Superior Court of Auditors finally estimated that nearly three billion dollars of this fund had been embezzled, part of which would have ended up in the pockets of the Haitian president. « It is a heist, like Haiti has known many. The country is one of the most corrupt in the world », underlines Christophe Wargny, academic and author of several works on Haiti.

Faced with this situation, the Haitians chose to respond by « Peyi lòk » (Creole expression meaning that the country is blocked). This popular uprising began on July 6, 2018 when the government announced a significant increase in the price of gasoline. This measure, requested by the IMF, sparked violent protests. Despite rapid executive coastering, tensions remained latent and the country was repeatedly paralyzed. « In the capital of Port-au-Prince, two million inhabitants take tap-taps (collective taxis) every day to go to work and it is the fuel that keeps them going », explains Bernard *, a Frenchman living in Haiti for ten years.

In Haiti, more than 60% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the latest figures from the World Bank and one in three Haitians is in a situation of food insecurity. « Some people mix earth with food to have a full stomach, it’s incredible misery », blows Bernard. « All these factors are aggravated by the country’s dependence on imports : as soon as the currency – the gourd – is devalued, food becomes more expensive, fuel too. Today, we are on an inflation of around 15-20% », precise Frédéric Thomas, doctor of political science, research fellow at Cetri-Center tricontinental.

Results : the new school year has still not taken place, production and marketing activities are idling, petrol has almost disappeared, barricades are erected to block roads. In hospitals too, the situation is catastrophic. In a report from World, Miss André, head of the pediatric department of the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, paints a grim picture : « No more oxygen, no more instruments or drugs, only one thermometer for the whole block : we have nothing left. » Trashed, the establishment remained closed for several days. « In the past, we have had our share of disasters, but we have never been attacked, continues Miss André. It’s like there’s no hope in this country, life is gone.  » « Pregnant women who go to the hospital are put outside and give birth on the street », supports Bernard.

Since September, around forty people have died on the side of the demonstrators, who are demanding the resignation of Jovenel Moïse and a political transition in order to get out of the crisis. « Haiti has never managed to make a lasting democratic transition since 1986 and has lived for months without a government. The budget has not been voted for three years », says Christophe Wargny. And the situation does not seem to be getting better. In January 2020, the Haitian Parliament will no longer be functional, due to the lack of elections organized before the end of the deputies’ mandate. Jovenel Moïse will then be the only master on board. He can appoint the Prime Minister of his choice and govern by decree.

« Some people will assimilate this to a coup, which will perhaps set fire to the powder », believes Bernard. And for good reason : in December, the country experienced a slight lull. « But there remains a general dissatisfaction, no problem has been resolved. Everyone expects a resumption of mobilizations, the Haitians are bathed in a desire to take control », analyzes researcher Frédéric Thomas, who has just returned from a trip to Haiti.

« For NGOs to provide financial and material support and for the churches an extra soul. » Christophe Wargny, academic

« This is not the first such crisis in Haiti, but it is more severe, more durable, underlines Christophe Wargny. After the earthquake, there were only cyclical responses to manage the immediate challenges. But then there was no urban planning. The slums have been reconstructed almost identically. We treated the injured, but we did not strengthen the country’s infrastructure  », explains Frédéric Thomas. « The government can only hold on thanks to the support of the international community, and in particular that of the United States. The latter are afraid of chaos and have called for a dialogue, but the population does not want it. Europe, it , does not react  », Adds the specialist.

Frédéric Thomas also insists on « a resurgence of violence ». The researcher refers in particular to the massacre at La Saline (a working-class district of Port-au-Prince), perpetrated by several gangs in November 2018 and in which nearly thirty people were killed. UN report pointed to responsibility for « certain agents of the State », including the police and a member of the executive who was on the scene. The latter then allegedly addressed the gang members saying : « You have killed too many people, that was not your mission. » For Frédéric Thomas, « there is a supply of insecurity for power issues ».

« Demagoguery, repression and communication are, to date, the only responses of the government to the crisis ». Frédéric Thomas, doctor of political science

It is in this context of violence that a French couple was shot dead on November 25 in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, where he had just arrived for an adoption procedure. A preliminary investigation, entrusted to the Central Office for the Suppression of Violence against Persons (OCRVP), was opened by the Paris prosecutor’s office for « intentional homicide ».

« I am careful, but I never felt in danger », however assures Bernard. « There are gangs who make the law in certain districts. Elsewhere, people are very kind, they revolt simply to gain their freedom, as they did in 1804 when they demanded democracy. » By establishing the first black republic on the American continent, Haitians paid dearly for their autonomy. But more than two centuries later, they are not ready to abandon it.

* The first name has been changed

Voir en ligne https://www.fr24news.com/2020/01/de...

Les opinions exprimées et les arguments avancés dans cet article demeurent l'entière responsabilité de l'auteur-e et ne reflètent pas nécessairement ceux du CETRI.