Sun | Mar 24, 2019

Government keeping an eye on turmoil in Haiti

Published:Thursday | February 14, 2019 | 12:21 AM
An overturned car burns during a protest demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Tuesday. Protesters are angry about skyrocketing inflation and the government’s failure to prosecute embezzlement from the multibillion-dollar Venezuelan PetroCaribe programme that sent discounted oil to Haiti.

The deadly protest in Haiti, precipitated by allegations of misused money from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe oil programme, a stagnated economy, and a nationwide desire for President Jovenel Moïse to resign, is being monitored by the Jamaican Government.

“We are certainly concerned as a Government for our Haitian brothers and sisters, who are experiencing turmoil within their society, and certainly, we, as their neighbour and friend, are decrying any violence and violent acts that are taking place there and which are causing instability,” Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith told The Gleaner.

Haiti’s worsening economic crisis has led to a drop in living standards, and inflation in the country now stands at around 15 per cent, with President Moïse and other officials being accused of corruption and misappropriating funds of over US$1 billion in relation to the PetroCaribe oil alliance.

Protesters are also demanding fresh elections and jobs, but Moïse, who was not sworn into office until 2017, when an electoral tribunal declared him the winner of the November 2016 elections, has so far been resolute in dismissing calls for him to resign over fraud allegations.

At least six people have died in nearly weeklong protests, which saw fresh tensions and a major prison break on Tuesday. Dozens have also been injured in clashes with the security forces.

Earlier this week, several Western countries, including Canada and the United States, condemned the violence in Haiti and called for all stakeholders, including 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” turmoil.

CARICOM chairman and St Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris said that the regional integration grouping “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.

“The Community 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,” he said in a brief statement.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com