Haiti: anti-Martelly march is attacked

Several thousand Haitians marched for four hours through much of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area on Nov. 7 to protest the government of President Joseph Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) and Prime Minister Laurent Salvador Lamothe. The march, which riot police dispersed on two occasions with tear gas, was sponsored by several groups, including the Patriotic Force for Respect for the Constitution (Fopak), a base organization close to the populist Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004).

The march began in northeastern Port-au-Prince in the impoverished neighborhood of Bel-Air, a stronghold of opposition to Martelly. The demonstrators proceeded east through the commune of Delmas and then southeast into PĆ©tionville, a suburb in the hills where many of the elite live, including President Martelly, although several impoverished neighborhoodsā€”such as Jalousie, where residents live precariously on a hillsideā€”are also in the PĆ©tionville commune. Some people presumed to be Martelly supporters fired into the air when the march entered PĆ©tionville, and other counter-demonstrators threw stones at the marchers from rooftops, scattering street vendors and passersby along with the protesters. The Corps for Intervention and the Maintenance of Order (CIMO) of the Haitian National Police (PNH) then used tear gas to disperse the march.

The demonstration regrouped and headed back into Port-au-Prince, attempting to gather in the city center at the Champ de Mars park and the ruins of the National Palace, which was destroyed in a January 2010 earthquake. CIMO agents again used tear gas to break up the demonstration. (New York Times, Nov. 7, from AP; AlterPresse, Haiti, Nov. 8)

Earlier in the week, about 100 protesters, mostly university students, burned tires and hurled stones at police outside the presidential offices on Nov. 4 as US education secretary Arne Duncan met with President Martelly. The students were protesting classroom conditions. One told the Associated Press wire service that his school had no library, classrooms had no lights and teachers rarely arrived at their classes. (NYT, Nov. 4, from AP) Also on Nov. 4, professors ended a strike at the State University of Haiti (UEH), whose various schools are scattered around downtown Port-au-Prince. The professors began their job action on Oct. 15 to demand a salary increase; they are also seeking a more modern structure for the UEH’s administration. “The professors have other forms of struggle, even if the strike has ended,” Professor LunĆ© Roc Pierre Louis told reporters. (AlterPresse, Nov. 5)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 10.