Tue, Oct 08, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Protests choke communities in Haiti

AP, LEOGANE, Haiti

Gabriel Duvalesse squatted slightly as he prepared to push 190 liters of cooking oil in an old wheelbarrow to an outdoors market an hour away so that he could earn US$1.

It was his first job in seven days as deadly protests paralyze Haiti’s economy and shutter businesses and schools.

Opposition leaders and thousands of supporters are demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise amid anger over government corruption, ballooning inflation and scarcity of fuel and other basic goods.

Seventeen people have been reported killed and nearly 200 injured in the protests.

The political turmoil is hitting cities and towns outside the capital of Port-au-Prince especially hard, forcing non-government organizations to suspend aid as barricades of large rocks and burning tires cut off the flow of goods between the city and the countryside.

The crisis is worsening poverty in places such as Leogane, the epicenter of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

“We are starving,” said Duvalesse, 28, who has been unable to work. “I had to make US$2 last one week.”

The UN said that before the protests even began, about 2.6 million people across Haiti were vulnerable to food shortages, adding that roadblocks have severely affected some humanitarian programs.

On Sept. 16, the World Food Programme was forced to suspend all food deliveries to schools as demonstrations started.

Meanwhile, cash transfers to about 37,000 people in need were postponed.

UN officials also said that private transporters are reluctant to deliver goods given the security situation, a problem that Leogane business owner Vangly Germeille knows well.

He owns a wholesale company that sells items including rice, soap, cooking oil and cereal to small markets, but his warehouse is nearly empty and he struggles to find truck drivers willing to go to markets to deliver the goods because of thieves and barricades.

“It’s an enormous economic loss,” said Germeille, a father of two who is thinking of moving to the Dominican Republic if things do not improve soon. “If there’s no way to make a living here, I can’t stay.”

Rice, coconuts, milk and diapers are among the dozens of goods that people in this coastal community of more than 200,000 inhabitants say are hard to find since the protests began in mid-September.

On Saturday, a grocery store near the town’s center opened briefly to sell rice, 40-year-old IT engineer Sony Raymond said.

“In less than three hours it was gone,” he said. “Leogane is basically paralyzed.”

Security concerns grew on Sunday after onlookers said they saw two men fatally shoot a third to steal his bike in Leogane.

The crowd then went after the two men with machetes, dragging one of them through the street while witnesses said the other committed suicide.

All three bodies still lay on the street hours after it happened, with one ambulance passing by without stopping.

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