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Haiti’s newsreel by Dela Harlley – 15-21 July 2020

The Ministry of Health reported 37 new cases of Covid-19 in the past week, bringing the total number of infected cases to 6,727 with 139 deaths in Haiti. Of this number, 2,924 people were declared cured of the virus with 14,864 suspected cases. The epicenter of the virus remains the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area in the West department where 4,972 cases were identified with 58 deaths, with the communes of Delmas and Port-au-Prince leading with 1,229 and 1,045 cases respectively. The other affected communes are Pétionville with 757 cases; Tabarre with 612 cases; Croix-des-Bouquets 461 and Carrefour with 369 cases. Beyond these numbers, lie the collateral damages of the effects of the pandemic on the mental health of the people and an increase in gender violence across the nation, but more pronouncedly in the Northeast, where authorities have seen an increase in the number of physical and sexual violence towards women and girls. Speaking on the radio, Joseny Jean Ferdinand, Assistant coordinator at the Ministry of Women Affairs in the Northeast Department stated that they were making strides in fighting gender violence and violence towards children but with the Covid-19, they are seeing worsening conditions. While telling horrific stories to back up her claims, Ms. Ferdinand described situations in which parents are unable to control their children, in some cases. Just this past Saturday, a woman came in to complain about her husband, who beat her up for asking him why he never fed the children while she was out in the market. For this she lost two teeth. The increasing violence has led to an average of five (5) complaints a day in the department, but there is no psychological support or help for these victims. What is more painful is that those charged with caring for these victims do not attempt to investigate this while caring for these victims. Also, it is reported that pregnant women coming in from the Dominican Republic never get the chance to go to a hospital for pre-natal care because of the pandemic.

 

Meanwhile, 48 organizations and 73 activists, politicians, intellectuals and artists from America and across the world have condemned the violence visited upon peasants in the agricultural training center at Saint-Michel-de-Lattalaye, in the Artibonite region. The school which was set up by Solidarite fanm ayisyèn (SOFA) to train peasants in agriculture was attacked by armed groups, working for Haitian businessmen on June 17, 2020, with the goal of scaring these peasants off the land in order to plant Stevia for Coca Cola. Buildings were destroyed and many people were wounded during the attack. Efforts of organizations such as SOFA is to improve the lives of people who live in  rural areas by teaching self- sufficiency in food production, it is important for other groups to encourage and support them rather than allow the powerful who are known to intimidate people in order to appropriate the land.

 

While on the topic of violence, there were tensions across various neighborhoods in the Port-au-Prince last weekend. On Sunday, an eight-month-old baby was killed by a stray bullet during confrontations between rival gangs in the Belekou neighborhood in Cité Soleil. This tragedy was revolting to residents of the area who are increasingly overwhelmed by the level of violence in their neighborhood. The interim government prosecutor in the Civil court in Port-au-Prince, Jacques Lafontant directed the division of the judicial police to start an inquiry into the matter. Also, a police station in Laboule 12 was set on fire after skirmishes from an altercation between a police officer and a taxi operator, after the officer shot a warning shot in the air when the driver refused to produce his license during a traffic stop.  While this was taking place, the leaders of the G9 gang were claiming responsibility for gunfire that erupted in the capital on Wednesday, July, 7, 2020, and their reasoning was that they want to be legally recognized as a movement, and to participate in the legitimate life of the city, such as sweeping the streets. Witnesses to the protest march say they saw heavily armed men marching down the streets, blocking various traffic intersections in the city and firing their weapons into the air. No accidents or casualties were reported and everything came to an end without incident. But the Ministry of Welfare refuses to accord the group any legitimacy.

Elsewhere, the Justice Minister, who a day earlier was stern against the G9 gang demonstrators, calling on the security forces to track them down and bring them to justice for paralyzing the metropolitan area the previous day, was himself relieved of his functions. Lucmane Delille was removed by President Jovenel Moïse on Thursday, July 10, 2020 and replaced by Rockefeller Vincent who was until his nomination, the Director of the Anticorruption unit. In his farewell speech, the jurist said that he was leaving the post with a clean conscience, clean hands and a healthy pocket, stating that the people understood his fight to get those causing the state of insecurity in the country out of business by going after them with the full weight of the law. The fight he said was meant to allow honest citizens to live peacefully in the country. Although he has always been a discordant voice in the administration, with regards to fighting the gangs, he stayed for the ceremony to hand over power to his successor, whom he considered a friend. Without giving details of what he has accomplished during his 4-month reign, he concluded he served his country with conviction.

Dela Harlley

 

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