Haiti, Haiti, Haiti! When will things change for you?
On Jan. 1, 1804, you proclaimed your independence. You became the second independent country in the Western Hemisphere and the first free Black republic in the world. What an accomplishment!
Haiti, history states that your “uniqueness attracted much attention and symbolized the aspirations of enslaved and exploited peoples around the globe.”
Haiti, you got such a good start; so why are you still in upheaval and turmoil more than a two centuries later?
The Caribbean Community has recently expressed “deep concern” about Haiti’s political condition because opposition leaders have encouraged their supporters to demonstrate in the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other smaller towns in an effort to oust President Jovenel Moise, who has been in office since February 2017.
Moise came into office amidst accusations of election fraud, but despite that the Trump administration has backed him anyway.
CARICOM has been hearing rumors about misappropriation of funds, specifically funding for PetroCaribe oil programs. Reports done for CARICOM to evaluate the implementation of PetroCaribe programs showed that the process was stalled.
Haiti borrowed oil from Venezuela and deferred the payments for 25 years. The government committed to using the money it raised from selling the oil to grow the economy and fund social programs. But at least $2 billion is missing while an overwhelming number of Haitians are still living in squalor, exposed to cholera and other diseases.
In the end, the Haitian taxpayers are left holding the bag and owing billions of dollars to Venezuela. No wonder they are protesting and demanding Moise’s resignation.
Now, with a political standoff, food crises, fuel shortage and power outages, businesses and schools have closed. Hospitals are on shortened hours and scaled-back services. Citizens already suffering are in further dire straight. They are hoping that nonprofits such as the Red Cross and United Way will provide the basics such as food and water.
The sentiment is that since the 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 230,000 people, Haiti has not been able to recover because there have been tropical storms and hurricanes that further decimated the landscape and has given people living in tents no opportunity to get back on their feet. Some say it is the worst that they have seen the country in the last 15 years.
Many Haitians would like the United States to get involved by sending some form of military assistance but the Trump administration has no plans of doing so at this juncture. As some people would say, “They have other fish to fry” as President Donald Trump deals with an impeachment inquiry tied to an inaction with Ukraine leaders. The administration is also caught up with pulling troops out of Syria. And our president has his eyes on the prize, “re-election in 2020.” He has no time for s---hole countries — as he labeled such nations as Haiti in the past.
We interviewed a friend from Haiti who wishes to remain anonymous and she had this to say:
“As far back as I can remember there has always been some type of rioting or disagreement about the politics in our country,” the friend said. “Other countries come in with the guise of helping but they are only putting a little Band-Aid fix on a festering wound.
“It seems as if we are never able to get our people on the same page. The leaders may not start out corrupt when they are voted into office and by the end of their first year, they are taking bribes, exchanging favors and they seem to do things that favor the upper class,” she added.
“We were fortunate enough where my sister was able to come to the states through a nursing recruitment program and after a number of years she became a citizen and was able to sponsor my application for a visa,” she explained. “That is how my family began their exodus and was to leave all of that behind. It’s not that we don’t love our country but it comes down to having to choose family and survival first.
CARICOM Chairman and St Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has addressed the crisis.
“Although the member states have tried to take a position of non-interference, the fact that a Haitian delegation (during the group’s summit in Castries, St. Lucia) had expressed concerns about the escalating crisis and the safety of their citizens, a decision was taken by the conference to have a prime ministerial delegation visit the country but due to the riots, it has been postponed. We will continue to monitor the situation,” he said.