Workers, peasants, teachers, and the unemployed continued their protests across Haiti this week. Both in the capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as in many provincial towns, Haitians are rising up in growing numbers against President Michel Martelly, while repression claims a growing toll of dead and wounded.
Large crowds are now calling on President Martelly to step down, accusing his government of embezzlement, waste, corruption, nepotism, drug trafficking, lying, bluffing, and failure to keep its promises.
Like a spreading wildfire, people took to the streets in Gonaïves, Nippes, Jérémie, Les Cayes, Petit Goâve, Trou-du-Nord, Fort-Liberté, Belladère, and Port-au-Prince, protesting the high cost of living and unemployment while demanding decent salaries, observance of a scheduled minimum wage hike, job creation, as well as electricity, potable water, river clean-up, and the building and repair of infrastructure.
Port-au-Prince had two major demonstrations. The first, on Tue. Oct. 2, was organized by the Movement for the Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity of Haitians (MOLEGHAF), a grassroots organization based in the capital’s Fort National neighborhood. Hundreds of MOLEGHAF’s activists, supporters, and sympathizers marched through the city before rallying, as they regularly do, outside the offices of the Social Affairs Ministry to demand improvement of the horrific living conditions in most of the capital’s poor neighborhoods.
The second demonstration, on Fri., Oct. 5, was carried out by unions of workers and teachers to mark World Teachers' Day and the World Day for Decent Work (Oct. 7). Workers and teachers called for compliance with the 2009 law that, as of Oct. 1, sets the minimum daily wage at 300 gourdes ($7.12). They also demanded jobs with decent wages, the payment of salary arrears to teachers, and the hiring of all graduates of the State Teachers College (École Normale Supérieure) and the Training Center for Basic School (CEFEF), among other institutions. The demonstrators asked for a base monthly salary of 50,000 gourdes ($1,186) and other benefits for teachers, the publication of a law setting tuitions and regulating teachers’ status, allocating 34% of the Haitian budget to education, and generally improving working conditions.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 4 in Petit Goâve, in the locality of Barette, the population demonstrated when President Martelly inaugurated 1 km of road funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Presidential security guards retaliated with tear gas, which killed an octogenarian as well as some animals. The guards also clubbed protesters and burned motorcycles.
In Belladère, on Oct. 8 demonstrators rallied to demand the restoration of electricity in the area, but a man opened fire on them, wounding four people.
The same day, in Fort Liberté, people demonstrated to demand a shipping port for their coastal town. But the city’s hard-line mayor quickly deployed the police who dispersed the crowd with tear-gas and shots in the air. In the ensuing melee, a bystander was killed, shot in the back.
More large protests are planned for Port-au-Prince on Oct. 14 and for Cap-Haïtien on Oct. 17. Other actions are planned for provincial towns.
Despite eight years of military occupation by foreign forces, the imperialists seem unable to prevent the breakdown of the right-wing neo-Duvalierist regime they installed through an illegal election in March 2011. It is collapsing under the weight of its own hedonism, arrogance, and corruption.
The Oct. 5 march of teachers and other workers in Port-au-Prince. “Workers should have good conditions” said the sign, in Kreyòl, of one protestor.
Photo by Haïti Liberté