Mass protests, with barricades of burning tires, kept Construtora OAS, a Brazilian construction company, from moving its equipment out of Jérémie, Haiti, for four days at the end of November. This small city in the southwestern part of the country is still so riled up that schools were closed until the second week of December.
Jérémie, renowned for its poetry, art and architecture, doesn’t have a good road connecting to the rest of Haïti. OAS was tasked with building 42 miles of road connecting it to the southern city of Aux Cayes, but the company claimed it hadn’t been paid and so was pulling out. The Inter-American Development Bank and the Canadian government financed the $95 million project.
The people of Jérémie blamed the Haitian government, so they came out into the streets en masse to block OAS from moving its equipment until construction was restarted. The protests intensified after Haïti’s national SWAT team, the Corps for Intervention and Maintenance of Order, arrived on Nov. 29.
The press says one of the protesters, a young boy named Hilder Victor, was killed by gunfire. However, activists say more deaths occurred, and that about a dozen people had gunshot injuries.
“President Martelly lied to the population of the Grand Anse,” one protester told Haïti-Liberté. “He promised to build an airport, a power plant, schools, supply the city of Jérémie with drinking water, among other things. We have not received anything after more than a year and a half. Today, we have rebelled against the lies, the disrespect for the people of the city of poets, the lung of the country. And they sent Minustah troops and a CIMO force to shoot at us and bombard us with tear gas. Even children were not spared. We’re not afraid of these forces. We are organizing to give them a response with our own means.” (Dec. 9)
Jérémie, and the department surrounding it called Grand Anse, are isolated and were spared from the direct devastation of the 2010 earthquake and recent hurricanes. This relatively prosperous area had given Martelly a lot of support. It even elected senators who were in his party.
However, the complete unwillingness and incapacity of Martelly’s government to do anything at all for the people led to this uprising. It has become clearer that the only reason why Martelly’s government survives is the presence of Minustah, the United Nations military force in Haïti. Minustah is the U.N.’s cover for U.S. and French imperialist control.