• Rachel Diotte-Lyles

Haiti: Protests Turned Humanitarian Crisis


Haiti — the world’s first black republic — is undoubtedly no stranger to protests. A recent string of demonstrations has paralyzed the country and its economy for several weeks. Consequently, humanitarian organizations have postponed much-needed operations in the nation, and schools, hospitals, government institutions, embassies, and businesses have been shut down due to security concerns (“Haiti.”).

Energy shortages, rising inflation, and allegations of corruption by President Jovenel Moïse are among the factors that have led to the protests in Haiti, with many citizens demanding the President’s resignation.

Moïse is a Haitian businessman who rose to power in 2017. The assertions of corruption regarding Moïse date back to 2014, before his candidacy. This corruption scandal is tied to the company Petrocaribe, a provider of both energy and funds for social projects in Haiti. Supposedly, Moïse was contracted to rebuild and repair a road by Petrocaribe. Moïse received significant capital on this deal. However, this “road” appears to be non-existent. Thus, Moïse is criticized for the pocketed billions of dollars of funds that were meant to improve the livelihoods of Haitian civilians. Despite this, Moïse was elected, although less than eighteen percent of the electorate voted (Anderson, “As Protests Again Sweep Haiti, How Can the Nation Move Forward?”).

Haiti has had a tumultuous political history since its independence in 1804. Almost all of its leaders have come to power through a coup, an uprising, or following an assassination (“Food and Medical Aid under Threat as Haiti Protests Worsen.”). According to Transparency International, Haiti is one of the world’s most corrupt countries (“Haiti’s Troubled Path to Development.”). Jovenel Moïse, Haiti’s current president, is no exception to this rule and is currently being accused of corruption.

Protests have become increasingly frequent as dissatisfaction grows. Demonstrations have been taking over the capital city of Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas on practically a daily basis (“Haiti.”). On October 4th, 2019, Haitian protesters organized a mass demonstration called “Mobilizasyon san Limit” (or “Unlimited Mobilization”) to signal their determination to see change. Since then, demonstrations have become more violent.

As of October 2019, approximately 17 people have died, and nearly 189 people have been injured in protests. Néhémie Joseph - a respected Haitian radio journalist who was outspoken in his critique of the government’s handling of the crisis, was murdered execution-style (Anderson, “As Protests Again Sweep Haiti, How Can the Nation Move Forward?”).

This discontent towards the government is being expressed by several diverse groups of Haitians. The Haitian police, who are expected to maintain law and order in such a crisis, have taken to the streets. After not being paid for months, they are demanding better working conditions and that a union be created if they are to continue risking their lives (“Haiti Policemen Protest Demanding Better Work Conditions, Union.”).

With a population of 11 million, half of which live under the poverty line (less than $2.41 US a day), the current political crisis has further worsened the conditions for vulnerable groups (“Haiti.”). The health sector has been particularly affected by the current crisis, with hospitals shutting down or facing shortages. Workers at the Sainte Croix Hospital, for example, were left with only one day's worth of oxygen, and had to make a grim decision of who would get it — newborns or adults? (Semple and Kohut, “‘There Is No Hope.’”). The education system has also been dramatically affected by this crisis, leaving 5 million kids without access to schools. (CNN, “Humanitarian Crisis Increases in Haiti as Anti-Government Protests Grip the Nation.”). Some fear that the repeated closure of schools in Haiti will negatively impact Haiti’s future. Already, a large number of Haitian students are seeking education outside of their country, and this instability might exacerbate the brain drain.

At this stage, it is unclear what is next for Haiti. If President Moïse does eventually resign, replacing him could very well create chaos. Perhaps, the pattern of continued political instability in Haiti will be destroyed once and for all. Maybe, it will continue. However, there is no question that the people of Haiti are willing to make sacrifices in their fight for a just government.

References

Anderson, Jon Lee. “As Protests Again Sweep Haiti, How Can the Nation Move Forward?,” October 24, 2019. https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/as-protests-again-sweep-haiti-how-can-the-nation-move-forward.

CNN, Chandler Thornton, Etant Dupain, Taylor Barnes and Jackie Castillo. “Humanitarian Crisis Increases in Haiti as Anti-Government Protests Grip the Nation.” CNN. Accessed October 27, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/03/americas/haiti-anti-government-protests/index.html.

Council on Foreign Relations. “Haiti’s Troubled Path to Development.” Accessed October 27, 2019. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/haitis-troubled-path-development.

Council on Foreign Relations. “What’s Driving the Protests in Haiti?” Accessed October 27, 2019. https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/whats-driving-protests-haiti.

Miami Herald. “Haiti President Accused of Embezzlement Scheme in Government Audit of Venezuela Aid Money.” Accessed October 27, 2019. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article231122978.html.

ReliefWeb. “Haiti: Civil Unrest (MDRHT016) Emergency Plan of Action Final Report - Haiti.” Accessed October 28, 2019. https://reliefweb.int/report/haiti/haiti-civil-unrest-mdrht016-emergency-plan-action-final-report.

Semple, Kirk, and Meridith Kohut. “‘There Is No Hope’: Crisis Pushes Haiti to Brink of Collapse.” The New York Times, October 20, 2019, sec. World. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/20/world/americas/Haiti-crisis-violence.html.

The New Humanitarian. “Food and Medical Aid under Threat as Haiti Protests Worsen,” October 7, 2019. https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news/2019/10/07/food-and-medical-aid-under-threat-haiti-protests-worsen.

Voice of America. “Haiti Policemen Protest Demanding Better Work Conditions, Union.” Accessed October 28, 2019. https://www.voanews.com/americas/haiti-policemen-protest-demanding-better-work-conditions-union.


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