2018–2019 Haitian protests
This article needs to be updated.November 2019)(
The 2018–2019 Haitian protests are demonstrations in cities throughout Haiti that began on 7 July 2018, in response to increased fuel prices. Over time these protests evolved into demands for the resignation of the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse. Led by opposition politician Jean-Charles Moïse, protesters state that their goal is to create a transitional government to provide social programs and to prosecute allegedly corrupt officials.
Background and 2018 protests
Released in November 2017, a Senate probe of the period 2008-2016 (concerning the René Préval and Michel Martelly administrations as well as the chief of staff of then-sitting President Jovenel Moïse) revealed significant corruption had been funded with Venezuelan loans through the Petrocaribe program.
When Venezuela stopped shipping oil to Haiti in March 2018, this led to fuel shortages. With the removal of government subsidies in July, kerosene prices went up over 50 percent, with similarly steep hikes on other fossil fuels. These rises in taxes on gasoline, diesel, and kerosene that went into effect on 7 July 2018 brought Haitians into the streets. Flights were canceled into and out of Haïti by US airlines. The government backed down on the tax increases, and the President accepted the resignation of the inexperienced Jack Guy Lafontant as Prime Minister on 14 July 2018, replaced one month later by Jean-Henry Céant.
In mid-August 2018, Gilbert Mirambeau Jr. tweeted a photo of himself blindfolded holding a cardboard sign with "Kot kòb PetwoCaribe a ?" (where did the PetroCaribe money go?) written on it. The hashtag #petrocaribechallenge was soon widely circulated on social media.
Anger over the revelations and accusations from the continuing investigation simmered through social media into the autumn and boiled over again, first in October 2018, with tense scenes and violence in Les Cayes, in Jacmel, and in Saint-Marc. Then, a week of protests in November 2018 led to 10 deaths, including several killed when a government car "lost a wheel and plowed into a crowd".
Significant protests broke out again in February 2019 following a report from the court investigating the Petrocaribe Senate probe. Economic problems and the increased cost of living helped fuel the protests.
On 7 February, protesters targeted and damaged wealthy Haitians' luxury vehicles. The following day, the mayors of Petion-ville and Port-au-Prince announced the cancellation of pre-Carnival events. Two days later protestors were clashing with police, with demonstrators throwing stones at the home of President Moïse, after the security personnel of one of his allies struck a woman's car and began to beat her.
On 12 February, protesters burned down a popular market, looted various stores and assisted with a prison break in Aquin that freed all of the facility's prisoners. In Port-au-Prince, the building housing the Italian and Peruvian consulates was looted by protesters.
President Jovenel Moïse addressed the country on 14 February, saying he would not step down, stating "I, Jovenel Moïse, head of state, will not give the country up to armed gangs and drug traffickers".
During a funeral procession on 22 February, Haitian police fired tear gas at a crowd of about 200 people carrying the casket of a man killed during protests days earlier. Opposition leader Schiller Louidor called for future protests, though the overall size of protests began to subside that day.
Three days after the lower house voted a censure motion against Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant's government on 18 March 2019, Jovenel Moïse replaced Céant with Jean-Michel Lapin. As of mid-November 2019, this change had not been ratified by the Haitian Parliament. Lacking a government because of the impasse between the President and the Parliament, Haiti has had hundreds of millions in international aid—for which having a sitting government was a prerequisite—suspended.
During escalating protests, journalist Rospide Petion was killed in the evening June 10, 2019 on his way home from Radio Sans Fin in Port-au-Prince, where he was a host. Rospide Petion had criticized the Haitian government on the radio before going home. He was shot in a car owned by Radio Sans Fin by an unknown gunman.
On 4 October, thousands protested across Haiti. In Port-au-Prince, the mayor, joined the protestors in calling for Jovenal Moïse to step down. Two days earlier the opposition sent a letter by delegation to the UN Secretary General denouncing the sitting President's role in the Petrocaribe affair, and the government's role in a massacre in La Saline. Lyonel Trouillot wrote in L'Humanité, "Without dipping into conspiracy theory, there is something worrying about the international community's silence about the Haitian situation."
On 22 October, thousands of Catholics demonstrated in the capital. Archbishop Max Leroy Mésidor asked Haitian leaders to heed the people who "cannot go on any longer. We are fed up." Energy crises, road blockages, and widespread unrest have led to massive drops in tourism, causing the closure of hotels in Petion-ville, where the Best Western Premier closed permanently, and in Cap-Haïtien, where Mont Joli was closed. Two people were killed in protests in Port-au-Prince on 27 October. Masked police officers were themselves out on the streets demonstrating that day because of low salaries and lack of health insurance.
Though the Haitian constitution calls for legislative elections in October, none were held in October 2019. The United Nations announced they had counted 42 deaths and 86 injuries since mid-September.
The US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (David Hale) visited Haiti on 6 December, following up on US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft's November visit. During the visit, he met with leaders from several political parties, some of whom, including Fanmi Lavalas and Fusion-Mache Kontre refused any collaboration with the sitting President.
Jovenel Moïse government
President Jovenel Moïse has called for his opposition to participate in peaceful dialogue stating "the country’s problems aren’t solely political. The country’s problems are social, economic and political". The national police has stated that there are "malicious individuals" who had interrupted peaceful protests in the country.
The opposition has been led by Jean-Charles Moïse. This opposition has declined offers for dialogue, has demanded Jovenel Moïse's resignation and has organized a nationwide general strike to force him to resign from office. Jean-Charles Moïse, alongside opposition lawmakers, has called for a transitional government to replace Jovenel Moïse with Jean-Charles stating "If Jovenel Moïse does not want to step down from power, we are going to name an interim president in the coming days".
Arrest of foreign mercenaries
The Port-au-Prince newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported on February 18, 2019 that a Haitian citizen and seven non-Haitians were arrested in the city. At the time of their arrest, they were carrying rifles, pistols, drones and satellite phones in their vehicle, which had no license plates. The Haitian Foreign Minister Bocchit Edmond confirmed that among them were five Americans. According to the editor of Haïti Liberté, the group included two former Navy SEALS, a former Blackwater employee, and two Serbian mercenaries living in the US. They were tasked with protecting the former head of the National Lottery, who intended to transfer US $80 million from a PetroCaribe bank account—controlled jointly by the President, the Prime Minister, and the President of the Central Bank—to a bank account solely controlled by President Jovenel Moïse.
Abuse against press
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, some reporters have been targeted by protesters. One Reuters journalist, Robenson Sanon, was wounded during the protests in February 2019, but believes that it was coincidental because he was caught in-between clashes.
Journalist Rospide Petion was killed on his way home from the Radio Sans Fin in Port-au-Prince on June 10, 2019 by an unknown gunman. Some correspondents filming protests on 9-10 June were targeted by both police and the crowds.
- United States: The United States Department of State spokesperson for Western Hemisphere Affairs stated, "We support the right of all people to demand a democratic and transparent government and to hold their government leaders accountable...but there is no excuse for violence. Violence leads to instability, less investment, and fewer jobs". The United States has prepared humanitarian assistance to ensure food security in Haiti and called for those responsible for corruption to be held accountable.
- CARICOM: The body stated that it "is deeply concerned about the continuing violent protests in Haiti, which have resulted in the loss of life, property, destruction of infrastructure and caused grave distress" and "calls for calm and a cessation of the violence, appealing to all involved to engage in constructive dialogue and to respect the constitution, the rule of law and democratic processes so that issues can be resolved in a peaceful atmosphere and allow for the return to a state of normalcy".
- Organization of American States: Secretary General Luis Almagro stated "We call upon all actors to fully participate in the dialogue process, to respect the democratic process, and to resort to peaceful ways to solve conflicts".
- United Nations: The United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti in a statement said the group "deplores the loss of life and property damage caused by the unacceptable acts of violence that took place on the margins of the rallies, while acknowledging the professionalism demonstrated by the Haitian National Police as a whole" and called "on the Haitian society actors, and primarily the country's leaders, to engage in a constructive and inclusive dialogue in order to identify and implement realistic and lasting solutions to the political and economic crisis currently occurring in Haiti".
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- Kirk Semple (23 November 2018). "Haitians Furious at Their Government Protest in a Week of Unrest". New York Times.
It was the latest manifestation of a campaign that has flourished on social media and that focuses on allegations that Haiti’s government misappropriated billions of dollars earmarked for reconstruction after a devastating earthquake in 2010.
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They provided an exhaustive list of issues, from a massacre in La Saline last year, in which two government officials were implicated, to a Haitian court’s audit of misuse of Venezuela’s PetroCaribe oil program, which implicated the president.
- Andre Paultre (4 October 2019). "Haitian protesters clash with police in new push for president's ouster". Reuters.
- "Les manifestations en Haïti, ou la "solitude des morts sans importance"". France Culture (in French). 11 October 2019.
Sans verser dans la théorie du complot" écrit-il, "il y a quelque chose d’inquiétant dans le silence de la communauté internationale sur la situation haïtienne.
- Lyonel Trouillot (2 October 2019). "Lyonel Trouillot. Silence complice sur Haïti : solitude des morts sans importance". Humanité (in French).
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- Jean Daniel Sénat (5 December 2019). "Les diplomates américains se bousculent à Port-au-Prince". Le Nouvelliste (in French).
il y aura le 10 décembre 2019 à Washington une audition au Congrès des Etats-Unis sur la situation en Haïti.
- Robensen Geffrard (6 December 2019). "David Hale a rencontré Jovenel Moïse et l'opposition, les lignes n'ont toujours pas bougé..." Le Nouvelliste (in French).
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A Haitian Senate investigation found that the fund’s nearly $2 billion had been largely misappropriated, embezzled, and stolen, primarily under Haitian President Michel Martelly’s leadership between 2011 and 2016.
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