by Yves Pierre-Louis
Workers, peasants, teachers, and the
unemployed continued their protests across Haiti this week. Both
in the capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as in many provincial
towns, Haitians are rising up in growing numbers against
President Michel Martelly, while repression claims a growing
toll of dead and wounded.
Large crowds are now calling on
President Martelly to step down, accusing his government of
embezzlement, waste, corruption, nepotism, drug trafficking,
lying, bluffing, and failure to keep its promises.
Like a spreading wildfire,
people took to the streets in Gonaïves, Nippes, Jérémie, Les
Cayes, Petit Goâve, Trou-du-Nord, Fort-Liberté, Belladère, and
Port-au-Prince, protesting the high cost of living and
unemployment while demanding decent salaries, observance of a
scheduled minimum wage hike, job creation, as well as
electricity, potable water, river clean-up, and the building and
repair of infrastructure.
Port-au-Prince had two major
demonstrations. The first, on Tue. Oct. 2, was organized by the
Movement for the Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity of Haitians (MOLEGHAF),
a grassroots organization based in the capital’s Fort National
neighborhood. Hundreds of MOLEGHAF’s activists, supporters, and
sympathizers marched through the city before rallying, as they
regularly do, outside the offices of the Social Affairs Ministry
to demand improvement of the horrific living conditions in most
of the capital’s poor neighborhoods.
The second demonstration, on
Fri., Oct. 5, was carried out by unions of workers and teachers
to mark World Teachers' Day and the World Day for Decent Work
(Oct. 7). Workers and teachers called for compliance with the
2009 law that, as of Oct. 1, sets the minimum daily wage at 300
gourdes ($7.12). They also demanded jobs with decent wages, the
payment of salary arrears to teachers, and the hiring of all
graduates of the State Teachers College (École Normale
Supérieure) and the Training Center for Basic School (CEFEF),
among other institutions. The demonstrators asked for a base
monthly salary of 50,000 gourdes ($1,186) and other benefits for
teachers, the publication of a law setting tuitions and
regulating teachers’ status, allocating 34% of the Haitian
budget to education, and generally improving working conditions.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 4 in Petit
Goâve, in the locality of Barette, the population demonstrated
when President Martelly inaugurated 1 km of road funded by the
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Presidential
security guards retaliated with tear gas, which killed an
octogenarian as well as some animals. The guards also clubbed
protesters and burned motorcycles.
In Belladère, on Oct. 8
demonstrators rallied to demand the restoration of electricity
in the area, but a man opened fire on them, wounding four
The same day, in Fort Liberté,
people demonstrated to demand a shipping port for their coastal
town. But the city’s hard-line mayor quickly deployed the police
who dispersed the crowd with tear-gas and shots in the air. In
the ensuing melee, a bystander was killed, shot in the back.
More large protests are planned
for Port-au-Prince on Oct. 14 and for Cap-Haïtien on Oct. 17.
Other actions are planned for provincial towns.
Despite eight years of military
occupation by foreign forces, the imperialists seem unable to
prevent the breakdown of the right-wing neo-Duvalierist regime
they installed through an illegal election in March 2011. It is
collapsing under the weight of its own hedonism, arrogance, and