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The New Year and Haiti’s 218th Independence Day celebrations came amid violence and the continuing uncertainty of the reality of life in the country. It’s under the cover of heavy artillery fire, not from an invading or opposing army but from armed gangs that Prime Minister Ariel Henry attempted to lead celebrations of the country’s independence in Gonaïves. By now, the images of the Prime Minister and his delegation running for cover under heavy gunshots and unable to deliver his speech on the stand erected for the occasion. Armed gangs from Raboteau exchanged fire with various units of the Haitian police (PNH) dispatched to the city which is the home of independence. Earlier on, there were doubts that the Prime Minister will make the trip to the city, but he was able to attend mass at the cathedral, a feat no politician was able to do in the past four (4) years. Earlier in the day, the authorities had set up roadblocks along the way to Place d’Armes and the cathedral, areas where the red carpet was rolled, and the stand erected for the Prime Minister’s address to the nation. By 9:00 am when the presidential cortege was making its way into the cathedral, under heavy guard, gunshots could be heard in the area. During the homily, in which the Monsignor called for peace and unity in the coming year, gunshots intensified in the vicinity of the almost empty cathedral. Unable to deliver his speech at the venue, and not authorized to do so in the cathedral, the Prime Minister was forced to return to Port-au-Prince without giving his Independence Day speech. In the end, the skirmishes with the police resulted in one casualty and several wounded bystanders. In an interview with the press, the interim Prime Minster called the events of this Saturday an assassination attempt on him personally, because according to him, he feels he’s in the crosshairs of some people since coming to office following the assassination of Jovenel Moïse by an armed commando on July 6, 2021, in his residence.  

Meanwhile, the crime wave continues unabated. In Croix-des-Bouquets, 11 people died during an attempted jailbreak this past Friday at the prison. According to the police spokesperson, Gary Desrosiers, 10 inmates and one officer were killed, and 3 other police seriously wounded and in critical condition with the likelihood of medical evacuation to Cuba.  According to sources, at midday Friday, several inmates with guns and weapons attempted to break from the second most secured prison in the country, taking 3 police officers and a nurse hostage. With such increasing insecurity, one of the spokespersons for one of the latest political groups, Secteur dit démocratique et populaire (SDP) Michel André tweeted that the control that the armed gangs exercise over the country and especially in working-class neighborhoods exposes the weakness of the National Police and reflects the inexistence of intelligence structures in the country. According to him, the climate of terror and criminality which prevails in Martissant is a direct consequence of the 10 years of (mis)management of the country by tèt kale PHTK. To him, Haiti needs a great Interior minister who can help stop this bleeding and also exalt the government and police force to do their job. SDP is one of the main opposition groups to join the current government and are also signatories to the September 11, 2021, accord. The police are summoned to take up their responsibilities to protect the people.

In economic news, the Governor of the Bank of the Republic of Haiti, BRH, Jean Baden Dubois revealed that there’s a cross-debt of US$100million between the state and oil companies. Speaking on the program ‘Grands Rendezvous Economiques” on Radio Metropole, the head of the central bank told the economist Kesner Pharel that the state owes the oil companies US$40 million, and the oil companies owe the Haitian state US$60 million. In trying to educate the general public on how the bank operates, Dubois elaborated on the process of financing in the petroleum sector. According to him, when the state places an order for petroleum products, it pays the bill in cash with monetary financing from the bank. Part of the amount borrowed is allocated to subsidize the products and the other part constitutes a loan granted to petroleum companies who have up to 30 days to payback the debt to the state. It is this debt that is pilling up to US$60million. To pay the oil bill, the state not only resorts to monetary financing, but reaches out to the central bank to raise the dollars to complete the transaction. “90% of the BRH’s interventions are for the benefit of the oil sector to allow, them to pay off their debts to the state. This is one of the transactions that have a negative impact on foreign exchange reserves, and only the 30% retained on transfers from the Diaspora that compensates for the shock for the BRH. Furthermore, monetary financing to the oil sector represents nearly 30 billion gourdes while the total amount of monetary financing is 49.2 billion gourdes. Part of the 30 billion gourdes constitutes the subsidy and the other part represents the loan granted to the oil companies.

Finally, the ministry of education and professional development, Ministère de l’Éducation nationale et de la Formation professionnelle (MENFP) announced that the first baccalaureate exams, popularly known as the bac for the 2021/22 academic year will take place from February 21st through the 24th. Registration will take place during the period from January 4, 2022 through January 24, 2022, in all the departments across the country. The ministry further emphasized that only candidates who failed in terminal (traditional or renewed secondary schools) are entitled to take the exams.

Dela Harlley

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