by Yves Pierre-Louis & Kim Ives
of people from the teeming Fort National neighborhood of
Port-au-Prince took to the streets on Mar. 19 to protest against
the government of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister
Laurent Lamothe, whose policies are increasing unemployment,
inflation, corruption, poverty, and hunger in Haiti.
Over nearly two years since
Martelly came to power, Haiti has sunk to 161st of 186 countries
on the United Nations Development Programme’s 2013 Human
Development Index (HDI), three spots lower than its ranking in
the UNDP’s 2011 Human Development Report.
Fort National is part of the
capital’s hillside slum of Belair, which has been a wellspring
of demonstrations against the 2004 coup d’état, the ensuing
U.S./French/Canadian and then UN military occupations, and now
the neo-Duvalierist Martelly regime.
The spirited protest was called
by the ever-active National Movement for Liberty amd Equality of
Haitians for Fraternity (MOLEGHAF), which often holds weekly
protests in front of the Social Affairs Ministry. Many
demonstrators carried signs saying “Down with Pink Hunger,” a
reference to candidate Martelly’s campaign color. Martelly
partisans now wear pink plastic bracelets.
The demonstrators marched down
several streets, but when they arrived at Belair’s Rue Sans-Fil,
Haitian police diverted them onto the Champ de Mars square,
forcing an end to the protest.
"We provided the police with a
clear indication of our march route,” explained David Oxygène,
MOLEGHAF’s Secretary General. “To our amazement, the Police
simply imposed another route. This is an arbitrary and illegal
action on their part, a violation of our legal rights." Under
Haiti’s Constitution, demonstrators must notify police before
they march but can choose their route. MOLEGHAF had wanted a
different march route, ending with a rally at the Haitian
Parliament in the capital’s Bicentennial Park. Oxygène said the
march notification and route had been duly delivered to the
Haitian Police’s Departmental Directorate of the West (DDO).
"We will continue to fight for
change in the poor popular quarters of the country," said
Oxygène, whose group has led many demonstrations denouncing
unemployment and poverty over the past three years.
Last July, Oxygène and another MOLEGHAF leader were
arrested at their demonstration in front of the Social Affairs
Ministry and held for over two months without charges in Haiti’s
fetid National Penitentiary.