Haitian demonstrators continue intensified protests after fuel hike announcement

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Protesters continue to demonstrate on the streets of Haiti in response to a proposed fuel hike made by the government. The increase was to help pay back money loaned to Haiti by the International Monetary Fund.

Last Friday afternoon, Haiti’s prime minister, Jack Guy Lafontant, announced that the Administration would raise the prices of fuel. Gasoline would increase by 38 percent and 47 percent for diesel. With less than half a day to prepare, the prices were scheduled to take effect at midnight.

By evening, widespread civil unrest rocked the country. Demonstrators created bonfire roadblocks, torched two police stations, and smashed through offices in Port-au-Prince as well as other cities. Several deaths and multiple injuries have been reported.

The chairman of CARICOM, Andrew Holness, released a statement saying that “The [CARICOM] 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.”

To quell protests, Lafontant backed down from implementing the prices. Now demonstrators want him gone, and say that they will continue to protest until he leaves.

The Consequence of Revolution

Haiti carries a legacy of liberation and struggle. Recorded as the only nation in the Western Hemisphere in which enslaved Africans acquired freedom and sovereignty, it experienced a series of punitive treatment by the countries that it fought. Through years of armed struggle with the most powerful European nations, and the US, and subsequent embargoes and occupations, Haiti is now the poorest country in the region.

According to Latin America scholar, Mikhail Furnace, “During occupation, the US frequently interfered with the politics of the nation. At several points, it aided in the overthrow of elected presidents then installed leaders that were favorable to US interests.”

He continued, “Neo-colonial powers  left the nation with a chronic condition of poverty, instability and weakened infrastructures. Instead of a better system of governance, Haiti became was left more ill-prepared to deal with the education of its people, a fragile economic condition and unequipped to deal with natural disasters.”

A series of leaders coupled with a failing economy caused by occupation, poor administration, and generations of taxation by the French, who were paid reparations for the end of slavery, resulted in a country that has existed in economic and political instability since its Revolution.

In 2010, the conditions of Haiti worsened with a January earthquake that devastated a compromised infrastructure. To add to the issues, the country experienced cholera outbreaks as a result of UN soldiers dumping fecal matter into rivers that served as their only water supply. A recent scandal from the global charity organization, Oxfam, revealed that its volunteers and employees paid sex workers and forced Haitians to trade sex for aid during the aftermath of the earthquake. As well, over a billion dollars raised to help rebuild Haiti largely did not make it to assist in recovery, but aligned the pockets of organizations like the American Red Cross.

With is economic paralysis, Haitian citizens expressed profound outrage at fuel price increases.

Currently, commercial US air carriers have postponed flights and embassies are closed. The United Nations is monitoring the situation.

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