Major protests erupted on July 6 in Haiti as the government announced a sharp increase in gasoline prices, with demonstrators using burning tires and barricades to block major streets across the capital and in the northern city of Cap-Haitien. One week after the protests erupted, former Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant resigned from his post. While the riots were attributed to the gas price increase, the move was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and is a consequence of a number of problems the Haitian people have been dealing with for several years.
Here are three situations you should know that will put the fuel riots in context.
IMF behind rising fuel prices
The rise of prices is a direct consequence of the agreements signed in February between the government of Haiti and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), when the latter demanded the elimination of subsidies on the fuels and retailers. These asymmetric negotiations have to be seen within the context of the chronic dependence of the Haitian State on “external aid”, both from European and North American NGOs, and from the budgetary injection of international credit institutions. On June 29, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) offered budgetary support of 40 million dollars in exchange for concretizing the increase in tariffs that had been delayed due to the opposition by transport unions, the public sector and the Haitian people. Continue reading
Government corruption – $2 Billion Embezzled
Last fall, a special Haitian Senate commission accused more than a dozen former government officials and heads of private firms of embezzling $2 billion in Venezuelan oil loans — money that could have helped the country rebuild after its devastating earthquake in 2010.
The nearly $2 billion that was paid out came from the country’s Venezuelan oil largess, known as PetroCaribe. It provides Haiti and several other cash-strapped Caribbean countries with subsidized oil on favorable financing terms. The debt is stretched over a 25-year period with a 1 percent interest rate and a two- to three-year grace period allowing the countries to use the savings to finance social and economic projects.
“It can be declared that the PETROCARIBE has been the object of embezzlement, embezzlement, embezzlement and prevarication on the part of those indexed in this report,” the commission’s report concluded. Continue reading
Half of the country’s population is malnourished. According to the World Food Programme, 1.32 million people are in Phase 3 Crisis, which means they are severely food insecure. Additionally, three million people are in Phase 2 Stress, which mean they are food insecure.
Haiti’s new President Jovenel Moise took office, with the promise to increase support to the country’s agricultural sectors.
However, farmers denounce that only 6.9 percent of next year’s budget has been assigned to assist communities in desperate need of help. Moise has also raised taxes and that’s why demonstrations have been ongoing in the capital for months.