World·CBC in Haiti

Haiti braces for return to violence as government calls for calm

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.

Detailed schedule of protests for this week circulating on WhatsApp

A child walks past a burning barricade during anti-government protests in Port-au-Prince on Sunday. The Haitian government promised the country will begin resuming normal life on Monday after 11 days of demonstrations. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

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.

A barricade outside the National Palace, the residence of President Jovenel Moïse, at whom much of the protests were directed. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

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."

Sunday was quieter in the Haitian capital after more than a week of protests, but anger among its residents was still palpable. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

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."

Haitians have been calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant, left, and President Jovenel Moïse, pictured in September 2018 at the National Palace, over the alleged corrupt mismanagement of funds that were supposed to go toward development. (Dieu Nalio Chery/Associated Press)

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.

Haitians line up for propane in Port-au-Prince on Sunday. When the Sodigaz truck pulled into the distribution centre, there were cheers of joy, but some people turned their backs to the camera, not wanting to be filmed or quoted by journalists. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

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.

Garbage in the Pétion-Ville district of Port-au-Prince. Garbage has been left uncollected during the protests and occasionally set on fire by demonstrators. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

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:

After days of street violence, political chaos in Haiti appears to be on pause. And with more anti-government protests expected this week, Haitians in Port-au-Prince are scrambling to meet their basic needs, from food and water to medicine and gasoline. 3:25

About the Author

Sylvia Thomson is a producer with the CBC in Toronto. She spent several years as a producer covering politics in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa and has covered major international stories. @thomsoncbc Sylvia.thomson@cbc.ca

With files from CBC's Derek Stoffel