In a move that can only be described as an affront to the leadership of the country, the leader of the plateforme Pitit Dessalines, Moïse Jean-Charles, raised the former black and red Haitian flag, during an anti-government demonstration at the place des héros de Vertières near Cap-Haïtien. The hoisting of this flag, with its painful history, has caused a lot of debate across the country since last week, with opinion differing among his partisans, supporters of the government and civil society. According to the human rights group, Réseau national de défense des droits humains (RNDDH) the act of hoisting this flag is an act of anarchy and should be highly condemned. In a communique made public by the group, the flag is a national emblem, and one of the main symbols of identity of the people. As such, taking it or replacing it with another means capturing (real or fictional) the identity it represents. Others such as the historian Pierre Buteau have considered this act excessive as it reminds the people of the symbolism of the flag coopted by the ferocious dictatorship of the Duvaliers and reviving such a flag at this time can only divert public attention to the issues related to civil, political, economic and social rights of the Haitian people. The human rights group further acknowledges that respect for the national emblem is indisputable in any democratic state and if citizens begin to show disrespect for their own emblem of national pride and identity, how could they demand such from others, or if they are showing irreverence towards the flag, who can they demand respect for? Since the constitution acknowledges the current flag as the national symbol, it must be accorded such respect unless changed by constitutional means. The group warns the anti-government protesters to be serene and restraint in their demands on the government.
While overwhelmingly, almost all sectors of society have condemned this act as an act of vagrancy, the Pitit Dessalines platform and their leader, it is an act that proves to the entire world that the country is rudderless. The former Mayor of Milot feels proud to have accomplished such an act that, to him, symbolizes the Dessalinian ideal, and that it is an act to provoke those in power and prove that the Haitian state no longer exists, and the only way things can be restored is for the current president to leave office. In a daring move that is seen as a shot across the bow to his sworn enemy, President Jovenel Moïse, who is currently in a political stalemate with dwindling approval ratings, the Senator stated that under his administration, no one dares to disrespect the flag without paying the consequences in a court of law. While some lawmakers close to the regime are calling for a public action to be taken against the senator for this proclamation, it is unclear how this can happen without people reading ulterior motives into it. Given the political climate with the government under enormous pressure, any arrests would be easily attributed to political persecution against those who might be subjects of such arrest as for the PetroCaribe scandal.
As part of two different investigations into corruption, namely the PetroCaribe embezzlement and the overcharging for school kits, the government’s Prosecutor in Port-au-Prince, Clamé O. Daméus, moved to block the bank accounts of 36 companies. In a letter to the Board of Directors of both public and commercial banks, the Prosecutor asked them to suspend all transactions to their accounts pending further investigation. The Prosecutor’s office drew the banks’ attention to the fact that this conservative move is in response to two judicial inquiries currently undergoing in the Prosecutor’s office, involving the embezzlement of PetroCaribe funds and the overcharging of the government for school kits in which the companies and their shareholders benefited.
In other news, the US Coast Guards have intercepted a boat off the coast of Cuba carrying boat people on its way to the Bahamas. According to the refugee rights group, Groupe d’Appui aux Rapatriés et Réfugiés (GARR), there were 87 Haitians and one Dominican stowaway who paid between 2,500 to 25,000 gourdes for a place on this makeshift boat bound for Nassau. They were intercepted when they ran into trouble aboard the boat, and eyewitness account indicated that they have not eaten anything during the three days they were at sea. There were 17 women, 55 men and 16 minors aboard the vessel, and were originally from such towns as Port-de-Paix, Môle-Saint-Nicolas, Saint-Louis du Nord in the Northeast and l’Ile de la Tortue where they embarked on November 5, 2018. They have been since returned to Cap-Haïtien in the North of the country by the US Coast Guards. The refugee rights group has taken the opportunity to impress upon the government to provide meaningful means of sustenance so that these people not take to the dangerous seas or find means to leave the country to make a living. Meanwhile, 184 Haitian migrants have been voluntarily returned to Port-au-Prince aboard a Boeing 767 of the Chilean Army, as part of the latter government’s voluntary repatriation program.
Elsewhere, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Food Safety Commission, Conseil National de la Sécurité Alimentaire (CNSA), have announced an average increase of 8% in the price of foodstuff during the last quarter of 2017. On imported maize, local rice and red beans, there was a 10% increase. During this time, there was a 4% increase monthly on foodstuff whereas the second quarter saw a decrease of 2% per month, a decrease that can be attributed to the harvest season for local produce. In terms of quarterly average, the net value of a basket of foodstuff increased from 1,178 gourdes to 1,261 gourdes during the last quarter of 2017, an increase of about 7% from the same period a year earlier in 2016. Regional markets have also seen these relative increases of over 10% in such areas as Cap-Haïtien and Hinche where the increase has been both quarterly and annually, whereas the annual increase in Port de Paix and Jérémie also saw similar increases. The increases were higher in the markets of Jacmel, Ouanaminthe and Cap-Haïtien, while lower in the markets of Cayes and Fond des Nègres.
A new amusement park, Magic Parc, was inaugurated on November 3, 2018, at 367 Bourdon Road, with contests, board games, yoga video games and many activities, including musical entertainment provided by La bande à Pipo, the most popular band in town today. This new park has been the brainchild of Sharline Dubuisson, who said she had this idea over 19 years ago when she had her daughter and did not know where to take her to play. With this new park, parents can now take their children to a safe place where they can enjoy all the amenities of an amusement park.