Saturday Express Editorial

HAITI’S economy is paralysed. Demonstrators fight police, block roads and loot stores several times a week. President Jovanel Moise is avoiding public appearances. And many people from political parties old and new are vying to become the country’s next leader.

Thus began the report which appeared in this newspaper yesterday.

It summed up the situation as it now exists in this Caricom member state where near-indescribable hardships brought on by natural hazards or by corruption and malfeasance of those in high office have been a fact of life for far too long.

Nearly 20 people have died and about 200 injured in protests fuelled by anger over corruption, rising inflation and scarcity of basic goods, including fuel, the report said.

Having been elected to office in February, 2017, President Moise has been under pressure to step down for much of the last year.

He is vowing to hold on to what evidently will be a bitter end.

One NGO leader, head of a think tank known as the Centre for the Promotion of Democracy and Participatory Education, has been reported saying that the country has become “completely dysfunctional” in a situation in which there’s no trust in institutions.

It gets worse. The president of the Haitian senate has declared that the country needs “a genuine re-engineering so it can move forward, because everyone is failing as a leader”.

Haiti has had the unenviable and unremitting image as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with all that comes with this. Leaders have typically not being able to complete their elected terms, falling victim to charges of graft, corruption and mismanagement.

Defiant in the face of the unrelenting calls for him to step down, President Moise has lately proposed a seven-member team aimed at promoting dialogue towards a solution to the current crisis.

This has largely been rejected.

As a result of the decades of turmoil which has rented their society apart, Haitian nationals have been seeking safer haven in places where they hope to find means to better lives.

But their situation, as exposed once more with the ravages wrought on the Bahamian island of Abaco, has been rendered more hazardous.

Having been hit hard by Hurricane Dorian’s deadly winds and floods, Haitian nationals there now face deportation. This is despite the fact that some of them have been there for decades and have families who are Bahamas-born.

Those who might have been among the Bahamian nationals airlifted to Miami in the wake of Dorian’s might face similar fates.

In the Dominican Republic, the country occupying a third of the island of Hispaniola, with Haiti occupying the rest, Haitians living and working there for generations have faced renewed isolation, stigmatisation and forced repatriation.

In the teeth of the disturbances which engulfed Haiti in 2004, and which truncated the presidency of Fr Jean Bertrand Aristide, Caricom helped in the mounting of a number of initiatives aimed at restoring stability. After the horrors of the earthquake in 2010, again this region participated in international efforts towards reconstruction and stabilisation.

Even acknowledging the region’s avowed principle of non-interference, Haiti’s current social and political troubles require some measure of appropriate attention and response from her partners in our regional integration movement.

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