Level 3.9 Tension
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
January 9, 2019
The air in Haiti is thick with tension. Food and supplies have been harder to find in stores, which is one of the first signs of things that may come. More recently, there is no gas to fill cars. We have tried four gas stations. We are looking at how to keep our mobility open. The protests have been mainly in Port-au-Prince, but the tension is spreading outwards. Most of the time this tension stays in the capital, which mainly was the case with the Level 4 travel advisory a few months back, but now it does not seem this will remain the case. Even in the regional centers, more police officers drive by on motos and less children walk in the streets.
Why is this? What is going on? Many people back home vaguely know something is occurring in Haiti. American TV shows scenes people often associate with Haiti: protests, unrest. I have seen this footage too, but I have rarely encountered any sort of violence or even felt in danger in Haiti. More often not, and especially in rural areas, it is remarkably peaceful.
According to the Organization of American States, Haiti has a lower homicide rate than those popularly visited Caribbean nations that many Americans hold as the standard of vacation paradise. Here in Haiti, there are less murders per capita than the Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados, with three times less homicides per capita than the Bahamas and five times less than Jamaica.
But, with any nation, there are times of unrest and political transition. Ignoring what is going on now diminishes the struggles of our dear friends in Haiti and overlooks the forces that bring a group of people this point.
In short, people are protesting government corruption and asking where billions of dollars earmarked for infrastructural development have gone. This situation gets much more complicated when considering the implications these protests have for the average Haitian (see the February 13 update from a colleague living in PAP, below). The Haiti Collective goes into much more detail than I choose to here: 10 Things You Need to Know About the Crisis in Haiti
Thoughts on Privileged International Mobility
More often than not, we are privileged as Americans to have this ease of exit and entry into and out of Haiti, as well as most other countries. I speak about this often with Haitian friends in the countryside: Why can I come and go, but they cannot visit my country? I wish I had a good answer.
The conversation always brings me back to the earthquake of 2010. A week after the event, I showed a passport to American soldiers at the PAP airport, and I was given a meal and sports drinks. I was told to wait on the tarmac. After a few hours, a massive cargo plane picked up dozens of us Americans and dropped us off in Florida. Volunteers welcomed us with new clothes, showers, and food. It is difficult to explain the thankfulness for my safety and the sadness and guilt for what I left behind.
Almost 9 years after the earthquake, I find myself in a new position. I may not be able to leave. Entry into PAP is not recommended, my colleagues have said. And at a certain point, airlines stop all flights. A report recently came in about violence at the border. And so, exit on land may not be possible either. I can feel the encroaching helplessness that my unearned privilege has never allowed to come so near.
February 13, 2019
Message from colleague and friend Elisson Adrien, in PAP
After a much needed break to the United States, I was back to Haiti very excited to go back to school. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Instead, I am stuck in Port-au-Prince but somewhat safe. I have been sick with fever, coughs, and maybe sinus infection which is probably due to burning of debris and tires all over. No need to be worried for my health though. I took some medications that I have and I am feeling a little better. Thank you so much everyone who has reached out to me via email, text, call, or Facebook.
Here is the current situation:
Last February 7th, 2018 marked the second anniversary of the current President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise. These anniversaries are usually celebrated by the president and his partisans. But, this year was very different. Thousands of protesters took the streets of the capital and other cities asking for the resignation of the president. This results to many people becoming prisoners in their own houses. Roads are blocked; stores are closed; offices are closed; streets are dangerous; prices are all time high, no water for anything, and everyone is panicking. Today was the 7th day and protesters were not shy to take the streets for the 7th times to walk to the National Palace asking for the resignation of the president. But, no one has heard from the president among all this turmoil. We have been willing to go back to Layaye, my home village (120 miles north of Port-au-Prince) but that has been impossible because there is not any public transportation and the roads are blocked. I am asking for your prayers for Haiti in general and me in particular as the protesters became more violent today robbing and putting fires in many places.
Hope you are doing well!
August 28, 2019
- I (John) returned safely from Haiti shortly after the original post
- Elisson is safe and has expressed that things in PAP have largely returned to normal, though the factors causing the original unrest remain to an extent
- Haiti is back to a Level 3