The entire country came to a standstill yesterday mimicking the “pays lock” of a few months ago. All the roads were deserted, shops closed and commercial activities practically non-existent throughout the country following calls for massive demonstrations to protest the perennial problems of kidnapping and general insecurity that has gripped the country for some time now, with the security forces unable to control the gangs who are oftentimes more organized, powerful, and armed than government forces. The strike is a sequel to one observed last week Monday and Tuesday, called by the transport workers union in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area to force the government to address the security issue and the increasing fuel prices. The most glaring aspect of all that the country is through these recent days is the utter silence on the part of the government to either appease the frustrated populace or make a statement regarding their concerns and demands. And with the absence of any formal statement or response on current events, some people are wondering if the government is simply incompetent or overwhelmed with the level of chaos in the country.
The only significant development from the authorities this week is the appointment of the former Police Commissioner of the Southeast and subsequently Nippes Departments, Divisional Chief Frantz Elbé who replaced Léon Charles, as the new police commissioner. Léon Charles turned in his resignation letter to Prime Minister Ariel Henry after 11 months on the job. Elbé’s past performance in the Southwest, his ascension to the head of the police force is causing some consternation among human rights groups who recall his involvement in human rights abuses and his alleged ties to criminal gangs. His nomination comes 10 days after 16 American missionaries and a Canadian and their family members were kidnapped on their way to Ganthier. The missionaries are still in captivity with their captors demanding US$1m for each one of them. According to a spokesman for the transport workers’ union, Jacklyn Dupré, the current fuel shortage is not a result of their members protesting and refusing to deliver fuel but rather the presence of the G9 gang that have erected barricades on the way to the Varreux fuel depot, preventing access to the trucks and endangering the drivers. The Varreux fuel terminal holds 70% of the entire nation’s petroleum stock and hence this denial of access results in further blackout that is felt across the entire nation. The situation is so dire that Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF, fears that the shortage is affecting their operations in the country, and warns that if it continues, their trauma and burnt facility in Tabarre, that sees on average 155 patients a month, would be forced to scale down and change their criteria for admission. The fuel, which is a necessity for the health sector, especially in these times of Covid 19 when most other routine medical services appeared to have been backed up, the absence of such a necessary commodity risks to jolt all concerned in the health care field to raise the alarm to bring the government to see and attempt to understand their plight. The other hospital systems that are worried include the Nos Petits Frères et Sœurs (NPFS) hospitals and the Saint Luke foundation, la Fondation St Luc (FSL), hospitals who put out a joint press statement on Saturday, October 23, 2021 to report that if no diesel is delivered to them in due time, the pediatrics ward which sees more than 300 children, 45 mothers and urgent care hospitalizations for trauma patients would be forced to take decisions that can only hurt the vulnerable patients they care for. There is further fear that more than 40 hospitals would be forced to close due to this lack of fuel and the organization representing these private hospitals calls on the government and particularly the Ministry of health (MSPP) to act quickly to restore continued service to them.
But the most deafening noise is the silence coming from the Prime Minister. He sent out a tweet 3 days earlier to announce a meeting on security organized and attended by interim Police Commissioner of the national police, PNH, the head of the UN mission BINUH, the UNDP country representative as well as ambassadors and heads of missions accredited to the country. Meanwhile, the International Crisis group has warned the international actors responsible for Haiti to not rush the country into elections as a way to get the country out of the crisis that it is facing. The group, an independent organization that works to prevent wars and shape policies that are more pacific than belligerent, stated that a study they conducted led them to the conclusion that the priority facing the country now is to deliver aid to the vulnerable population devastated by the August 14, 2021 earthquake in the southern part of the country. According to the group, the support of international partners to try serious crimes, reform the police and support the creation of an open and inclusive transitional government will contribute more to a return to stability than the organization of precipitous elections, because the referendum on the constitution and the elections should not be the main priority of the country.
Armed gangs block access to oil terminals in Haiti
Port-au-Prince, Oct 26 (Prensa Latina) The Varreaux terminal, which processes 70 percent of Haiti’s fuel, continues to be blocked by armed groups, a practice that has become common in recent weeks in the midst of an intense fuel crisis.
Despite the Government’s announcement about the establishment of a security corridor on the Varreux / Martissant 23 axis to facilitate the free movement of tanker trucks, the drivers of oil trucks have been unable to obtain their payload and the workers of the terminal itself have been unable to access their jobs.
‘We don’t even have access to the terminal. The roads leading to the terminal are still blocked,’ a Varreaux official told Le Nouvelliste, confirming that tanker trucks have not been allowed to leave the terminal since Sunday.
The enclave currently holds about 25 thousand barrels of gasoline and over 50 thousand barrels of diesel, which, according to experts, allows the country to operate normally for three days.
Another shipment of oil is waiting at the port, but could not yet be unloaded due to the security situation.
‘The first thing to do is to unblock the area so that the trucks can pass. Then there is always the risk that armed people will open fire on the trucks … But this risk always existed,’ the source told the newspaper.
The leader of the Micanord gang, demanded on Monday 50 million gourdes (about 500 thousand dollars) from the government to allow the passage of tanker trucks.
Fuel crisis affects ambulance service in Haiti
Port-au-Prince, Oct 26 (Prensa Latina) The director of the National Ambulance Center of Haiti, Didier Herald Louis, warned today that only two of the 92 vehicles operating in Port-au-Prince are working due to the serious fuel shortage.
Such service, which already operates with irregularities because of the lack of ambulances, is affected by the inability to refuel, the authority confirmed with concern to the radio Magik 9 programme.
That sector joins others such as the sanitary, telephone, transportation and economic ones, which are suffering the consequences of the general domestic shortage, while the Government promises to reestablish the flow of fuel without any results.
The crisis which began in June, but which has lately increased, slows down the activities of the private sector and paralyzes the public institutions, which generates loss of income for the State, unable to pay its employees, economist Etzer Emile noted.
‘That situation clearly exposes the inability of authorities to manage this crucial, strategic and cross-cutting product,’ the expert criticized.
In addition to political infighting, gang control that hinders fuel distribution in the domestic market, low storage capacity and state subsidy, Emile mentioned the rise in the price of the barrel that doubled in 2020, he assured.
‘The fuel shortage increases the risk of doing business in Haiti, accelerates the poverty of Haitians and undermines economic growth, which has just recorded a consecutive negative rate for 2019, 2020 and 2021,’ the economist deemed according to the Vant Bef Info website.
The Association of Haiti’s Public Hospitals warned of the imminent closure of health care centers, while the United Nations missions in the country underscored that over 300 children, 45 pregnant women and 70 patients in need of life support could die if healthcare institutions cannot access the item.
Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders warned that if the situation persists, the Tabarre Trauma and Burns hospital would have to reduce its activities and restrict admission criteria in the coming days; and DIGICEL, the country’s largest mobile telephone operator, reported that nearly 20 percent of its sites are dysfunctional due to fuel shortages.