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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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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

India’s Farmer Protests Highlight Increasing Rural Distress

Political analysts also said the growing rural anger could erode support for Prime Minister Modi in the countryside ahead of next year's scheduled elections.

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Indian what reaches Afghanistan via Chabahar Port
FILE - Farmer sifts wheat crop at a farm on the outskirts of western Indian city of Ahmedabad. VOA

Vimla Yadav, a farmer from India’s Haryana state, says agriculture costs, such as fertilizers and seeds, have soared, yet produce prices have plunged, leaving her family of 10 with virtually no profit from their four-acre farm. “We don’t even get the fruits of the labor that the entire family puts in on the farm, although we slog day and night,” she laments.

Yadav is one of the tens of thousands of angry farmers from around the country who poured into the Indian capital recently, demanding a special session of parliament to discuss their demands: better prices for farm produce and a waiver by the government from repaying loans taken from banks.

The protest highlighted the deepening distress among the population in the countryside, where there is growing concern about diminishing agricultural profits because many are being driven into debt.

In a country where half the population of 1.3 billion depends on agriculture, low farm profits have long been a challenge and prompted promises by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to double rural incomes by 2022. But the growing disenchantment among the farming community could pose a challenge to Modi as he seeks re-election next year.

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Police try to stop farmers during a protest demanding a better price for their produce on the outskirts of New Delhi, India. VOA

According to the government, the average income of a farmer is about $100 a month. But many make less, said Yogendra Yadav, one of the main leaders of the protest and founder of the farmers group Jai Kisan Andolan. The Yadavs are not related.

“For a majority of them, the income is probably less than $50 a month. That is the level at which they survive. And one of the principal reasons for that is that they don’t get enough price for their crops,” Yogendra Yadav said.

Low prices for crops are not the only problem: increasingly erratic weather patterns pose a new challenge in a country where nearly half the farmers lack access to irrigation.

In eastern Orissa state, for example, back-to-back droughts over the past two years have brought widespread distress.

“There has been very little rain this year,” said Lakhyapati Sahu, a farmer who traveled from Orissa, one of India’s poorer states. “We face a massive problem due to successive droughts.”

According to various studies, nearly half of Indian farmers have said they want to quit working on the land but cannot do so because of a lack of alternate livelihoods.

Farmer protests, farmer
Police use water cannons to disperse farmers during a protest demanding better price for their produce on the outskirts of New Delhi, India. VOA

Despite the challenge of finding work, Parul Haldar, a farmer from West Bengal, said she wants to migrate with her entire family to the city. “I will give up farming and go to Kolkata and look for work to make a living. There is no money to be earned from the farm,” she added.

Although the rural crisis has been festering for many years, economists partly blame the deepening crisis on a sweeping currency ban that led to widespread cash shortages two years ago and affected their incomes.

“Many farmers lost working capital, they had to borrow money from the banks or from the local moneylenders at high interest rates, so their costs went up,” economist Arun Kumar said. “So if costs go up and revenue comes down, then income gets squeezed.”

Protests by farmers have intensified in the past two years as they try to draw attention to the usually forgotten countryside — their recent march was their fourth and largest to Delhi so far this year. They have also held marches in other cities like Kolkata and Mumbai. In June, farmers in several parts of the country threw their produce on the streets to highlight low prices. And last year, farmers from southern India protested in New Delhi with skulls to draw attention to suicides by farmers.

Farmer
The Farmer Portal provides all the relevant information and services to the farming community and private sector. Wikimedia Commons

“Farmers are saying enough is enough, now something needs to be done,” Yogendra Yadav said. “Both the economic and ecological crisis is leading to an existential crisis, farmers are committing suicide, they are quitting farming.”

Also Read: Millions Of Urban Children in Worse Condition Than Rural People: UNICEF

Political analysts also said the growing rural anger could erode support for Prime Minister Modi in the countryside ahead of next year’s scheduled elections. Farmers make up an important voting bloc.

“Opposition to Modi is growing. Unless you have rural support, no party can win on [the] basis of urban support only,” said Satish Misra, of the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. “The distress is real. The agriculture issue needs to be addressed in a very focused manner.” (VOA)