Conflicts & War

Gang violence, fuel shortage keep Haitian kids away from school

Port-au-Prince, Oct 29 (EFE).- Classrooms in the Haitian capital had plenty of empty seats Friday as parents remained hesitant about a return to school after a three-day general strike amid gang violence and an ongoing shortage of fuel.

During a visit to Ecole Academique Moderne de Pradieu in Port-au-Prince, Efe was told that only around 100 of the 500 enrolled students reported for school.

Even fewer pupils showed up on Thursday, according to school staff.

Mathematics instructor Judithe Chrisme saw her class of 32 reduced to just two on Friday.

“The fear of crime is one of the reasons why the parents don’t send their children” to school, she said, before going on to express confidence that the situation will improve “with the passage of time.”

Emilio Ambresel, who teaches Spanish at Pradieu, told Efe that the current tensions in Haiti are affecting students’ performance, requiring teachers to “have a lot of patience.”

After months of worsening violence, the gangs observed a sort of truce following the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the powerful earthquake that struck the southwestern part of the country on Aug. 14.

But the mayhem returned in September and intensified in recent weeks.

The G9 Fanmi e Alye (G9 Family and Allies) federation of gangs began carrying out attacks on tanker trucks and have been blocking access to Haiti’s main fuel depots in Port-au-Prince harbor for the last week.

G9’s leader, former police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier told a press conference on Tuesday that the armed gangs under his command would allow the resumption of fuel deliveries only if Ariel Henry stepped down as prime minister.

Cherizier, a long-time collaborator with the ruling PHTK party, said Henry must resign because he has been subpoenaed by prosecutors to explain telephone records showing that he had contact with the alleged mastermind of Moise’s assassination in the hours after the killing.

In a prerecorded message released after midnight Thursday, Henry vowed to confront the gangs and the people behind them – identified by some local observers as the handful of wealthy families who dominate the Haitian economy.

“If they do not stop their wrongdoing, the law will apply to them. The only option for bandits and all their sponsors is imprisonment or death if they do not want to change professions,” the embattled prime minister said.

Henry also said that fuel distribution would resume with police deployed to escort tanker trucks.

By late Friday, several hospitals in the capital forced earlier to shut down due to the lack of fuel had received deliveries of diesel to run their generators.

The State University of Haiti Hospital and Hospital La Paix, among others, were each supplied with 2,000 gallons of diesel, the Unicef office in Port-au-Prince told Efe.

Because the Haitian power grid is so unreliable, hospitals and most businesses rely for electricity on generators powered by gasoline and cannot operate without fuel. EFE mmv/dr

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