By Joe Colas
JACMEL, Haiti (HCNN)– Haitian authorities organized on Sunday, in the southern town of Jacmel, carnival festivities amid intense political tension with the launch on Monday of a two-day general strike by opposition hardliners, who continue to demand the resignation of the Caribbean country’s leader and a more significant reduction in gas prices.
Thousands of Haitians participate every Sunday, since Jan. 18, in a series of pre-carnival festivities that will culminate in the formal three-day carnival parade which, kicks off on Sunday Feb. 15, in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.
However, despite the main national carnival parade that takes place every year, the southern town of Jacmel traditionally organizes its own carnival one week before the larger parade in the country’s capital.
Haitian Prime Minister Evans Paul congratulated the organizers of the Jacmel carnival for the parade and the creativity of the artists and designers who made the masks and the costumes during the carnival unfolding in Jacmel on Sunday.
“I congratulate the organizers and the artists for their creativity and a parade very well organized with beautiful colors and great dance moves,” Paul told HCNN on Sunday, calling on all carnival goers to celebrate peacefully and to enjoy the festivities in a moderate and responsible manner.
In the meantime, radical opposition groups launched on Monday a two-day general strike that was widely followed particularly in the Haitian capital’s metropolitan area. The second day of the strike is also widely observed, with public transportation, and the functioning of banks and other institutions almost completely paralyzed.
The call for the strike was accompanied with a threat for those who would fail to comply with the call, causing many to refrain from going about their businesses as usual. They feared they could be the victims of attacks from opposition groups and their supporters who called for the general strike that opposition activist André Fardeau called “Operation empty streets.”
“We don’t want to see any vehicles on the streets on Monday and Tuesday. So we warned everyone against going about their businesses as usual. You have to stay home because we want the streets to be empty,” said Fardeau linked to the Lavalas Family party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Fardeau and his colleague opposition activist Assad Volcy said they will continue to mobilize in order to obtain the resignation of Martelly whose term ends in Feb. 7, 2016.
Prime Minister Paul condemned the threats of violence uttered by opposition activists over the past days and gave the guarantee that law enforcement authorities will take all necessary measures to foil plans orchestrated by potential trouble makers.
“We have instructed the police to enforce the law against anyone who would try to exercise violence against people who do not wish to comply with the call for general strike,” Paul told HCNN on Sunday as he walked on the carnival road in Jacmel.
“No one has a right to force people to observe a strike. This is against democracy and on behalf of President Michel Martelly and of the government that I head, I ask everyone who don’t take part in the strike to go about their activities,” said Paul. “No act of violence will be accepted or tolerated.”