A series of demonstrations that started in the city of Jérémie in the southwestern Haitian department of Grand’Anse on Nov. 27 turned violent on Nov. 30 when more than 50 agents of the Haitian National Police (PNH) arrived to reinforce the local police. Agents of the Company of Intervention for the Maintenance of Order (CIMO), the Haitian riot police, reportedly used tear gas and gunfire to disperse several hundred protesters, who responded by hurling rocks at the agents. A vendor whose name was given as Wilber Bien-Aimé by one source and Hilder Victor by another was shot dead in the Sainte-Hélène neighborhood, and three other people were wounded. Three police agents were injured by rocks.
The crowd carried the victim’s body to the local chief prosecutor, Rosny Saint-Louis, and then set fire either to the official’s house or to his mother’s house–the sources differ. No injuries were reported from the fire.
The protests came in response to delays in a project for repairing the 69-km highway from Jérémie to Les Cayes in South department. The Brazilian company Construtora OAS Ltd contracted with the Haitian government, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to carry out the project for $95 million. OAS started work in 2009 but suspended its operations in August 2012, leaving a section unfinished. Local residents charged that the company appeared to be removing its equipment and materials; this claim apparently precipitated the militant protests that paralyzed Jérémie for four days as residents blocked roads with flaming tires. On Nov. 30 Public Works Minister Jacques Rousseau promised that work would resume on the rehabilitation project. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Nov. 29, Nov. 30; AlterPresse, Haiti, Nov. 30; Haiti Chery blog, Aug. 15, from Le Matin, Haiti) Jérémie is at the tip of the long southwestern peninsula that was especially hard hit by the hurricane Sandy in October.
In other news, on Nov. 28 representatives of some 35 community radio stations demonstrated in front of the National Telecommunications Council (Conatel) and the Communication Ministry in Port-au-Prince to protest the Nov. 9 closing of Radyo Vwa Klodi Mizo (RVKM, “Voice of Claudy Museau”), a community station in Les Cayes. Conatel said it took the step because the RVKM didn’t have a license, but protesters dismissed the claim. “Pure dictatorship,” one participant said. “This is reminiscent of the practices of Jean-Claude Duvalier,” the former “president for life” (1971-1986). “Baboukèt la tonbe,” the protesters chanted—”the muzzle is gone,” a slogan that was popular after Duvalier’s ouster in 1986. Social organizations such as the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) and the Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA) were also supporting the station, which is named for a teacher and activist murdered in 1992 under a 1991-1994 military regime.
The station’s directors say they have applied for a license, and an unnamed source close to Conatel told the Haitian online news service AlterPresse that meetings were under way to regularize the station’s status. “There’s hope for RVKM,” the source said. (AlterPresse, Nov. 13, Nov. 28)