by Fr. Jean Denis Saint Félix, SJ
Supérieur des jésuites en Haïti
February 15, 2019 — As you know, the country’s political and social situation is becoming increasingly volatile. The population, left to its own devices, remained trapped in their homes for fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everywhere, here in Port-au-Prince and in the cities of the provinces, there is fear and uncertainty. Daily demonstrations turn into scenes of violence and looting. Most gas pumps are vandalized, several businesses have been ransacked and looted, vehicles, especially those of the State Service (S.E.), are burned, as well as some public and private institutions. The police are literally overwhelmed by events. She lets it happen at the risk of being victimized by the angry crowd.
In the metropolitan area of the capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as in several provincial cities, burning used tires, stones, rubbish, vehicle bodies and many miscellaneous objects are scattered in several districts, making it difficult for cars to circulate inside the cities and on national roads between the various geographical departments. As in previous days, to block access to the various roads and arteries, barricades made of various debris, burning used tires, stones, etc., have been erected everywhere in Port-au-Prince, on national roads and in various districts.
The authorities, the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister are completely silent, with great contempt for an entire population.
I have great difficulty seeing how this government can continue because it is being criticized on all sides for its incompetence and its inability to react well and on time. We are calling for the pure and simple departure of the President of the Republic, Jovenel Moïse, as well as that of Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant. Parliament is also discredited. An exit from the crisis is not for tomorrow, even with these departures or resignations. The options are not clear because the political opposition also has no credibility. Meanwhile, the people are desperate, it’s starting to last too long. The crisis is beginning to take on a particular form. For a people who live from day to day, it is impossible to hold on. We’re hungry and thirsty.
On the Jesuit side: like the population, we got stuck in the communities – caution is required. We are in constant communication. Father Perard, who had returned for the extended consultation, was unable to return to the North. I finally returned this morning from Tabarre where the seminar on the Caribbean was to take place and from which it was decided to postpone due to the situation in the country. The streets were scary and deserted, except for the barricades that were still visible and tires were still burning.
Thanks to the diligence of Father Thomas and Antony, the delegates returned home – I admire their patience and calm – I left the last group, the Cubans, at the airport before returning. The delegation of the Dominican Republic (Max, Martin, Juan Ayala and Edward) are still within our walls because they had to turn back this morning because they could not cross the barricades of burning tires. They are currently at the Spirituality Center.
The Haitian Bishops’ Conference (HEC) issued a note yesterday deploring the violence and calling for respect for human life and material property while urging the authorities concerned to make sacrifices in the best interests of the nation.
For our part, we believe that this situation cannot and must no longer continue. Our future as a people is totally mortgaged. In recent days we have regressed enormously – the already fragile economy has taken huge blows. The loss of human lives and material assets is already enormous. Since February 7, fear and anguish have won the minds and hearts of many people. We know very well that in all this the real victims are the most vulnerable, the poorest. In the face of all this, the actors must assume their responsibilities and draw the necessary conclusions at this time of great suffering and pain. We also call for the solidarity of all so that the existence of our people and its destiny will not be forgotten.
We remain confident in the Lord of life so that He may give us the grace to discern the best way to be present among His people so that hope may finally spring up on this earth.