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Haitians On Protest Despite President’s Assurance

On the streets of Port-au-Prince, protesters are burning tires and building makeshift barricades, which are blocking many roads.

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Protest
A demonstrator kicks a tear gas canister during clashes with Haitian police in Port-au-Prince, Feb. 15, 2019, on the ninth day of protests against Haitian President Jovenel Moise. VOA

Hundreds of Haitians protested in the streets of the capital, Port- au-Prince, for the ninth consecutive day Friday, despite the president’s assurances that he understands their pain and is working toward a solution.

“We are asking the international community to help us get rid of [President] Jovenel [Moise] because Jovenel is working for them,” a protester told VOA Creole. “Fellow citizens, please if you see Jovenel on the street, handcuff him and throw him in jail,” the young man added.

FILE - President Jovenel Moise, then the Haitian presidential candidate of PHTK Political Party, speaks during an interview with AFP in Port-au-Prince, Sept. 6, 2016.
President Jovenel Moise, then the Haitian presidential candidate of PHTK Political Party, speaks during an interview with AFP in Port-au-Prince, Sept. 6, 2016. VOA

Moise broke his weeklong silence with a national address Thursday night, which was broadcast nationwide and on Facebook. He sought to calm and reassure a tense and angry nation.

“I hear you,” Moise said, acknowledging criticism about his government’s ineffectiveness and lack of transparency. “I will never betray you. You are the reason I ran for president. I’m working for you.”

He also reminded the country’s most underprivileged citizens that like them, he, too, came from humble beginnings.

Moise announced that he has taken a series of measures to make life better for Haitians and has asked Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant, whom he described as an electoral rival, to communicate those measures and apply them immediately. He later tweeted that Ceant would announce the new economic measures Friday.

It is still unclear whether or when the prime minister will announce the measures, but in an interview with a local radio station Friday morning, Ceant said the president had pressured him to resign. Ceant said he refused.

A group of women and children walk to buy water in the neighborhood of Petion Ville, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on Feb. 14, 2019.
A group of women and children walk to buy water in the neighborhood of Petion Ville, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

On the streets of Port-au-Prince, protesters are burning tires and building makeshift barricades, which are blocking many roads.

“We don’t need for the prime minister to resign,” a protester in his 20s told VOA Creole. “We need lower prices. This morning I went to buy a bag of rice — I’m a poor person — they were asking 350 dollars [Haitian Gourdes, the local currency, are equivalent to about U.S. $3.50]. So, president, I’m asking you to resign. You can go now.”

“Jovenel is adding fuel to the fire,” a protester in his 40s told VOA Creole. “It would have been better if he had never said anything.” The man decried the current living conditions where young people have died and residents are dealing with a water shortage.

“I’m out here [protesting] for the ninth time. I lost a lot of brothers and sisters during these protests,” another man said proudly. “The president humiliated [in his speech last night] by calling us drug dealers, while he sends kudos to the Americans. Mr. President, we are not drug dealers!”

The international community has acknowledged the people’s right to protest but deplored the violence and damage to property.

The U.S. Embassy issued a statement Friday reacting to the protests and the president’s speech.

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“The United States Government shares the desire of the Haitian people for a better future for Haiti,” it said. “We encourage all of Haiti’s lawfully elected representatives, and all Haitians who seek a peaceful political solution consistent with Haiti’s constitution to engage in an inclusive dialogue — without resorting to violent action.”

The statement also encouraged “sound economic policy measures” and “transparent resource management” as ways to improve living conditions. (VOA)

Next Story

Central American Countries Rally to Protest For Conservation of Forests

Indigenous Groups Rally to Protect Latin America's Threatened Forests

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Conservation of forests
The coalition of governments, indigenous people, green groups and others announced a plan to protect 10 million hectares of forests. Pixabay

Central American countries are teaming up to conserve the region’s five great forests as part of a regional climate action plan released at U.N. climate talks in Madrid this week, the alliance behind the effort said.

The coalition of governments, indigenous people, green groups and others announced a plan to protect 10 million hectares of forests and degraded land inside those forests — an area roughly the size of Guatemala — by 2030.

In the last 15 years, three of the forests have been reduced by almost one-quarter in size, with illegal cattle ranching responsible for more than 90% of recent deforestation, it said.

Measures planned to safeguard the forests include bolstering agencies that look after protected areas, tracing beef to verify it has been legally produced, cracking down on cross-border cattle trafficking, helping ranchers find other ways to earn a living, and reforesting land where trees have been cut down.

Jeremy Radachowsky, regional director for the Wildlife Conservation Society, a partner in the project, said financing would come from multiple sources, including Central American countries, donor governments and a dedicated fund that will be created for indigenous and community forests.

The five forests, spanning from Mexico to Colombia, are key to curbing climate change as they sequester carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels that would otherwise heat up the planet.

Spain Climate Talks
People shout slogans during a march organized by the Fridays for Future international movement of school students outside of the COP25 climate talks congress in Madrid, Spain. VOA

“Nearly 50% of the carbon in Mesoamerica is stored in the five great forests,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Costa Rica’s environment minister, adding he hoped they would not be fragmented by deforestation.

The forests also provide habitat for wildlife such as the jaguar and scarlet macaw, the alliance said. The initiative aims to ensure no species go extinct.

The forests include the Maya Forest in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize; the Moskitia in Nicaragua and Honduras; the Indio Maiz-Tortuguero in Nicaragua and Costa Rica; the Talamanca region in Costa Rica and Panama; and the Darien in Panama and Colombia.

They provide water, clean air, food security and other natural resources to 5 million people, the alliance said, noting that indigenous and local communities manage nearly half of the forest area.

Candido Mezua  of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests, said it was sad to see the forests of the Amazon burning — and the impact that was having on indigenous people.

“In Mesoamerica, we have our five forests. They still exist. We can still protect them, and even expand them,” he said in a statement.

Amazon summit 

Amazon indigenous leaders, meanwhile, said this week they would host a world summit in Ecuador next August aimed at protecting the Amazon rainforest and other ecosystems in “response to the environmental crisis in the basin and abroad”.

Leaders representing 20 indigenous groups from Ecuador and Peru also called for global support to stop oil drilling and mining in the Amazon “Sacred Headwaters” region, an ecosystem rich in biodiversity that spans 30 million hectares in the two countries.

Deforestation in Brazil’s huge tract of Amazon rainforest rose to its highest level in over a decade this year, government data showed in November.

The data confirmed a sharp increase in deforestation under right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s government, which is considering permitting commercial agriculture and mining on native reserves.

Risks to Brazil’s forests drew global concern in August when fires raged through the Amazon.

Scientists link the fires to deforestation, with people and companies cutting down the forest for timber and then setting fire to the remains to clear the land for ranching or farming.

Forests
In the last 15 years, three of the forests have been reduced by almost one-quarter in size, with illegal cattle ranching. Pixabay

Gregorio Mirabal, general coordinator of COICA, the biggest indigenous federation in the Amazon, said new ways were needed of dealing with threats to the Amazon, including the “devastating effects” of climate change.

At the U.N. climate conference, states “are making decisions for companies and not for the people”, he said.

“The inability of our governments to solve this (climate) crisis is calling us to do this ourselves, hand in hand with the youth and any others in goodwill who want to join,” he added.

Many indigenous groups are opposed to credits for forest protection being included in carbon trading markets, arguing it would damage their sacred lands and livelihoods, as governments haggle over new rules for those markets at the Madrid talks.

“We do not allow the commodification of nature or that it has a price. For us nature is of value as itself. It is our Mother Earth,” Mirabal said.

According to the Washington-based Rights and Resources Initiative, which works on forest issues, up to 65% of the world’s land is communally held by indigenous peoples and local communities and contains 80% of the world’s biodiversity.

But only 10% of those groups’ land rights have been legally recognized, it said.

“The local cultures and indigenous peoples are the ones that have best preserved nature, and we do not believe that solutions can exist without us,” said Mirabal.

Indigenous groups — officially represented at the U.N. conference for the first time — have pushed for language on protecting their rights to be included in the text on carbon market rules that is under negotiation in Madrid.

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But it is not in the latest draft as the talks near an end.

Indonesian indigenous activist Ghazali Ohorella said the rules should ensure safeguards for forest people’s land and rights, as well as a complaints mechanism and opportunities for them to participate in decisions on carbon offsetting schemes. “If not, it will create so much trouble further down the line,” he told journalists at the talks. (VOA)