Humanitarian disaster, irresponsibility of our leaders and the urgency of national dialogue
After more than eight (8) days of silence, while the country is in a state of fire and bloodshed, the President of the Republic, HEM Jovenel Moïse, finally took the floor but to say nothing or, worse, to throw oil on the fire. However, the whole nation was waiting, wishing - without too much realism - that Mr. President would measure up to the gravity of the moment. Disappointment, repugnance, anger, shame: these are the feelings expressed by many in reaction to this speech, which lasted about seven (7) minutes.
“Boasting. Dismissal of your employees. Repressive fury. Insults and servile flattening in front of the international community or the United States": this was the reaction of the author Lyonel Trouillot who is convinced that the President stole seven long minutes from the nation's time. According to Journalist Roberson Alphonse, "President Jovenel Moïse, with this address to the nation, has chosen to counter-attack at a time when the street, more and more rising, is asking for his departure. Initial reactions on social networks show that President Jovenel Moïse, far from convincing, seems to have made a speech that could worsen an already complicated situation. The president's counter-fires risk fanning the flames of those who are protesting.”
MP Jerry Tardieu talks about the missed shot. Like many, he believes that "the long-awaited speech by President Moïse has added fuel to the fire. "After eight days of popular demonstration and total paralysis of activities in the country, the head of state finally broke his silence without being able to announce concrete measures to end the crisis. Not a word about the measures taken to respond to legitimate popular demands (high cost of living, social justice, loss of purchasing power, devaluation of the gourd, demand for justice and the fight against corruption). It was a missed opportunity for the president, who instead made the situation worse and jeopardized his slim chances of reversing the situation.”
Meanwhile, last Tuesday, the Association of Private Hospitals of Haiti, on behalf of its 28 member hospitals, expressed its deep concern about the rapid deterioration of the socio-economic and political situation in our country. Even today, Le Nouvelliste, the country's largest daily newspaper, pointed out that "hospitals and health centres in the metropolitan area and in provincial cities have been out of oxygen for several days. The raw material necessary for the manufacture of this essential element for hospitals is blocked at the port of Lafiteau due to social unrest.”
Some supermarkets were able to open their doors just for a few hours in the morning to allow a few citizens to stock up, but most of the shelves were empty. The Office de Protection du Citoyen (OPC) recalls that "in various regions, particularly in the metropolitan area, many people no longer have access to water, food and medical care. Pregnant women are forced to give birth at home in difficult conditions because health professionals can’t use safely the public roads. Patients with kidney failure are unable to receive treatment. In provincial hospitals, many patients have already died from lack of oxygen. On the other hand, children from low-income families are starving in many poor neighbourhoods across the country.” The country is fragmented, with no communication between the different districts of the Capital.
What is the way out? How long can the President of the Republic hold out? His incompetence, his clumsiness, his stubbornness and his unpopularity clearly indicate the EXIT DOOR. But be aware! If he has to leave, he must not do so alone because other state authorities are also unfit and corrupt. They take part in our spectacular descent into hell. In a note signed by representatives of the Catholic, Protestant and Anglican churches, addressed to the main actors and protagonists of this crisis, we read the following: "No sacrifice is too great, notably the sacrifice of your pride, your power, your mandate on the one hand, and the sacrifice of your capacity for mobilization or your popular force, on the other hand. The lives of the victims sacrificed in these events are much better.”
Immediate, concrete and effective measures must be taken to improve the living conditions of the population and avoid the humanitarian disaster that awaits us on all sides. All efforts must be combined to facilitate access to safe drinking water, medicines and basic necessities.
The executive, the Prime Minister's Office, the legislature, the judiciary, opposition leaders, supporters of anarchy and violence, the infamous international community and more precisely the Core Group, all are part of the problem and have contributed to increasing the people's misery and fuelling their anger. They all support a system that is outdated, rotten, out of breath, unable to reproduce itself and a real machine of inequality, carelessness, impunity and corruption (el sistema no da más de sí). However, today, this crisis seems to offer us a golden opportunity that we must seize in a hurry to reshuffle the cards of the Haitian nation. This time, there will be no ready-made, remote-controlled and concocted cosmetic solutions from certain local embassies that will only benefit the same small group of crooked and daring politicians who are waiting their turn to loot the state coffers and enrich their clans and families. The time has come for the dialogue so much demanded by all strata of Haitian society. This dialogue requires the participation of honest, competent and credible men and women. It is a whole system, built on contempt for the poorest and blatant inequality, that this dialogue is called upon to overturn. This inclusive national dialogue - every Moun Ladan, even the President - must lead us inevitably to another political regime which, as J. Tardieu advocates, requires a new constitution, the establishment of republican institutions, genuine economic reform and the Petro-Caribe trial.
This is not enough because economic suffocation remains one of the essential notes of the crisis we are currently experiencing. Because of the analysis produced by the Jesuit fathers last December, we are entitled to affirm that the country will not change, the living conditions of the popular masses will not change, the repeated crises will not cease if "the financial circuit and economic activity in general, especially the secondary and tertiary sectors, remain prisoners of a small monopoly elite, opposed to any emergence of a new class of local entrepreneurs. This all-powerful elite, which hardly identifies itself with the majority of the population, is familiar with corrupt practices and lacks any nationalist sentiment, and invests very little in the country.” The country will not change, the discontent, the secular anger of the population and the breakdowns will not remain silent if "the high employers and the major economic actors in general fail to achieve a firm and sincere patriotic awareness and commitment, in order to make an effective contribution to the construction of a more just, equitable and prosperous Haitian society.”
The Haitian people, the popular majority also has its role to play. His posture as a victim does not suit him and no longer corresponds to the seriousness of his situation. He must become an actor. The "good people" who remain locked up and paralyzed in their homes must break with the complicit silence and their sad posture as spectators. At this historic moment in the lives of our people, the press too must live up to its true mission and vocation of training and information, because while we acknowledge the commendable work of our journalists and many radio stations, we must deplore the lack of professionalism and fanaticism that characterize the work of a few and tarnishes the image of our beautiful press of which we were so proud. Hence the true role of religious leaders.
Finally, we Jesuits of Haiti, in the coming hours, will do our duty - at the very risk of our credibility - to contact our natural partners from here and elsewhere as well as other sectors of national life and to propose and think together a space from which we could reflect on the real mechanisms of this dialogue. We want to mobilize all our human and material resources, all our contacts and talents, both national and international, to smooth the ground for this dialogue with a view to building the new society of which we all dream. We would like to learn from the experience and expertise of our Jesuit brothers and universities who have participated in these same processes in countries such as El Salvador and Colombia, to name just a few. We count on the solidarity of the CPAL, the JCU, the Universal Society and the assistance of all men and women of good will to be able to respond effectively to our mission of justice and reconciliation here and now.
Port-au-Prince, February 15, 2019 Rev. P. Jean Denis SAINT-FÉLIX, S.J. Jesuit Superior in Haiti
Father Demetrius MICHAILIDÈS died at the Richelieu infirmary on the evening of June 25. He had joined the Jesuit community at the Richelieu residence in July 2016. He taught dogmatic theology at the Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut, as well as in Belgium and New York.
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