Protesters have been gathering in the streets of Haiti for over four months now, calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse. The almost-daily protests have caused transportation, businesses and schools to close down, and roads have been barricaded. The protests have caused an increase in prices and lawlessness in Haiti. Some hospitals have closed down, leaving other overburdened and without sufficient supplies. At least thirty people have been killed in the protests, and 15 of those people were killed by police officers in violent clashes.
In a country with already abysmal prison conditions, the protests have made these conditions worse. Prisoners are being placed in smaller cells without access to basic necessities and some prisons have severely restricted outdoor time in an effort to prevent riots.
The crisis has affected most of Haiti, including the capital, Port-au-Prince. The city of Les Cayes, which is the most populous city in southern Haiti, has been particularly affected by the protests. Barricades on the main roads have cut off its access to the capital, and the city endured a total blackout for almost two months. The city’s hospital was destroyed by protestors. Opposition leaders have defended the roadblocks, saying that they helped stop the movement of armed forces that may pose a threat to the residents of cities.
The protestors comprise a diverse group of thousands of Haitians. This group includes union workers, members of the middle class, professors, and political opponents. Opposition leaders are calling for Moïse to be ousted and for the formation of a transitional government. Moïse has refused to step down and has said that it would be irresponsible for him to do so. He has responded to the protests by assembling a group of political leaders to work on solutions for the crisis.
The protests began in mid-September as a result of the ongoing fuel shortage in the country, along with the shortage of safe drinking water and nationwide food scarcity. The widespread corruption present in the highest levels of the Haitian government is another important cause of the protests. Protestors and opposition leaders allege that the government misappropriated billions of dollars that were meant for social development.
The PetroCaribe program is at the center of the protests. Sponsored by Venezuela, the PetroCaribe program offered subsidized fuel and funds for social development to poorer South American nations. Two billion dollars went missing from the Venezuelan funds to Haiti, and Haitians saw few of the benefits that were promised to them. Moïse has been accused of embezzling funds from a large project funded by PetroCaribe money. It has been alleged that the President embezzled these funds before taking office when he worked as the head of a large banana plantation.
Moïse has faced opposition from the public since his election to office in February 2017. This opposition is partially the result of the widespread belief that fraud and voter manipulation may have taken place during the election. Haiti has had a long history of political turmoil. The country has had fourteen Presidents since the introduction of democracy in 1990, and two of those Presidents gained power through coups.