Until March 2 (the event is March 1 at Deerwood Country Club), I am going to start every blog with an invitation to learn more about our Jacksonville Fundraiser “A Taste of Haiti.” This event is very important for All Things New every year, and especially this year as we begin some new initiatives. If you would like to learn more and/or register for this event, please click here.
Today I want to tell you a little about some of the political issues that have been going on here lately. If you keep up with our blog, you know that I have written about this a little in the past (click here, here, or here) about some of these same issues, but you also know that I do not feel qualified to write about the political issues of another country. I can offer an opinion based on 5 years of living here as someone who cannot really understand the culture, the language well enough to watch the news, and especially what it is like to have lived here for my entire life and understand the ins and outs of Haitian life. As you read these opinions and blogs, please keep those things in mind. No American, no matter long they have lived here, could truly understand something as complex as Haitian politics and all that goes into them.
With that said, today there will be and already are protests throughout this nation. People are blocking streets with rocks, concrete pillars, and burning tires and it is dangerous to be out today. Not only that, but there are gunshots throughout the country by gangs that are getting bolder and rioting by students and adults alike as they try to voice their displeasure with what is happening right now. This is a very common occasion in general, but from time to time days are planned by what is known as “the opposition” (the political parties that are powerful but are not currently in power) to make an even bigger statement.
I want to briefly describe some of the issues that are ongoing, and tomorrow (or very soon) I will write a little bit more about some of those issues, specifically the gas shortage. Today I want to give you some bullet points of the things that have come together over the past few years and months that have lead to this time of political upheaval:
- In 2015 there was a Presidential election. It was such a debacle that the first election was ruled illegal, the former President stepped down, and a provisional government was setup to rule until an elected government could be chosen. The following year, in December 2016, the current President was elected by receiving 54% of the popular vote. In 2015, that same candidate received less than 30%, so his results almost doubled in 1 year. Needless to say, opposing political parties were not happy with the result and have since been the leaders of the opposition trying to get rid of the current President. It also does not help that he did not have any prior political experience, but was running a banana farm prior to his election. He has been oddly silent through many of these problems.
- Haiti, for many years, had an ongoing deal with Venezuela that included low price gasoline products and low interest loans that helped fund the government of Haiti and kept gas prices low. When Venezuela began its downward slide, they called in those loans and were unable to provide the cheaper gas. In turn, the Haitian population began to ask where the billions of dollars of loan money was spent when they did not see the country improving at all. Many of the current riots are based on this and have used the slogan/hashtag #kotkobpertrocaribe or “where is the money from Venezuela.” Haitian citizens are taking to the streets to try to root out this type of corruption that has marked the political machine here since Haiti became a country.
Those are 2 of the foundational issues that have caused a myriad of other problems. Because this blog is already long, I will stop here and I will write about some of those other problems tomorrow. It is important to know that today’s manifestations are a result of much deeper problems, and problems that are not going away soon. In fact, the government, just yesterday declared a state of economic emergency as things get progressively worse.
Please pray for Haiti and if you are interested tune in for tomorrow’s blog to learn more. Also, if you are on a team that is coming in soon, please do not worry. We err on the side of caution and we will tell you to cancel your trip if it seems like things are going to get worse. We do our best to keep everyone safe when you come down.