After interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced the increase of the price of fuel in the country last week, the country has descended further into anarchy, with daily demonstrations in Port-au-Prince and other major cities across the country. The decision to increase the price of gas, diesel and propane at the pump led to violent protests and looting across the country, with a visibly worried Henry calling for calm this past Sunday, in an address to the nation since the decision was made, and the threat of torrential rains from Hurricane Fiona, which has already devastated Puerto Rico, as a serious threat to the already fragile country reeling from natural disaster to socio-political unrest. While there was no statement from the Core Group condemning what was going on in the country, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres spoke out against the violence and called for calm in the country. In a message posted on the website, the Secretary General said he’s deeply concerned about the situation in the country that led to everything coming to a standstill. He’s particularly concerned about the safety of all Haitians, especially the most vulnerable and calls for calm and utmost restraint, all the while urging all stakeholders to take immediate action to de-escalate the situation, avert violence and allow the Haitian National Police to fulfill its mandate to protect the population. A peaceful and inclusive dialogue among stakeholders without any prejudice s the only constructive way forward, if we’re to avert further deterioration in the already dire humanitarian situation facing the country’s most vulnerable people now. Former Prime Minister Claude Joseph took exception to the Secretary General’s statements by saying that the latter is ill-informed about what is going on in the country because the people protesting are not criminals or bandits but mostly young people who are fed up with the carelessness of the Henry administration and want to change an economic system that breeds inequality and extreme poverty.
While the protests were against the fuel price increases, there were equally calls for the resignation of the Prime Minister, with main roads blocked or barricaded bringing formal activities to a standstill. Last week, thousands of protesters, mostly from Cité Soleil, marched on the main road in Delmas where scenes of looting were recorded, with some demonstrators breaking into the premises of the National Television of Haiti, where at least two vehicles and a generator were set on fire, and other materials looted. On the same road, a Digicel distributor and Christ-Cell store were attacked in Delmas 44, and other business establishments were looted or set on fire. Unidentified individuals went as far as attacking and setting fire to the home of the former senator and leader of Fusion party, Edmonde Supplice Beauzille, one of the signatories of the September 11 accord. While confirming the attack on tweeter, the senator pointed fingers at her former colleagues Youri Latortue, Nenel Cassy and Arnel Bélizaire as the brains behind the attack.
In a series of tweets, the Senator was very direct in her attack on her detractors, stating that she has spent her life working and has not committed any economic crimes. And unlike them she’s “not rich like you. Thanks to Youri (Latortue), Nenel (Cassy) and Arnel (Bélizaire). You led a group to my house to destroy a house I spent 20 years building”. In another tweet, she revealed that members of the Ti makak gang were taking objects in the house that resisted the flames. “Thanks to you who invited your minions to set my house on fire, to loot my house. A choice I made as a woman in a macho environment, to do politics. As a social democrat I have always promoted dialogue as a solution at all times. Former Senator Youri Latortue denied all allegations leveled against him by his colleague and threaten to bring a defamation suit against the leader of the Fusion party.
As the violence continues, an article in the Miami Herald revealed an interview with a senior member of the Biden Administration who stated that the ongoing violent protests that have plunged the country deeper into a state of chaos and lawlessness are being financed by people who have a vested interest in the country and stand to lose money, especially as it pertains to the proposed reduction in fuel subsidies. Juan Gonzalez, the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere and a special assistant to President Joe Biden, said there are individuals in the country who opposed the reduction in US $400 million in fuel subsidies, that was announced as part of a Haitian government hike in the price of gas, diesel and propane at the pump. He went on to say that these are people that often don’t even live in Haiti, who have mansions in different parts of the world, and are paying for people to go into the streets. During the conversation on the US Institute of Peace’ Latin America program, Gonzalez said there is no quick fix for Haiti, and right now the Biden administration is more focused on helping bring about credibility through dialogue so that aid can reach the population with the help of a strengthened Haitian police.
He agreed that there’s no easy fix in Haiti, and just leaving it up to Haitians to resolve their problems, ignores the really, really concerning and deteriorating situation inside the country, acknowledging that in the past the U.S. focused on elections as an outcome, but now is focusing more on promoting Haitian dialogue. According to him, the reality right now is, how can you have elections in Haiti? While it is not up to the US, if there were elections today, maybe 5% of the people will vote. As in the past, there’ve been leaders come in with 10% of the vote, hardly a symbol of legitimacy. Though he did not mention by name who the powerful moneyed actors are, he stated that this is not the first time such individuals have used their money to oppose the Haitian government’s efforts to remove the subsidies which the US and monetary institutions have long contended are unsustainable.
Despite the violence and looting and the general chaos in the country, there appears to be no appetite for another military intervention which they see as an expensive and brutal failure, especially if history and local knowledge are any guide. There’ve been calls from the Washington Post, the Organization of American States (OAS), retired diplomats and foreign-policy experts, for international troops to be sent in, because according to them, the country is simply a mess, suffering from a breakdown in governance, widespread gang violence and kidnappings and general human suffering by the ordinary people. But armed with the history of such past interventions, the Haitian people say that instead of troops, the United States can simply stop propping up corrupt, repressive governments that fuel the violence.