Haiti braces for return to violence as government calls for calm
Detailed schedule of protests for this week circulating on WhatsApp
Many people in Haiti are bracing for violent protests across the country as political leaders urged citizens to return to normal activities on Monday following 11 days of anti-government riots that have forced the closure of schools and many businesses.
Residents of the capital of Port-au-Prince awoke to radio broadcasts calling for people to resume demonstrations after a largely quiet weekend that allowed residents to go to stores to stock up on food and water.
Barricades were erected overnight in Cap Haïtien, a city on the island's north coast, and there are reports a market was torched. Gunfire was heard in at least one of the city's neighbourhoods, with unconfirmed reports of some people suffering injuries.
Haiti's government continued to struggle to move past the protests, with the minister for culture and communication, Jean Michel Lapin, outlining "firm instructions to public and national security institutions to ease the return to normal life."
He said schools, universities, businesses and the civil service would be open regular hours Monday.
Whether ordinary Haitians will heed this call remains to be seen. A detailed schedule of protests for this coming week has been widely circulating over the weekend, largely over the WhatsApp text messaging service, and the anger on the streets of Port-au-Prince was palpable.
Thousands of demonstrators this past week and a half have been calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse and Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant over the alleged mismanagement of the PetroCaribe agreement. The deal allowed Haiti to purchase oil from Venezuela at a discount and was meant to free up about $4 billion US to aid development in the country, decimated by several major natural disasters and years of corruption, violence and political instability.
'Everything is malfunctioning'
At an outdoor flower shop Sunday, around a dozen men sat idly, out of work, watching the overstocked Valentine's Day flowers go bad. No one is buying flowers in these difficult times.
"The country we live in is very expensive," said one man, who would not give his name.
"The dollar is skyrocketing. There is trash everywhere. Everything is malfunctioning. My feeling is that it is the beginning of the end of the world in Haiti."
Another worker at the flower stand, who would also not give his name, said Haiti is a country with an inert political class.
"Where are the senators?" he said, "Where are the ministers? Senators and ministers are the representatives of the people. And they have all remained mute."
Day-long wait for propane
Around the corner from the flower stand, people had been queuing in the heat all day with empty propane tanks hoping to get a refill. When the propane truck arrives, there are cheers of joy.
None of the people in line would agree to an interview, and they turned their backs when the CBC News camera came out. Anger about their situation is sometimes directed at journalists, of whom many are skeptical.
While the weekend was relatively calm compared to the violence of last week, the anger is still present, and there was a small protest in the Pétion-Ville neighbourhood of the capital, where garbage that had remain uncollected during the tumultuous days of demonstrations was set on fire.
Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant announced nine measures to alleviate the country's economic crisis on Saturday and said the government would reduce its own expenses by 30 per cent.
Whether that decree and the Sunday afternoon press release asking everyone to get back to normal will be enough to quell the protests and appease the Haitians who have taken to the streets will be put to the test in the week ahead.
A lull in protests this weekend allowed people to stock up on food and water, CBC reports from Port-au-Prince:
With files from CBC's Derek Stoffel