October 12, 2019; The Root
This year, NPQ readers have watched citizens rise up against unjust systems and, in some cases, win. This month, we look to Haiti, where protestors are demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse.
Moïse is implicated in a scandal called “PetroChallenge.” After the 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands, Venezuela offered financing for social programs to Haiti through its PetroCaribe program. An audit found that Moïse and his government embezzled billions.
It’s not just Moïse whom protestors resent. The government as a whole has not lived up to its promises for years. Since the fall of “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc,” only two Haitian presidents have lasted a full term. Citizens say the whole system needs examining. One protestor said, not without some truth, “No government has ever done anything for us.” Nine years later, piles of rubble from the quake still haven’t been cleared.
Maria Gracia Santillana at IR Insider explained that many blame US meddling in Haitian politics for the quagmire. As it has in many countries, the US has supported or propped up leaders who support its interests, sometimes at the expense of the country’s wellbeing. “There is no trust in institutions,” said Professor Etzer Emile of Haiti’s Quisqueya University.
Haitians say they have had enough and have effectively shut down the capital for weeks. Schools and businesses are closed, and protestors promise they will remain so until Moïse steps down.
Twenty people have died in the past month, including three journalists. Néhémie Joseph of Radio Méga was killed on Thursday, after he said that politicians had been threatening him for reporting on the protests.
Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles has been reporting on Haiti for over 10 years. She writes that on Sunday, churches, civil society groups, businesses, and other citizens were called together by artists for a peaceful march. She described a “carnival atmosphere” in which protestors sang Jovenel lage pyew and (“get out Jovenal”) Jojo Domi Deyo (“game over, Jojo”).
The artists included Joseph “T-Joe” Zenny, lead singer of the Haitian konpa group Kreyol La, and solo artist Roody Roodboy. The largest protest was in the capital, Port-au-Prince, but a parallel protest was held in Cap-Haitien.
Over 100 civil society organizations signed a letter supporting a transition, describing “material and moral misery” and “enormous frustrations.” After months of resistance, Moïse caved and said he would agree to convene a commission to find a solution, but many protesters have called this “too little, too late.”
“It’s not one person, it’s not one regime, it’s not a president, it’s not the bourgeoisie, but it’s us who should do it,” one Haitian youth told Santillana.
NPQ readers will remember this past summer’s protests in Puerto Rico. Cyndi Suarez said then, “The discourses for a more equitable future are coming not from leaders in these systems, but from artists.”
In Haiti, protests are coming from artists, entrepreneurs, and citizens who’ve empowered themselves. They honor the fallen journalists and hold out for change.—Erin Rubin