PORT-AU PRINCE, Haiti — The morning after Haitian president, Jovenel Moïse, reversed an earlier policy initiative to remove a fuel subsidy and urged protestors to “go home” and for the embattled country to return to calm after the subsidy removal sparked violent protests over the last three days, Haiti is returning to normal.
Streets are being cleared and the country was getting back to a normal Sunday morning peace, according to Caribbean News Now contributor, Jean Charles.
Speaking to Caribbean News Now after making several radio appearances throughout the day, Charles made it clear that he is “hopeful” that things can get back to normal and that people will return to their regularly scheduled daily lives without any further fallout from this very tense situation.
Charles, who was also a former presidential candidate in the 2016 elections in Haiti, said that, when he came back from the inner-city in Port-au-Prince and the other affected areas, the streets were clear, children were playing soccer in the open and people were going back to their regular routines.
However, he also cautioned that angst and resentment towards the government still lingers over the attempt at the fuel price hike, according to interviews with people on the ground, and that it will be something that people will remember as the Moise administration moves forward in this term.
Flights started to leave Haiti as of Monday morning, notably American Airlines and JetBlue flights, as vacationers who were trapped as a result of the cancelation of flights to and from the country and were trying urgently to get out of the very tense and scary situation can now leave in some semblance of order. In addition, a small number of airlines have begun servicing the island again with inbound flights into Port-au-Prince.
Monday was also the first day residents had seen the police force and other armed services personnel out in full force since the riots started.
Thus far, the police or any of the armed services personnel have not engaged any protesters in a violent or confrontational manner during the three days of intense rioting, as those said to have been killed and injured were brought into harm’s way by other protesters and rioters in the act of vandalism and looting. Some ten people are said to have been killed on the streets during the riots.
An estimated 80 deaths have also been reported as a result of an attempted prison break and a riot within the prison, with several others injured as a result of clashes between prisoners and prison guards and other armed personnel and between the prisoners themselves.
When asked directly this morning about the casualties at the prison and whether he can confirm the body count, the minister for national security, Lener Renaud, refused to give an estimate or acknowledge the number alleged to have been killed.
Supermarkets, car dealerships and other stores were severely damaged in the capital of Port-au Prince and surrounding areas. Damages are being assessed, but it is too early to give a dollar estimate on the reconstruction costs and what all ancillary costs will be incurred by the government and/or the various insurance companies.
The contentious fuel subsidy, implemented post-2010 earthquake in Haiti, was supposed to be a temporary measure.
The costs of administering the fuel subsidy was estimated by the World Bank as of 2014 to be some 2.2 percent of GDP and climbing, more than the expenditure on healthcare in the same year, which received slightly above 0.8 percent of GDP.
The overall cost is what prompted the government of Haiti in February 2018, in concert and with consultation and advice from the IMF, to make good on an earlier 2016 election pledge by Moise to remove the subsidy altogether as it was seen as hampering the overall development and wider economy Haiti.
Elected in 2016 as a member of the Haitian Tèt Kale Party (Bald Head Party), Moise’s term ends in 2022, when the next elections are constitutionally mandated in late 2021.
It is unclear as to whether or not there will be a strong move to do something before the 2021 deadline, as the opposition forces are disorganised and the main opposition party, Fanmi Lavalas, led by former Haitian president, Jean Bertrand-Aristide, is more or less moribund.
Despite this setback and recent spate of unfortunate circumstances, Charles sees this is an opportunity for Haiti and he is “very optimistic” that the Haitian people can see things more clearly now, especially after calm came back to the streets and the people have been heard.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, said in a statement that “The Community deplores the loss of life, property and the damage to infrastructure and calls for restraint and an end to the protests and the violence.”
The Community noted that the issues that have triggered these protests can only be resolved in an atmosphere of calm. In that regard the Community welcomed actions being taken to defuse the situation.
Holness added that the Community looks forward to an early return to normalcy and welcomes in the interim, the support of the United Nations in monitoring the situation.
by Youri Aramin Kemp, Caribbean News Now(U.S.A)
July 9, 2018