By Onz Chery and Juhakenson Blaise
LES CAYES, Haiti — One day after at least one person was killed and two planes were set ablaze during widespread demonstrations across Haiti, the southern region’s police chief has been replaced.
Jean Bazelais Bornelus, the head of the police force in the Southern Department was replaced by Daniel Compere Wednesday, according to Garry Desrosiers, a National Haitian Police (PNH) spokesperson. Les Cayes, where the death occurred, is located in the Southern Department.
Bornelus was installed in the role for the Southern Department only on March 18. His successor, Compere, is a former head of police in both Petit-Goave and the Northern Department.
Authorities have not provided details, including the identity, about the person killed. In addition to the known death, at least seven people were reported injured, including four police officers. The windows of four police vehicles were also smashed in Les Cayes, according to Pierre Yves Lessage, PNH’s spokesperson in the Southern Department.
Demonstrators also burned two airplanes in Les Cayes and Jacmel, located in the Southeast Department.
“Ni atè, ni anlè (No ground, no air)”
The mayhem came on Mar. 29, the 35th anniversary of Haiti’s constitution. About 40 groups had called for demonstrations to demand more security and other solutions to the country’s various crises.
“We strongly condemn [Prime Minister] Ariel Henry, who spent more than eight months as prime minister and showed that he’s incapable of providing security in the country,” said Ebens Cadet, spokesperson of Nou Konsyan, an political activist group in Port-au-Prince.
In Les Cayes and Jacmel, protesters also burned two planes because, they said, local airlines are capitalizing on the land travel being too unsafe with armed gangs blocking Martissant, a key town whose roads connect the South to Port-au-Prince, Cadet said. Airlines have been charging about $100 for travel between Port-au-Prince and Les Cayes, a move that residents found unconscionable and yet another indication of people with means having more, unfair access.
However, the plane they burned in Les Cayes belongs to Agape Flights, a non-profit organization that delivers mail and supplies to missionaries in the Caribbean. It was being used by a group of American missionaries from Florida, according to Lessage.
“They assume the airlines control the gangs and are profiting off of the insecurities,” Agape Flights said on its website. “Agape’s plane, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Haiti’s southern region is still in the midst of recovering from a deadly earthquake that struck last August and several others that have since shook the towns.
“Si pa gen atè, pap gen anlè.” That’s the cry many protesters shouted in Creole while the planes burned. It means in English, “no ground [travel], no air [travel] either.”
Eyewitnesses said protesters had marched peacefully and entered the local airport, despite seeing police firing tear gas at them. The demonstrators pushed the plane down on the tarmac. The plane was later seen on a nearby street, where it was set on fire.
Henry said via Twitter that he condemned the incident as “subversive” and called for perpetrators to be investigated.
In Jacmel, protesters also set fire to a non-functioning airplane. Residents had taken to the streets to express their frustration with the socio-economic and political problems plaguing the country, in solidarity with other locations when they came upon the debris of a plane that had recently crash-landed at the Jacmel aerodrome.
Carrying signs and shouting as they marched, the protesters demanded that Henry be held accountable for managing the country and to stop gang activities. The demonstrators vowed to continue with this protest movement “until the country is free of gang activity” and becomes more affordable.
More protests were held in Port-au-Prince Wednesday.
Jean-Paul Saint-Fleur contributed to this report from Jacmel.