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Demonstrators march in Port-au-Prince on 14 February 2021, to protest against the government of President Jovenel Moise. Demonstrators march in Port-au-Prince on 14 February 2021, to protest against the government of President Jovenel Moise.  (AFP or licensors)

Haitians continue protests against 'extension' of presidential term

Haitians have come out in large numbers in recent weeks to protest against President Jovenel Moïse's decision to remain in power until 7 February 2022, which comes as living conditions in the island nation continue to deteriorate.

By Vatican News staff writer

Thousands of people have been rallying in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, accusing the government of trying to establish a new dictatorship and denouncing international support for President Jovenel Moïse.

Speaking to Vatican Radio's Xavier Sartre,  Jacques Léon-Emile, President of the association 'Haiti Memory and Culture', describes the people of Haiti as being "at the end of their rope".

There is nothing left in Haiti, he says. "There is no drinking water. The schools function very badly or do not function at all. The hospitals have no equipment, the people are desperate for help. Families are desperate."

He laments that gangs are putting people's lives in danger for just 100 US dollars, for example. He adds that the economy is completely unstable and that "the people can't stand it anymore."

Criticisms of the government

In recent years, President Jovenel Moïse has been strongly criticised by part of the population due to the already very difficult living conditions of the island nation's inhabitants. The latest crisis came at the beginning of February, when the head of state announced that he would remain in power for another year, until 7 February 2022.

The opposition, and a large part of the population, claim his term ended on 7 February of this year, estimating that his five-year term began in 2016, after the presidential election.

Jovenel Moïse, for his part, considers that his term did not begin until the following year, in 2017. This difference is due to the fact that the opposition takes his first election in 2016 as a reference. The election was subsequently annulled for fraud, and a second round was held in 2017, which he also won.

Reign of the gangs

Added to the disastrous economic and social situation, and the incertain political one, are the gangs.

Jacques Lèon-Emile notes that "President Moïse is suspected of being in collusion with certain gangs," an assumption which only reinforces the population's hostility towards the head of state.

One thing is certain, he adds, and that is that "nothing has been done to eradicate the gangs"... "and that a sword of Damocles hangs over Jovenel Moïse's head: the Petrocaribe trial that has begun."

International community

This case arose from the misappropriation of Venezuelan aid to the country for the benefit of a few people, including those close to the president, who is also suspected of having benefited from the funds.

Jacques Léon-Emile goes on to lament that the international community does not intervene enough and hides behind the sovereignty of Haiti.

A hypocritical attitude insofar as, he says, Haitian presidents all claim support first and foremost from the United States. In the meantime, he points out, impasse and uncertainty preside over the destiny of the country.

15 February 2021, 11:02