By Staff Writer Eric Sousa
Over the past seven weeks, major cities in Haiti have undergone intense rioting in protests as an outcry against President Moise. Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, has seen incredible unrest as the majority of the country reaches its boiling point. Stores are looted, cars are set aflame, burning tires are strewn through the destroyed streets. The outcry is a response to the rampant corruption in the Haitian government, from the misuse of relief fund money to the scarcity of vital resources. Already, 18 protesters have died in clashes with police and others.
This is not isolated to Haiti’s capital, but instead is occurring across the nation as rioters stampede into affluent cities to let their rage flow. Their protests are directly in response to President Jovenel Moise, Haiti’s controversial president since 2017. Elected under the scrutinized circumstance, the public has maintained a vocal distrust.
The corruption has not set off the fury of just one sect of society, but several. Young citizens, union workers, professors, business associates, and artists are just some of the groups that diversify these riots. Analytically, that is unique: the poor protesting is not a new concept in Haiti, but a large conglomerate of diverse protesters certainly is. “We are in misery and we are starving,” one protester stated. “We cannot stand it anymore.” They all band over one singular, crucial concept; get the thieving President out of office.
These riots were sparked mid-September and have been raging since. It was not a solitary event that put these events into action, but the accumulation of circumstances the populace could no longer silently bear. A widespread gas shortage spurned a large amount of anger. Relief from Venezuela came last year in the form of the PetroCaribe Oil Program. This was a billion-dollar loan to assist the lack of gas availability, the fuel of the society. However, the program never resulted in change.
The “Petrochallengers,” an anti-corruption movement, forced the government to reveal what happened to the billions of Venezuela’s relief fund towards oil. The report directly implicated Moise as a proponent to their corruption, as the funds were misappropriated. My misappropriated, I mean stolen. It was stolen, and all proof points towards their President having a hand in it. Still, he stands in office.
Similarly to how Haiti never saw relief for this PetroCaribe oil program, multiple relief funds since the 2010 earthquake have also been squirreled away. The protester’s rage comes from the fact that, despite the influx of relief funds towards clean water, plentiful food, and livable conditions, the majority of the country has seen no improvement on these fronts. The people are still starving, still, crave drinkable water, and are still being failed by their political infrastructure. Still, Moise stands in office.
In Moise’s 32 months in office, the country has seen a skyrocket of corruption allegations. The inflation rate of the country is 22.6% this month alone. The funded relief efforts never trickled their way to the streets in which they were intended, but instead were caught in nets from greedy politicians.
These riots are the opposition’s “enough is enough” breaking point. Decades of the country’s inability to properly care for its majority have resulted in the present backlash. Opposition leaders call for the resignation of the president, and there are several groups of the opposition. Multiple churches from numerous religions, civil-society groups, and artist-activists call for the corrupt president’s departure. Many promote peace in their protests, namely protests heralded by Haitian artists. However, damage caused by the riots inevitably occurs.
Similar to how a fever spikes to kill an illness but causally damages the host, the protests spike awareness but damages the society. “A small hospital was down to a single day’s supply of oxygen,” wrote Kemper of the NY Times. “…they had to decide who would get it: the adults recovering from strokes and other ailments, or the newborns clinging to life in the neonatal ward.” This hospital in Léogâne is but one of many byproducts of the riots. Due to the riots, supplies could not reach the hospital to alleviate the circumstance.
As the fires burn both on the streets and inside the citizens, the world looks onward in effective silence. The UN calls for peaceful delegation between groups, stating they will “support peaceful solutions.” The United States says less. Moise calls for conversation. The United States calls for conversation. The UN calls for conversation. But the abused and neglected citizens of Haiti no longer call for conversation. They are calling for change.