Protest against high prices and hunger

by Yves Pierre-Louis (Haiti Liberte)
On Apr. 11, 2013, several popular organizations from the capital’s poor neighborhoods, grouped in a coalition called the Heads Together of Popular Organizations (Tèt kole òganizasyon popilè yo), marched in protest against Haiti’s high cost of living, hunger, and unemployment with the slogan “Let’s Rise Up Against This Exploitative Hunger” (“Ann leve kanpe kont grangou kaletèt sa” offers word-play on the slogan “Tètkale” – meaning “completely” or “bald” – of President Michel Martelly’s government.) Starting in the poor neighborhood of Fort National in the north of the capital, hundreds of demonstrators marched through Port-au-Prince’s streets to protest the deteriorating conditions of slum dwellers in Port-au-Prince’s poorest neighborhoods including Fort National, Bel Air, Saint-Martin, Solino , La Saline, Cité Soleil, and Martissant.
            Throughout the march, the protesters chanted that the government of Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe is using false propaganda to lull the Haitian people out of their vigilance while manufacturing a series of fictitious projects to squander state funds. The demonstrators ridiculed a recent declaration by Martelly that he has already created 400,000 jobs in the country in the past two years.
            “If the government has created 400,000 jobs with a minimum wage of 300 gourdes per day for eight hours of work, that means that there should be 3.6 billion gourdes (US$83.76 million) circulating in the Haitian economy,” said one demonstrator. “We, the residents of poor neighborhoods, do not see any sign of that money. We say these 400,000 jobs are just talk.”
            The demonstrators spray-painted slogans on walls along their route: “400,000 jobs are just talk! Up with good jobs! Down with Martelly! Down with hunger! Down with the high cost of living! Down with corruption!”
            Nobody gives credence to the President’s statement. “The labor force in Haiti is currently estimated at 4.2 million people,” said the former Social Affairs Minister, economist Gerald Germain, in a radio program. “If the government created 400,000 jobs, unemployment would be reduced by 10%. The effects of this reduction in unemployment would be visible in the economy.”
            Wilson Laleau, who acts as both the Minister of Trade and Industry and the Minister of Economy and Finance, has not been able to give any details about where and how the supposed 400,000 jobs announced by President Martelly have been created.
            “No matter what, Martelly and Lamothe have to go,” said another demonstrator. “They only tell the people lies while they fill their pockets and plunder the country. Martelly’s wife, his son, all of them are steeped in corruption, while the masses are dying of hunger in the country. We can’t pay for our children’s schooling. We can’t find work. They don’t want us to do commerce in the streets. We are crying for help! This is just the beginning. Next week, we’ll shift to a higher gear where it will be the regime’s complete uprooting that we will be demanding.”
            Haitian policement tried to seize the spray-paint cans of some demonstrators at the corner of Lamarre Street and Lalue. But the demonstrators quickly scattered and reassembled a short distance away to continue their march.
            After winding through several streets in Port-au-Prince’s densely populated neighborhoods, the demonstrators ended their protest in front of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.
            Haiti’s poor continue to fight against the deterioration of their living conditions. Hundreds of thousands of earthquake victims made homeless by the January 2010 earthquake remain living under tents. UN soldiers still occupy the country. All state institutions are constantly in crisis. The democratization process is blocked. Elections are delayed, and the Electoral Council is being illegally and undemocratically established. Corruption is growing. The old Duvalierist regime is emerging more every day. All these trends have a negative impact on the lives of Haiti’s poorest. Tèt Kole  continues to stand with the Haitian people in their struggle to stop these trends and build a better, brighter, more democratic future.
Sign reads: “Heads Together of Popular Organizations says the 400,000 new jobs are just talk.” Demonstrators marched through Port-au-Prince to denounce government demogagy.  
Photo by Frantz Etienne/Haïti Liberté
“The 400,000 jobs are just talk” and “Up with good jobs.” Slogans left on the walls where the Apr. 11 demonstration passed.
Photo by Frantz Etienne/Haïti Liberté