Uprising in Jérémie

by Isabelle L Papillon (Haiti Liberte)
Violent protests shook the
southwestern city of Jérémie for four consecutive days from Nov. 27  to Nov. 30. The town’s angry population
blocked the vehicles of the Brazilian construction company Construtora OAS,
which was contracted under the administration of René Préval (2006-2010) to
build 70 kilometers of road linking Jérémie with the southern city of Aux
Cayes. The US$95 million road project, for the leg from Jérémie to Camp Perrin,
was financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Canadian

Haitian government, which should have been monitoring the work of the Brazilian
company, has accused it of failing to honor its commitments and of abandoning
the project for months. In response, Construtora OAS says that the delay in
completing the work is the fault of Haitian authorities, who owe them some $40
million. Who is right and who is wrong?
population of Jérémie has made its ruling, blocking the movement of any OAS
equipment unless work on the road project is resumed immediately. Demonstrators
are also demanding electrification and repair of the city’s water system.
Jérémie, located in Haiti’s Grand Anse department, is plagued with blackouts
and is highly vulnerable to the cholera epidemic imported into Haiti by UN
occupying troops in October 2010.
to press reports, a young boy from Saint-Hélène named Hilder Victor was killed
by gunfire during the four days of protests. But protestors say there were
other fatalities: people suffocated by tear gas. They also say there were about
a dozen people wounded by bullets. The residence of the mother of the
Government Commissioner of Jérémie, Antoine Rosny Saint-Louis, was ransacked,
public buildings were pelted with stones, and police officers were injured by
thrown rocks and bottles.
arrival in Jérémie on Nov. 29 of a contingent of the Haitian National Police’s
anti-riot squad, the Corps for Intervention and Maintenance of Order (CIMO),
aimed at quelling the revolt, only angered the protesters.
Martelly lied to the population of the Grand Anse,” said one protester.
“He promised to build an airport, a power plant, schools, supply of the
city of Jérémie with drinking water, among other things. We have not received
anything after more than a year and a half. Today, we have rebelled against the
lies, the disrespect for the people of the city of poets, the lung of the
country. And they sent MINUSTAH troops and a CIMO force to shoot at us and
bombard us with tear gas. Even children were not spared. We’re not afraid of
these forces. We are organizing to give them a response with our own
the city, protesters erected barricades of burning tires. All activities were
completely paralyzed. Transit was blocked for several days. Until Dec. 2,
despite the visit of a government delegation led by Interior Minister Ronsard
Saint-Cyr, the situation has not returned to normal.
all the protests, demonstrators demanding the completion of the construction of
the road and they sing: “The money for the Jérémie road, we won’t let them
steal it. For the money for that road, we will go to the cemetery, Lord!”
protesters also denounced former Senator Michel Clérier who owns a radio
station in Jérémie which broadcasts only pro-Martelly propaganda. Demonstrators
said that population of the Grand Anse department are like “poor cousins” by
most of Haiti’s leaders, and particularly by the Martelly regime. The first
major project benefitting the population, initiated under the Préval
government, has been abruptly stopped under the Martelly government without any
explanation. The population worries that the funds earmarked for the
construction of this road might be diverted for other purposes. That is why the
city is rising up to demand the resumption of basic services such as
electricity, water, school construction, and an airport.
Minister of Public Works, Transport and Communication, Jacques Rousseau,
confirmed that Construtora OAS officials are in touch with him about the
situation in Jérémie. He also told the public that work on the road project
will resume by February 2013. But the people of Jérémie remain very skeptical
and want much more detailed explanations.
Demonstrators protested for four days in Jérémie for a road project to
Aux Cayes to be completed.