On Vertières Battle Anniversary, Demonstrations to Demand Jovenel’s Resignation Continue

On Nov. 18, demonstrators set fire to a building during demonstrations demanding President Jovenel Moïse resign. Credit: AP

Marking the 10th straight week of massive nationwide demonstrations and popular-barricade-produced dysfunction, thousands across Haiti marched again on Mon., Nov. 18, 2019 to demand President Jovenel Moïse’s resignation on the 216th anniversary of the Battle of Vertières, the epic and pivotal 1803 clash where barefoot former slaves defeated French colonial troops to win Haiti’s Jan. 1, 1804 independence.

In the capital, Port-au-Prince, at least four people were wounded by gunfire: a journalist, a police officer, and two protestors.

In St. Marc, demonstrators burned an American flag, and in Cap Haïtien, a enraged crowd burned a container with three people inside after a security guard shot an adolescent in the head.

As of the evening of Nov. 18, the official (but some say conservative) toll of the continuous demonstrations is 77 dead, 219 injured, and 315 arrested, according to the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Jovenel Moïse (right), with his resigned but acting Prime Minister, Jean Michel Lapin, at a Vertières ceremony at the National Palace on Nov. 18. Credit: AP

For the anniversary, President Moïse held a ceremony at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, unable to travel to the Vertières monument in Cap Haïtien, as tradition dictates. But the Haitian police and embryonic army did hold the usual military parade on Palace grounds.

In his speech for the occasion, Moïse again denounced an ill-defined “sistem pezesouse sa a” (this system that squeezes and sucks) which “causes hunger and insecurity.” Again calling for dialogue, he had the temerity to proclaim that “we all agree on what the problem is, we just have differences on how to solve it.”

A funeral for five slain protestors – Jean Belleville, 34,  Lolo Isnor, 23, Vaudreuil Bernard, 25, Pierre Yasmine, 15, and Poustin Wilson, 36 – was held on Nov. 19 at the capital’s Sacred Heart Church in the Turgeau neighborhood.

In a demonstration after the funeral, protestors set ablaze two trucks.

Haitians have dubbed the weeks of mass protest “Ayiti Lòk” – Haiti Lockdown – which has resulted in severe shortages of food and other supplies.

“We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis,” Jovenel Moïse told Reuters in an exclusive interview on Nov. 14 at his home in the well-to-do Pétionville neighborhood of Pèlerin 5, in the hills above the capital. “We need international support to get through this crisis.”

Only the renegade Chinese province of Taiwan – recognized as a country by only 16 nations, of which Haiti is one – announced that it would continue to send food aid. The island has provided Haiti with 8,600 tons of food supplies so far this year, a Taiwanese official claimed.

“According to the latest Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) report, 3.7 million people are currently experiencing crisis and emergency levels of food insecurity,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told the Xinhua news agency. “This includes one million people – out of a total population of 11 million – facing emergency levels of food insecurity.”

On Nov. 19 at Sacré Coeur church, mourners at a funeral for five slain protestors. Credit: AP

The UN World Food Program issues the IPC report to classify cases of food insecurity and malnutrition worldwide and identify their causes. If things continue in Haiti as they have in these past months, the UN estimates that more than four million Haitians will be food insecure by March of next year, Dujarric said.

“Most businesses and schools in the country have been closed since mid-September, due to ongoing protests and unrest,” he concluded. “Food insecurity is on the rise.”

One of the most ominous developments of late for Moïse is the second mass demonstration by Haiti’s police officers in the capital on Nov. 17. The cops are demanding better work conditions, a salary increase, and the right to form a union.

On Wed., Nov. 20, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, is scheduled to fly to Haiti to meet with Moïse and several opposition leaders, including Sens. Youri Latortue, Joseph Lambert, and Evalière Beauplan, to encourage that they all sit down together and dialogue to reach a solution, a course Moïse proposed yet again in his Nov. 18 speech. But the Haitian people and opposition steadfastly reject this proposal, saying that the time for dialogue has long since passed, and resignation is Moïse’s only option to unblock the situation.

At the Nov. 19 funeral for the five slain protestors, a prominent opposition leader, lawyer André Michel said: “We are not going to have endured over 150 killed and hundreds of wounded to now go negotiate with Jovenel Moïse.”

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