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Here's what's fuelling Haiti's violent street protests

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: Haitian protests leave residents short of food, water, fuel; Liberals government struggles with transparency in SNC-Lavalin F1 driver Lance Stroll answers his critics.

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Demonstrators flee from police gunfire as a car burns Tuesday in Port-au-Prince. Protesters are angry about skyrocketing inflation and the government's failure to prosecute embezzlement from a multibillion-dollar Venezuelan program that sent discounted oil to Haiti. (Dieu Nalio Chery/Associated Press)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.

TODAY:

  • Violent anti-corruption protests in Haiti have left residents short of food, fuel and drinking water.
  • The Liberals are having a struggle with transparency and openness when it comes to the SNC-Lavalin investigation.
  • With the first launch of an F1 team in Canada, driver Lance Stroll may help boost hometown excitement around the sport, but he also has to prove himself to his critics.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.


Haiti protests

A week of violent anti-corruption protests in Haiti has left residents short of food, fuel and drinking water as the government of President Jovenel Moise struggles to restore order.

Local media reports that at least two demonstrators were killed and as many as 20 wounded by police gunfire yesterday, during the seventh straight day of clashes.

Several main streets in the capital of Port-au-Prince were blockaded with burning tires as thousands marched on the presidential palace, throwing stones at security forces, and receiving volleys of teargas and bullets in return. Protestors also set fire to the Court of First Instance and prosecutor's office.

A demonstrator gestures during clashes with police in front of the National Palace, in the centre of Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on Wednesday. Today is the eighth day of protests against Haitian President Jovenel Moise and the misuse of the Petrocaribe fund. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

Banks, gas stations, and Moise's personal residence in the wealthy neighbourhood of Pétion-Ville have all come under attack in recent days.

Widespread looting has seen many stores shut, and those that remain open are running short of foodstuffs. Drinking water is also in short supply, as local authorities have been unable to refuel the city's pumping stations.

Yesterday, a group of armed men wearing masks set fire to vehicles and a mobile broadcasting truck belonging to TNH, Haiti's national television network.

And at least 78 inmates staged a mass jailbreak from a prison in Aquin, 150 kilometres southwest of the capital, while their guards were occupied with a nearby anti-government demonstration.

People march during a protest in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. (Jean Marc Herve/EPA-EFE)

The protests are just the latest in a series of angry eruptions that have been going on since last fall, focused on the fate of almost $4 billion US in aid money.

Venezuela's PetroCaribe program, instituted by then president Hugo Chávez in 2005, saw Haiti and other Caribbean nations pay a fraction of the market price for billions of dollars worth of oil, with the balance-owed spread over 25 years at low interest. The idea was that governments would then be able to spend significant funds on development.

But no one is quite sure what happened to Haiti's windfall.

The Haitian Senate produced reports in 2016 and 2017 alleging that nearly $2 billion of the money, which was intended for infrastructure and economic development projects, was embezzled or misappropriated.

The probes implicated 14 senior members of the government of former president Michel Martelly in the alleged fraud, but to date no one has been charged.

And Moise, who succeeded Martelly as leader of the Tèt Kale [Baldhead] party, is perceived to be doing little to advance the investigation.

In a televised speech Thursday night, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse said the current crisis 'threatens the very foundation of this nation.' (Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

The protests have been spurred by the viral Kot Kob Petwo Karibe a? (Where is the PetroCaribe money?) campaign, with Haitians from all walks of life taking to social media and demanding to know where the money went.

Haiti is still struggling to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed upwards of 100,000 people, and the after-effects of 2016's Hurricane Matthew. It remains one of the world's poorest nations, with more than six million of its 10.5 million citizens living on less than $3.15 a day, amidst skyrocketing inflation.

It is also a spectacularly kleptocratic culture, tied with Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Turkmenistan in the latest global corruption perceptions index, all ranked in 161st place out of 180 nations. And political violence is a fact of life, with factions using their own militias to carry out attacks and massacres.

Moise, who barely eked out a victory in the disputed 2016 general election, has so far remained silent on the week of protests.

People stand in a long line waiting to buy fuel in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. There are also shortages of food and drinking water. (Jeanty Junior Augustin/Reuters)

But yesterday, his government suddenly replaced its ambassadors to the UN, the United States and Mexico, while its representative in France resigned.

Several hundred tourists, including Canadians from Quebec and New Brunswick, remain stranded by the violence. Scheduled flights continue, but roads to the airport have been blocked.

Canada is among the countries that have closed their Port-au-Prince embassies as a precaution, although diplomatic staff and families remain in place for the moment.

And Canadians are now being warned to avoid all non-essential travel to the country.


At Issue

The Liberals are having a struggle with transparency and openness, writes The National co-host Rosemary Barton.

It has now been exactly one week since the Globe and Mail broke the story of alleged pressure from the Prime Minister's Office on Jody Wilson-Raybould about SNC-Lavalin.

One week.

In that time, Wilson-Raybould has quit.

And Justin Trudeau has said if she had concerns she should have raised them, and she did not.

The resignation of Jody Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal cabinet was a significant development in the SNC-Lavalin affair, a controversy that has sparked two government-related probes. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Oh, both Andrew Coyne and Chantal Hébert have a lot to say about the prime minister's position. And on that point they are basically in agreement — which is surprising, because if you watched At Issue on Tuesday there were many points upon which they disagreed.

The Liberals on the Justice Committee did their partisan best yesterday to not only limit the committee's study to esoteric legal matters, but also shut down the idea that any of the people involved in the matter would actually appear as witnesses.

Meaning anyone from the PMO who was involved, but also the former Attorney General herself.

It was not a surprising move, but it added more tarnish to the Liberal brand. For how can you claim to be the government of transparency and openness when you are proving that it only applies to subjects of your choosing?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Trudeau has insisted that neither he, nor any of his staff, 'directed' Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin case. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, Wilson-Raybould was spotted at her lawyer's office in Ottawa yesterday. Meaning she is not done with her attempts to be open about one thing or another.

One week. All of this has happened in one week.

It's why we're having a second At Issue discussion. Andrew, Chantal and Chris Hall join us tonight to sort through things.

See you later.

- Rosemary Barton

  • WATCH: The At Issue panel tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

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Lance Stroll's F1 challenge

With the first launch of an F1 team in Canada, driver Lance Stroll may help boost hometown excitement around the sport, but he also has to prove himself to his critics, producer Anand Ram writes.

At 20 years old, Lance Stroll is the only Canadian Formula 1 driver right now. It's a lonely title he's proud to wear.

"When I go to Montreal for the Grand Prix, I see the flags in the grandstands," Stroll told The National's Andrew Chang in a wide-ranging interview airing this Sunday. "All that support … words can't describe it. It's really special.

"And even as I travel the world, as well, you see a Canadian flag here and there. It's great energy, and that's ultimately what gets me out of bed in the morning."

Drivers Stroll, left, and Sergio Perez pose with SportPesa Racing Point F1's car at a press conference at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto on Wednesday. The car will be driven in 21 races this season, beginning March 17 in Melbourne, Australia. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

While the name Stroll isn't as synonymous with racing in this country as Villeneuve, he has been rekindling some hometown excitement for the sport. Stroll finished third at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2017 — a podium finish in his rookie year. Just 18 at the time, he set a record as the youngest driver to finish in the top three in an F1 race.

"That was a special day. It was a crazy race. In Azerbaijan there's no room for error, there are walls everywhere … but that was a long time ago," Stroll half-joked. "I'm ready to get back on that podium."

Stroll was in Toronto this week with SportPesa Racing Point, the first time an F1 team has launched from Canada. The team's previous iteration hit financial trouble and was rescued by a Canadian consortium led by his father, billionaire Lawrence Stroll.

F1 driver Lance Stroll, right, chats with The National's Andrew Chang in Toronto on Wednesday after the launch of the SportPesa Racing Point F1 team. (Anand Ram/CBC)

With the elder Stroll's involvement comes more of the criticism that has dogged the fairly young career of his son — specifically, that money put Lance in the driver's seat. Lewis Hamilton, one of the sport's most respected names, said as much last year about the decision to hire Stroll over another up-and-coming driver.

Lance Stroll, for the most part, shrugs it off. It's an expensive sport and he's well aware of how his family's wealth has helped him train and get to where he is.

"I'm extremely grateful and thankful," Stroll says. "I know that I'm very fortunate to be in the position that I'm in."

Still, Stroll says he's grabbed the opportunity with both hands — and has worked hard to put up numbers at an international level.

As he puts it: "I do my talking on the track."

And Canada will be watching.

- Anand Ram

  • WATCH: Andrew Chang's interview with Lance Stroll Sunday night on The National on CBC Television and streamed online


A few words on ... 

Keeping count since Parkland.


Quote of the moment

"You can't achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran. It's just not possible."

- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo takes a hard line against Tehran during discussions today at a U.S.-backed summit on Middle East policy in Warsaw, Poland.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East on Thursday in Warsaw, Poland. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

What The National is reading

  • Trudeau moves to shore up caucus support as SNC-Lavalin controversy continues (CBC)
  • Blood on the door: 24 hours of chaos in Australian politics (Guardian)
  • NATO weighs future of Afghan mission (CBC)
  • Suicide bomber kills 30 police in Kashmir (Reuters)
  • Taiwan to launch satellites, land probe on the moon (Asia Times)
  • Trump installs room-sized golf simulator at White House (Washington Post)
  • Brexit is a big, blue furry monster, say the Dutch (Irish Times)
  • Auckland florist accused of ruining Valentine's Day (New Zealand Herald)

Today in history

Feb. 14, 1968: Ann Landers on CBC's Take 30

Chicago-based advice columnist Ann Landers — real name Eppie Lederer — tells CBC's Take 30 that teenagers are having a lot more sex in 1968, thanks to cars and all that free time. Thirteen years into her decades-spanning Agony Aunt gig, she had already noticed a change in the letters she was getting: more infidelity and more unhappy drunks.

The American advice columnist turns up on Take 30 to talk about how her correspondents' letters have changed over the years. 26:50

A note to readers

The National Today is taking a long weekend. We will return Tuesday, Feb. 19.


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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.