Protests in Haiti met with brutal police repression, 11 died, several injured

Thousands participated in the countrywide anti-corruption protests demanding President Jovenel Moïse’s resignation and judicial proceedings against those responsible for the embezzlement of Petrocaribe funds.

November 23, 2018 by Henry Boisrolin
Photo: Resumen Latinoamericano

On November 18, thousands of protestors took to the streets in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and other major cities demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, a thorough investigation into the allegation of the embezzlement of 3.8 billion dollars of the Petrocaribe funds and judicial proceedings against those responsible. According to the reports by the coalition of the Democratic and Popular Sector, 11 people died, 47 were wounded and 75 were arrested in the capital and in other cities during demonstrations.

Opposition groups in Haiti called for demonstrations in different parts of Port-au-Prince and in Cap-Haïtien. Angry protestors blocked streets and set tires on fire. Most of the businesses remained closed and the public transport was completely paralyzed. Other cities such as Jacmel, Gonaives, St. Marc and Jeremie also saw small mobilizations.

In Port-au-Prince, thousands marched to the National Palace, headed to the headquarters of Parliament and toured the district of Delmas, where they were joined by more protesters. Former senator Moïse Jean-Charles led the protests in Cap-Haïtien and called for the resignation of President Moïse and his officials.

Over 3,000 police officers were deployed across the country to handle the crowd. The clashes between the demonstrators and policemen resulted in several casualties. The Vice-delegate of the District of Miragoane, in the Department of Nippes, received 2 bullets while his security guard was severely wounded. In Cap-Haïtien, at least two people were shot dead. A man was shot in the head in Pétion-Ville (east of Port-au-Prince). Many other protesters were shot in the foot, in Delmas 2 (in Port-au-Prince). Several others were shot in Martissant (southern sector of Port-au-Prince). “Police fired several shots when protesters began meeting in the market area”, said Harrisson Junior Aristide, the head of CASEC [Administrative Council of the Communal Section] of the 8th section of Martissant.

Petrocaribe is an energy integration platform promoted by Hugo Chávez in 2005 and sustained until today by the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela. Petrocaribe offers oil to 19 Caribbean nations at low cost, with a 25-year financing term, a negligible interest of 1%, and the possibility of paying back for crude oil in the form of goods and services. In all these small countries, dependent on oil imports, Petrocaribe has financed more than 109 programs and social projects.

According to a Senate investigation, at least 14 former officials of former President Michel Martelly (2011-2016) administration were alleged to the misuse of funds and none has been prosecuted.

November 18 is also commemorated for the 215th anniversary of the Battle of Vertières, which represents the victory of Haitians in the war of independence against France. President Moïse cancelled the trip he had planned with the members of his cabinet to Cap-Haïtien, where the official commemoration ceremony is generally held.