Haiti: evictions of quake survivors continue

On Jan. 12, the third anniversary of a massive earthquake that devastated much of southern Haiti, municipal and national authorities forcibly removed hundreds of people left homeless by the quake from their encampment in Place Sainte Anne, a park a few blocks from the National Palace in downtown Port-au-Prince. “Several injuries have been recorded in this unexpected eviction,” Carnise Delbrun, a representative of the New Place Sainte Anne Management Commission (NCGPS), told reporters. The operation was carried out by officials from the mayor’s office and from the national Civil Protection Office, the country’s civil defense agency, according to the displaced camp residents.

Camp residents claim Civil Protection was supposed to provide each family with a check for 20,000 gourdes (about US$473), as part of the national government’s program to move homeless people out of the camps by giving them small amounts of money. “They evicted these poor people on the pretext that everyone had already received this 20,000 gourde check to go find shelter somewhere else,” Delbrun said. But 552 families never got their payment, according to another NCGPS representative, Mario James Michaud. “About 20 people out of every 100 have benefited from this money,” he said, claiming that municipal authorities had only distributed the checks to their friends.

Dozens of families demonstrated on Jan. 22, saying they still hadn’t received their payment and threatening to rebuild their temporary shelters in the park. (Haiti Press Network, Haiti, Jan. 14; AlterPresse, Haiti, Jan. 22)

In other news, a man identified as Pamphile Bellefort was killed on Jan. 22 in the city of Jérémie in the southwestern department of Grand’Anse during renewed protests over delays in a project for repairing the 69-km highway from Jérémie to Les Cayes in South department. Another man had been killed during an earlier protest on Nov. 27. Bellefort was reportedly shot by a guard at the Jérémie penitentiary who thought the protesters were trying to invade the prison. Demonstrators reacted to the new violence by setting up flaming barricades and shutting down most economic activity in the city. (AlterPresse, Jan. 22; Radio Métropole, Haiti, Jan. 23)

The three-year-old highway renovation was halted in August 2012 when the Brazilian company that won the contract abruptly suspended its operations. According to Susana Ferreira of the Reuters wire service, one factor was the common confusion about property titles in Haiti; it was unclear who should be compensated for some of the roadside homes that would be demolished to widen the highway. Government officials say the Dominican construction company Estrella will soon be taking over the project. (Reuters, Jan. 27)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 27.