After weeks of silence, Haiti’s beleaguered president broke his silence to address the public. Following five weeks of riots, Haitians have called for President Jovenel Moïse to resign. The daily protests have seen tens of thousands take to the streets all across the country, virtually shutting down the Caribbean island of 11 million people. Moïse, who took office in 2017, has so far survived many protests and still has three more years to serve.
Preside Moïse’s press conference
According to the Miami Herald, President Moïse opened his address by insinuating that he was a victim of powerful interests in Haiti – interests that support a system that provides double-digit interest rates to the poor from the government-run pension fund, while offering low rates to the rich and powerful. A system, he said, that has guardians and heirs.
Protestors have demanded that a different system be introduced; the current one that Moïse referred to was indoctrinated after the downfall of the 1986 Duvalier dictatorship. Many argue that the system predominantly serves the wealthy, while 60 per cent of Haitians, who earn less than $2 a day, are hard-pressed by it.
“It would be irresponsible on my part for me to stand here today, to sign and submit a letter of resignation and say ‘I am leaving’ and leave the country like this and the system regenerates itself,” President Jovenel Moïse said in a press conference on the grounds of the National Palace – the official residence of the President.
Instead, he claimed to want to find a way to put an end to the dodgy business contracts and said he is determined to work hard to get things back on track, which included addressing the nation more often.
Reuters reported that the opposition leader, Andre Michel, said that Moïse does not have the moral authority to attack the guardians of the system of exclusion that they are fighting today since those people financed his electoral campaign.
“We are all aware of the need to end this system …(but) the solution of the crisis today requires above all the immediate resignation of Jovenel Moïse,” said Michel.
Cause of nationwide protests
After Moïs’s speech, many Haitians vacated the streets out of fear of more violent riots – which included barricades and burning tyres. It is estimated that around 20 people have been killed in the clashes with the authorities.
The riots began because Haitians have felt frustrated with the poverty and political corruption that has gone on for years. In the Western Hemisphere, Haiti is often ranked as one of the poorest countries.
By mid-September, a fuel shortage, increasing inflation, food scarcities, and a lack of safe drinking water, fuelled the mass nationwide protests, which quickly became violent. As the riots intensified, protestors blocked roads and highway, looted, and set fires.
Last year, an anti-corruption movement, the “Petrochallengers,” demanded that Moïse consent to a formal investigation. It was reported by senate auditors that billions of dollars had been swindled from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe oil program, which was supposed to be invested into public services but never was; Moïse was directly implicated.
On Wednesday, thousands gathered around the country to attend the funerals of some of those who had lost their lives in the ensuing protests.
United Nations Departure
The funerals come just a day after the United Nations ended its 15-year-long Mission for Justice Support for peacekeeping in the country. It is the first time, since 2004, that there will be no peacekeeping operations in Haiti.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, UN peacekeeping chief, told the Security Council that since 2004, improvements had been “considerable, but the achievements of stability are still fragile and must be deeper rooted in democracy and development.”
He also admitted that “the current context is not ideal for the end of 15 years of peacekeeping in the country”, but said that UN is not completely abandoning Haiti.
Over the years the UN’s role in Haiti has been marred by controversies such as bringing cholera to the country as well as accusations of rape. To date, the UN has shirked the responsibility for the cholera outbreak, which took the lives of over 10,000. UN officials have also, on numerous occasions, been accused of sexual abuse, which includes the rape of minors.