Haiti: protests follow Martelly to New York

A series of demonstrations that started in Cap-Haïtien, North department, on Sept. 12 to protest rising food prices and alleged corruption in the government of Haitian president Michel Martelly continued in various cities during the last week of September. Several hundred students demonstrated in Gonaïves, the main city in the northwestern Artibonite department, on Sept. 24 to protest Education Minister Vaneur Pierre’s visit to the Public University of the Artibonite at Gonaïves (UPAG). Pierre had to leave the campus; his vehicle remained in the control of student protesters for several hours. Chanting slogans against the Martelly government, the students then built barricades in the Bigot neighborhood in the south of the city and tied up traffic for several hours. (AlterPresse, Haiti, Sept. 25)

Several thousand people demonstrated in Cap-Haïtien on Sept. 27 in the city’s third major demonstration of the month. As in the earlier protests, North department senator Moïse Jean-Charles played a leading role. On this occasion Jean-Charles noted that the march had brought together different factions in the opposition, such as the Organization of the People in Struggle (OPL) and the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). The senator announced that Martelly needed to resign within two months but insisted that the president’s departure wouldn’t be accompanied by violence.

Dozens of people demonstrated on Sept. 27 in Jérémie, in the southwestern department of Grand Anse. In addition to protesting rising prices, they demanded clean water and access to electricity. (Radio Métropole, Haiti, Sep. 28; AlterPresse, Sept. 28)

Several thousand people marched past the ruins of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince on Sept. 30 to protest the high cost of living and to mark the 21st anniversary of the coup against Aristide that led to three years of de facto military rule. Although organized by FL, the demonstration included figures from other parties, such as Paul Denis, director of the Unity party of former president René Préval (1996-2001, 2006-2011). (AlterPresse, Sept. 30)

Statistics on recent price increases aren’t readily available, but the Haitian internet news service AlterPresse cited several examples from residents of Anse-à-Pitres in Southeast department. Since August the price of a 25-kilogram sack of rice has risen from 900 to 1,150 gourdes ($21.35 to $27.28), the residents said; a sack of flour went from 1,100 to 1,300 gourdes ($26.10 to $30.84); and a gallon of cooking oil rose from 300 to 450 gourdes ($7.12 to $8.07). However, the residents said the problem wasn’t limited to Haiti; they found similar price increases at the market in Pedernales across the Dominican border. (AlterPresse, Sept. 27)

President Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe were in New York during the last week of September for the opening of the 67th United Nations (UN) General Assembly. Martelly and Lamothe held a public event with several hundred members of New York’s large Haitian community the night of Sept. 26 at Brooklyn College. Martelly claimed his administration had made advances in promoting education and in stimulating the economy, citing the creation of 6,000 jobs at the new “free trade zone” at Caracol in northern Haiti. (Haïti Libre, Haiti, Sept. 28)

Across the street from the campus several hundred other New Yorkers of Haitian origin stood in an intermittent light rain protesting the president. “Down with Martelly, down with the UN occupation”—a reference to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)–was a popular sign. Other protesters held up pictures of Martelly from his earlier career as the popular singer “Sweet Micky,” with the future president making obscene gestures or wearing revealing costumes. (Report from Update editor)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 30.