Port-au-Prince, Haiti. October 2019. Photo Credit: Vania André

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center.

By Vania André

Less than two months ago, parts of Port-au-Prince seemed like a ghost town. Streets and parks normally bustling with commerce and people were nearly empty.  

Market women, who normally lined the roads selling everything from food to second-hand cellphones, were few and far between. Charred tires, piles of rocks, and makeshift barricades, the remnants of months of protests against the government, could be seen throughout the capital. The once pristine Petionville,  an affluent suburb of Port-au-Prince, was barely recognizable in some parts, with trash overrunning the streets. 

Over the last 18 months, Haiti has been in the throes of a perpetual cycle of protests —  some violent — and unrest that has destabilized the country for weeks at a time. Years of pent-up frustration over rising inflation and basic costs of necessities on the island came to a boil during a week in July 2018, when the Haitian government nearly doubled fuel prices over night. The move, which was a condition for future aid imposed by the International Monetary Fund, sparked outrage that spilled into the streets, leaving Haiti’s capital charred by flames and fury. People were barricaded in their homes, offices, restaurants, while thousands of people took to the streets rallying against the fuel hike. 

The Best Western, which permanently closed its doors on Oct. 31, loomed over Petionville as a symbolic and literal reminder of the state of affairs in Haiti. For many, the U.S.-based hotel chain’s arrival in the country had marked a positive new turn in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake.

Now, it seems, the hopeful signs have come undone. While daily life in Haiti has always been difficult for most Haitians, the past 18 months on the island have been particularly hard. As the country finds itself in the throes of a fluctuating political, economic and social crisis, the capital city has been virtually paralyzed, with schools, businesses, and banks closed for days, if not weeks, at a time.

This was not the Haiti anyone had hoped for 10 years after the disaster. Continue reading

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