Haiti at breaking point as economic tanks and violence surge


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Daily life in Haiti began to spiral out of control last month, just hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said: Fuel subsidies will be abolishedthe price doubles.

Gunshots rang out as protesters blocked the road with iron gates and mango trees. Then Haiti’s most powerful gang took it one step further. They dug trenches to block access to the Caribbean nation’s largest fuel terminal, vowing not to budge until Henry resigned and the prices of fuel and basic commodities dropped.

The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is in the grip of an inflationary vise that is weighing on its citizens and exacerbating protests that are pushing society to breaking point. Violence is raging Scares parents to send their children to school. We are running out of fuel and clean water. Hospitals, banks and grocery stores are struggling to stay open.

The president of the neighboring Dominican Republic described the situation as a “low intensity civil war”.

Life in Haiti has always been very difficult, if not downright dysfunctional. But the current level of paralysis and despair is unprecedented.Political instability has worsened since then Last year’s unsolved assassination of the President of Haitia spike in inflation of around 30% would only exacerbate the situation.

“If they don’t understand us, we’ll make them understand,” he said, struggling to keep pace with thousands of other protesters marching at a recent demonstration. A sweaty Pierre Killik Semmels said.

A fuel depot blocked by gangs has been inoperable since Sept. 12, cutting off about 10 million gallons of diesel and gasoline, and more than 800,000 gallons of kerosene stored on site. Many gas stations have closed and others are quickly running out of supplies.

Recently, fuel shortages forced hospitals to cut critical services and forced water supply companies to close. Banks and grocery stores are also struggling to stay open due to reduced fuel supplies and exorbitant prices. This makes commuting to work nearly impossible for many workers.

A gallon of gasoline costs $30 on the black market in Port-au-Prince, and over $40 in rural areas. With public transportation so limited, desperate people walk miles to get food and water.

“Haiti is in complete chaos right now,” said Alex Dupuis, a Haitian-born sociologist at Wesleyan University. “Gangs are basically doing whatever they want, anytime, anywhere, and the police can’t police them, so they have complete impunity.”

He called Haiti a “generally dysfunctional society” and Henry’s de facto government “seemed utterly unperturbed by the chaos, perhaps even benefiting from it.” possibility of organization.”

Gangs have long wielded considerable power in Haiti. However, after the July 2021 assassination of Jovenel his President Moise, their influence grew. They are fighting to control more territory, killing hundreds of Haitians, including women and children, and displacing about 20,000 from their homes in recent months. Kidnappings skyrocketed.

Henry promised to hold elections as soon as it was safe to do so, and in a speech read to the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, he wrote, “I do not want to stay in power longer than necessary.” I’m here.

“My country faces a multifaceted crisis, with consequences that threaten the very foundations of democracy and the rule of law. I have to take responsibility for my crimes before the court,” he said.

US President Joe Biden also addressed the United Nations, saying Haiti faced “politically fueled gang violence and a huge human crisis”.

From 2004 to 2017, UN peacekeepers strengthened national security and helped rebuild the political system after a violent uprising overthrew former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But for now, any foreign intervention in Haiti is off the table. Local political leaders have called for outside help, noting that UN peacekeepers in Haiti sexually abused children and sparked a cholera epidemic that killed nearly 10,000 more than a decade ago. I declined the proposal.

The first protests in mid-September prompted France and Spain to close their embassies and banks in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Protesters have attacked businesses, the homes of prominent politicians and even a United Nations World Food Program warehouse, stealing millions of dollars worth of food and water.

Since then, the protests have grown. Tens of thousands of people recently marched in and around Port-au-Prince, including the cities of Gonaives and Cap-Haïtien to the north. They waved leafy branches and chanted, “Ariel must go!”

Elementary school teacher Jan Wilson Fabre took part in the recent protests, crouching in a side street to avoid a cloud of tear gas fired by police as they tried to police the crowd.

“He’s not doing anything,” he said of the prime minister.

A 40-year-old father of two sons lamented food and water shortages, increasing kidnappings and growing gang power. they are not safe. “

In an attempt to restore normalcy amid an increasingly precarious situation, Fabre refused to send his children to school despite the government’s announcement that schools would return as scheduled on October 3. You are one of millions of parents.

The Haitian court was also due to reopen on October 3, but the country’s bar association rejected an invitation from the prime minister to discuss the matter days ago. .

“Under Ariel, things are getting worse and worse,” said Merley, a 28-year-old unemployed mother of two boys who attended the recent protests wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with her middle finger. St-Pierre said.

Hundreds of people line up for hours every day just to buy a bucket of water. A delivery truck cannot enter the neighborhood due to an obstruction.

“This water scares me,” said 22-year-old Lionel Simon, noting that he used it to wash his clothes and added chlorine before drinking.

at least Eight people have died from cholera in recent days Local health officials urged protesters and gang leaders to allow fuel and water to flow into their neighborhoods.

But Simon had no fear of cholera. His biggest concern is the rise of gangs and young children with guns.

“I don’t know if life will ever return to normal,” he said. Dogs and animals can be left in the streets to eat you. This is the crazyness of the city. “

Haitian expert Dupuis said it was unlikely Henry would resign because there was no international pressure to do so. He was concerned that the situation was swirling and there was no clear solution.

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Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.