Nothing has ever come easy for Haiti and its people. Once again, the country is on the verge of another violent collapse as Haitians take to the streets throughout their country to decry an economy in free fall, inept governance and one too many corruption scandals that have deepened their distrust with the people elected to represent them.
The crisis has been made worse by a chronic fuel shortage and a $130 million debt that was already creating disruptions to everyday life before anger over the economic and political problems once more spilled onto the streets..
The trigger for the latest crisis was last week’s attempt by President Jovenel Moïse and his supporters in Haiti’s Senate to ratify his latest choice for prime minister, a government bureaucrat accused of dropping $500,000 in the Senate to secure his ratification and of reaping millions of dollars in profits from government contracts while he worked in the finance and agriculture ministries.
The session ended in chaos with a photojournalist and security guard being shot after a senator opened fire, then drove away with no consequences. Haitians took to the streets in spontaneous protests, which only got worse two days later when the president finally broke his silence after more than a month with a 2 a.m. address to the nation.
Since then, Moïse apparently has gone into hiding, nowhere to be found as his nation burns from the cars and businesses set ablaze by angry protesters demanding his resignation. Cries for him to step down are growing louder from not just the opposition, but from the Catholic Church, the bar association and even former political allies.
Haiti’s people, who lack access to clean water, a decent education or healthcare, are right to denounce Moïse. He has failed to deliver on any of the promises he made both as a candidate on the campaign trail or as their leader after taking office 31 months ago.
For now, with conditions so unpredictable, schools, businesses and government offices are closed. On Sunday, Haitians got a brief respite from the protests of the past week, and lines began forming again at the gas stations as Haitians took out their yellow gas jugs.
The opposition is adamant that the only way out of the crisis is for Moïse to go. The international community, including the Trump administration, has been silent about the corruption and Moïse’s mismanagement. But it has chastised the opposition for its behavior in Parliament, insisting that both sides dialogue.
Decisions must be made to rescue the country from this dangerous free fall.
What’s clear is that the Haitian people must be the ones to decide their destiny. And the right course should be the one that is best for Haiti. Those Haitians who want to run Moïse out of the country must abide by a plan of action to prevent the country from falling into further chaos.
Moïse, for his part, needs to quickly reemerge and show the people he can lead them out of this mess. He needs to talk to the nation, not at 2 a.m in a prerecorded address, but live at a time when all can hear him. He needs to instill confidence in the economy. He needs to tackle corruption, starting with loosening the government’s stranglehold on the purchase of fuel and opening the books. He must show that he is willing to make concessions.
And he must show that he truly wants to save Haiti.