Anti-government protesters demand justice for Haiti Carnival victims

Opposition candlelight vigil march in Haiti on behalf of Carnival victims.
Opposition candlelight vigil march in Haiti on behalf of Carnival victims. Miami Herald Staff

Demanding justice for the victims of a Carnival float tragedy, anti-government protesters Friday walked through the streets holding candles and singing in their memory.

But the show of support also turned into a political demonstration as protesters denounced Haitian President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Evans Paul. They demanded Martelly’s resignation while accusing the government of being responsible for the tragedy through negligence and of lying about the death toll.

“The government doesn’t care about the population’s safety,” said Thomas Jean Dieufaite, an opposition leader, demanding an investigation. “How do you explain the amount of corpses?”

At last count, the government said 18 people were killed and 76 were injured Tuesday when artist Daniel “Fantom” Darinus of the Haitian hip-hop group Barikad Crew ran into a power line while riding atop a float. On Friday, the number was revised — again. Government spokesman Rotchild Francois said the morgue had one corpse twice, and the death toll was 17.

Asked about individuals who have said they have family and friends who are unaccounted for, Francois said, “that is the number Civil Protection have told us.”

The accident occurred on the second day of Carnival at 2:48 a.m. Darinus was performing atop a moving sound tuck when he ran into the power line carrying more than 12,000 volts of electricity. Darinus was immediately knocked unconscious, and the accident triggered a chaotic stamped. The morgue director told the Miami Herald all but one of the victims died of electrocution. Others were trampled on.

The government canceled the final day of festivities, declared three days of mourning and announced it would take care of burial expenses as well as Friday night wake in honor of the victims. The wake was, however, canceled. Francois said victims’ parents aid logistically it would have been difficult for them to make the wake and Saturday’s 8 a.m. government-sponsored funeral.

Still, a handful of Haitians took to the streets with candles and marching to the accident site. There, protesters destroyed a makeshift memorial atop of a wooden box the government had created. After dragging the box through the streets, they used it to make their own memorial with candles on top outside of the gates of the cemetery.