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Some reject Henry’s calls for calm, clear roads in Haiti even as Fiona bears down

The Haitian Times 
By Murdith Joseph

Prime Minister Ariel Henry
Screenshot of Prime Minister Ariel Henry during an address to the nation on Sept. 19, 2022.

Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry addressed the nation, eight days after his announcement of fuel hikes sent people into peyilòk protests and triggered dechoukaj looting and rioting.

This story is part of a special investigation into Haiti’s gang crisis and potential solutions. To view the full series visit our special section, Gangs in Haiti: A deeper look.

PORT-AU-PRINCE — More than five days after protests erupted in the streets of Haiti’s capital and some provinces, Prime Minister Ariel Henry urged citizens to stay calm and blamed the demonstrations on armed bandits. He also pleaded with residents to remove the street blockades erected throughout the week if lives are to be saved as Hurricane Fiona passes over the nation.

Clear roadways and emergency supplies, he said, are needed to render care, water, gas and other aid if Fiona causes much damage.

Yet, moments after the 13-minute message was released Sunday night, various neighborhoods resumed erecting barricades, in an apparent rejection of Henry’s calls. 

“The acts of looting and attacks on fuel vendors have nothing to do with rising fuel prices,” said Henry. “It was heavily-armed individuals who were leading the protests.”

The embattled head of government, who has been quiet as widespread looting and pillaging took place across the country this week, said considerable losses occurred over the past few days of violence and destruction, though he could not yet take stock. He then presented his sympathies to the victims of looting, while condemning the attacks perpetrated against members of his government, diplomatic corps and international humanitarian organizations. 

“Nothing justifies all the chaos of the last few days,” he said. 

The “gas issue”, as he termed his announcement of fuel prices increasing, isn’t to blame for such acts of “dechoukaj” as attacking government workers’ homes, stealing food from schools and organizations that had stockpiled foods for emergencies such as the type Fiona might cause, and destroying businesses that took decades to build. 

Invoking 1804 and 1986 — the Haitin Revolution and coup d’etat against Duvalier, respectively — Henry also urged Haitians to come together in unity to solve the country’s problems. He also took the opportunity to list programs he said are in the works to lower the cost of living and otherwise improve conditions. Henry specifically promised to take actions that will lead to social peace, the strengthening of national production, customs reform, dialogue and the organization of elections. 

“We know what we want for our country, what we need,” Henry said. “The Haitian people want to live like any other people. In democracy, in dignity, prosperity and in security.” 

In wrapping up, Henry once again called for calm, and he used a Haitian proverb about buying horses to remind people not be duped by ulterior motives that would destroy the country. He knows people are frustrated, he said, but that rioting is not the answer. 

A few minutes after the address to the nation, certain neighborhoods in the capital that had been calm over the weekend began re-installing or increasing barricades and burning tires in the streets. Delmas 30, 33, 47, 60, 91, 95 and 103 were among those that resumed such protests.

Read more about about Haiti’s gangs in our special section, Gangs in Haiti: A deeper look.

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