November 23, 2018 — For the last while, a tense situation has settled in the country; namely, violence between armed gangs in the zone of La Saline, vying for control of the Croix-des- Bossales Market (the largest public market in the metropolitan zone). There have been 15 to 25 deaths resulting from the gang violence, as well as houses pillaged and women raped in the populous neighbourhoods in conflict. It is a situation that can fray the nerves of the most optimistic: the run-away devaluation of the gourde; an inflation rate of more than 15% on many products; the high cost of living having a massive effect on the living conditions of the population; and extremely limited access to basic services.
Armed groups are constantly fighting in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. There are shocking images circulating on social media of people shot to death or lynched and tossed onto garbage heaps.
Social and political organizations invited the population to take back the streets for the 215th anniversary of the victory at the battle of Vertières (November 18, 1803). These organizations are demanding a clear rendering of accounts – with charges to follow – in the context of the squandering of the “PetroCaribe” funds given to Haiti by the Venezuelan government. They are also demanding the resignation of the current president.
On Saturday November 10, 2018, in the plaza of Vertières (Cap Haïtien), Jean- Charles Moise (director of a political centre strongly opposed to the powers-that-be) put up a red and black flag after taking down the flag recognized in the Constitution of 1987. On November 14, 2018, this same director in a press conference announced his intention to fly this same flag – symbol of the revolution that he has started – in all the important places in the country.
On Saturday, November 17, 2018, the fear was palpable and almost universal among the citizens waiting for the expected mobilization on November 18. Shots were heard during the night of November 17 in various streets around Port-au-Prince and to some extent across the country.
On November 18, regular Sunday activities were at a standstill. Churches were sparsely attended and traffic was almost non-existant. Since then, the citizens have remained shut up in their homes. Schools, public and private institutions as well as shops have kept their doors shut Wednesday, for the third day of the strike, calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. Nevertheless, one can see a tentative return to normal activities. Some supermarkets, small shops and public transit are operating at a reduced rate.
As for our Jesuit communities, some efforts have been made to return to our workplaces. However, we have noted that the streets are still scary. Shots can still be heard in various places. Prudence is the order of the day because the situation remains very complicated and volatile. At any moment, anywhere, anything can happen. No one is safe. Fr. André was not able to get back to the Novitiate. All trips, appointments and meetings have been cancelled. It’s every man for himself. For a population that lives day-to-day, the situation is becoming more and more untenable. The population is left to its own resources. The only thing certain here is uncertainty.
The president of the Republic is criticized from all sides and appears to have completely lost control of the situation.
For our part, we think that the resignation of the president will solve nothing. There is no acceptable alternative. The opposition is just as incompetent and unpopular as the government. The crisis is spreading. Every workable solution seems to get rejected by a government system that is geared to exclusion, misery and injustice. Tomorrow won’t be a better day!
Port -au-Prince, November 21, 2018
P. Jean Denis SAINT-FÉLIX, SJ
Superior of the Jesuits in Haïti
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