Haiti: students arrested in new protests

On Sept. 9 Haitian riot police and SWAT teams entered the grounds of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy (FMP) of the State University of Haiti (UEH) in downtown Port-au-Prince and arrested about 20 students who had been occupying a building there since Sept. 7 to prevent the start of classes. Although police agents are generally not allowed on campuses in Haiti, the authorities said the raid was legal because the school’s administration had asked for it and a justice of the peace was present to monitor the operation. Students from the UEH’s Faculty of Ethnology responded to the raid by throwing rocks, and demonstrations continued at least through Sept. 11, when some 40 vehicles were reportedly attacked by students.

UEH students have been protesting regularly since last winter over curriculum changes and in solidarity with workers demanding a minimum wage of 200 gourdes a day (about $4.97). “[T]his is a class struggle, an intergenerational struggle,” said FMP student Jean Blaise Bontemps, wearing his doctor’s gown, on Sept. 9. “Our demands are just.” (AlterPresse, Sept. 9; Haiti Press Network, Sept. 9, 11)

On Sept. 11 the Senate voted 18-0 with three abstentions for a modified minimum wage measure proposed by President René Préval and approved on Aug. 15 by the Chamber of Deputies. With both chambers of the Parliament approving the new measure, Préval is expected to promulgate the measure as law. According to Haitian news reports, the new measure fixes the minimum wage at 125 gourdes ($3.11) a day for workers in the assembly industry—the plants assembling principally for export, known in Spanish as maquiladoras—but at 200 gourdes for other industrial workers. (Previously our sources were unclear on whether the 125 gourdes minimum would apply to all industrial workers.) (AlterPresse, Sept. 11)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 13

See our last post on Haiti.