Three killed in Haiti during anti-government protests

Protesters in Haiti are demanding the resignation of president Jovenel Moïse who is accused of embezzlement of 3.8 billion dollars of Venezuela’s Petrocaribe funds

February 11, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Photo: Resumen Latinoamericano

Frustrated over increasing loss of purchasing power and misgovernance, thousands of Haitians, members of various grassroots organizations and political leaders mobilized across the country for 4 consecutive days to protest against widespread inflation and to demand the resignation of president Jovenel Moïse. The series of mobilizations that began on February 7 completely paralyzed activities throughout the capital Port-au-Prince and other major cities of the country.

The four days of agitation saw angry protesters block the roads and set several vehicles on fire in the capital, Port-au-Prince.  On Saturday, February 9, they gathered outside the resident of the president, with a few of them throwing stones at the building.

Anti-government unrest resulted in brutal police crackdown, which took the lives of 3 protestors and left dozens injured. Various violent confrontations between the police and demonstrators were noted. Police officials used tear gas and fired several round of bullets in air to disperse the crowd.

The dire social and economic conditions in Haiti are a central motivating factor bringing people to the streets. Currently, Haiti is going through a major economic crisis with an accelerated devaluation of the national currency and around 15% inflation since Moïse assumed office. For many in Haiti, their salaries are not sufficient to buy basic necessities.

“Two years ago, Jovenel promised to fill our plates, but I don’t have food. This president is just a bluffer, he must leave”, said a protester. “We cannot stand this economic crisis. We do not have electricity or security, and now the flour and bread vendors have decided to close their shops due to inflation”, said another protester.

Protesters on the street also denounced the position of the Moïse’s government towards Venezuela which along with the US and other conservative Latin American countries recognized the illegitimate self-proclaimed president Juan Guaidó. Dozens of Haitian organizations released a statement wherein they declared their support to Nicolás Maduro and condemn the attempted coup in Venezuela.

They state “The Haitian people were on the streets across the country to denounce the plot of the accused president Jovenel Moïse and its small group PHTK against the Venezuelan people. The Haitian people thank the Bolivarian Revolution for the Petrocaribe agreement, a cooperation of solidarity that had the objective to invest in social and productive sectors in favor of the Haitian population. Thousands of millions of dollars were embezzled in the last 10 years. The accused President Jovenel Moïse is one of the people who stole the Petro Caribe money. The organizations that signed this declaration are mobilized so that the justice arrests and judges the embezzlers of the money of solidarity cooperation of Petro Caribe in Haiti.”

Amid the series of protests and popular dissatisfaction, On February 9, country’s opposition threatened to install an interim government. However, the experts warned that such an action would be unconstitutional and illegal.

In the first week of February, the Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes (CSCCA), issued an audit report on the mismanagement and embezzlement of 3.8 billion dollars of Petrocaribe funds, offered to Haiti by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela through a crude oil program to finance its economic and social development. According to the report, over 15 ministers and senior officials of the former president Michel Martelly’s administration and a company then run by the current president Jovenel Moïse benefitted from the funds directed to public programs. None of them have been prosecuted.

Last year, on October 17 and November 18, massive anti-corruption protests were held across the country demanding president’s resignation, a proper investigation into the embezzlement of Petrocaribe funds and judicial proceedings against all those responsible. Earlier, in July, after the government announced massive increases in fuel prices, Haitians held several days of protests and demanded the resignation of prime minister Jacques Guy Lafontant and president Jovenel Moïse. Lafontant stepped down but Moïse refused to do so.

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