Over the next few weeks, we are going to continue our blogs about the kids’ futures, but we will also sprinkle in a few other topics as well. Specifically, December and January are the perfect months to look back on the previous year and accomplishments (December) and then to look forward and cast a vision for what the future holds (January). Stay tuned for these blogs over the next few weeks and also some blogs specifically related to Christmas.
Today, however, I wanted to share something that I have been waiting to share with you for a few reasons. We wrote a blog in July about severe unrest in Haiti related to a potential rise in gas prices (click here if you missed it) and we have continued to keep you updated on other events that have been happening as well. Since that time, there has been continuous tension between the general population, the government, and political parties/groups that are often referred to as “the opposition.”
The reason we have not written until now is because we did not want to cause any alarm or write about a topic that we did not yet understand. At this point, however, I believe we know enough about the climate and the issues to at least give an overview of what is going on. Basically there seems to be 3 major issues affecting the political atmosphere in Haiti:
- The major issue is that, starting in 2005, the government of Haiti received almost $4 billion from a program called “PetroCaribe” instituted by Venezuela. This money was earmarked for “infrastructure” and “social economic” projects, and the Haitian population is questioning where that money was used. It is currently all gone and no infrastructure projects are visible.
- Another issue is that there are opposition forces, mainly from 3 other political parties/leaders, that want this President and his government to resign.
- The last of the 3 major issues is that the current government has virtually no political experience and has not communicated well with the population, oftentimes retreating when they need to stand strong and standing strong when they need to listen.
The combination of these 3 forces along with the ever-present backdrop of corruption, extreme poverty, and an evident divide between politicians and the population have caused a lingering tension that sometimes manifests itself in big ways. Many of you may not know this, but in the middle of November, there were so many manifestations in the streets throughout Haiti that school was cancelled nationwide for 1 week. These manifestations are sometimes started by the populace, sometimes they are paid protesters (paid by the opposition), and sometimes there are just planned and peaceful marches scheduled to show general displeasure.
The bottom line is that it is important to understand, even if it is just a surface level understanding, that there is a political environment in Haiti that makes things consistently more challenging. Here are some things that are important to understand in light of these facts:
- We will ALWAYS let a team know when there is a threat of large-scale manifestations/riots, and we will ALWAYS cancel or postpone trips if it is too dangerous for a team to come down. We err on the side of caution when things begin to heat up. At the same time, Haiti is a third world country so it always know that when planning a trip.
- This environment has become a little more scary for our family because of our kids. Things like this are always more difficult when kids are in the picture, but when there are 3 kids that are 3 and under, that difficulty multiplies.
- When things get really bad like they were in July and November, supplies can be difficult to find and the cost of food and essential supplies can rise dramatically. These manifestations restrict transportation, and that includes food, water, propane, diesel, medical supplies, and all other daily essentials. When those things are restricted, the prices rise and less people have access to these things.
- Haiti desperately needs strong political leadership and that is something that we can all pray for every day.
This blog is not meant to scare anyone, make anyone nervous for us, or apprehensive about coming to Haiti. It is simply to keep you informed and so that you have a better idea of how to pray for us and for Haiti. It is also important to understand the environment in which we do ministry and how this can affect every aspect of life.