Port-au-Prince, Oct 27 (EFE).- More activity was observable in Haiti’s capital on the third day of a nationwide general strike, with some public transport vehicles operating and a larger number of people walking the streets.
A considerably heavier contingent of heavily armed National Police officers also made their presence felt, patrolling a city now plagued by a debilitating fuel shortage and a wave of gang violence – the two underlying causes of the strike that began Monday.
The Sonapi business park – located near the airport – was operating on Wednesday morning; some supermarkets in Port-au-Prince’s Petion-Ville suburb opened their doors to the public; and more street vendors were peddling their wares at their regular spots than on Tuesday.
Strike organizer Jacques Anderson Desroches told Efe he was satisfied with the level of adherence to the strike, adding that it shows “the general awareness of the population, who are in agreement and understand that the demands are justified.”
“The problem of insecurity is eminently political … And if the government does nothing, the situation will be extremely dire,” he said, adding that the country is “practically in a civil war.”
Authorities say the fuel shortage persists because the the G9 Fanmi e Alye (G9 Family and Allies) federation of gangs, which had carried out attacks on tanker trucks for weeks, are now blocking access to Haiti’s main fuel depots in Port-au-Prince harbor.
G9’s leader, Jimmy Cherizier, known as “Barbecue,” told a press conference in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday that the armed gangs under his command will allow the resumption of fuel deliveries only if Ariel Henry steps down as prime minister.
Cherizier, a long-time collaborator with the ruling PHTK party and slain President Jovenel Moise, said Henry must step down because he has been subpoenaed by prosecutors to explain telephone records showing that he had contact with the alleged mastermind of the July 7 assassination in the hours after the killing.
Henry has ignored the subpoena and rebuffed questions from the media about the suspicious calls.
Haiti can no longer tolerate a situation in which “5 percent of the people control 85 percent of the country’s wealth,” the 44-year-old Cherizier said Tuesday. “I believe the moment has come for us, the young people, to take the country’s destiny in our hands.”
Cherizier has sought to assert himself in the political arena in the months following Moise’s death, building on the power G9 has amassed in the absence of effective public institutions.
The lack of fuel is causing problems far beyond the transportation sector.
Because the power grid is so unreliable, most Haitian businesses rely for electricity on generators powered by gasoline and cannot operate without fuel.
The most acute problem is in the health sector.
The lack of fuel for generators has forced 50 hospitals across Haiti – including 15 in the capital – to shut down, according to information provided to Efe by officials with Unicef.
Even though Cherizier says the fuel disruptions are the work of his gangs and aimed at achieving political aims, Desroches placed the blame squarely on the government.
“The government is lying. The government says there’s fuel in the depots. It says the gangs are impeding distribution,” the strike leader said Wednesday. “The government must assume its responsibility so people can get fuel. The government is lying to us.” EFE