Haitian government promises 'return to normal life' as isolated protests in capital continue

The Haitian government has asked the country's citizens to return to normal activities on Monday after 11 days of anti-government riots that have shut down everything from schools and grocery stores to the supply of essentials such as water and fuel.

In a press release issued Sunday afternoon, Jean Michel Lapin, the minister for culture and communication, outlined "firm instructions to public and national security institutions to ease the return to normal life."

He said schools, universities, businesses and the civil service would be open regular hours Monday.

Whether ordinary Haitians will heed this call remains to be seen. A detailed schedule of protests for this coming week has been widely circulating over the weekend, largely over the WhatsApp text messaging service, and the anger on the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, was palpable.

A barricade outside the National Palace, the residence of President Jovenel Moïse, at whom much of the protests were directed. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

Thousands of demonstrators this past week and a half have been calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse and Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant over the alleged mismanagement of the PetroCaribe agreement. The deal allowed Haiti to purchase oil from Venezuela at a discount and was meant to free up about $ 4 billion US to aid development in the country, decimated by several major natural disasters and years of corruption, violence and political instability. 

'Everything is malfunctioning'

At an outdoor flower shop Sunday, around a dozen men sat idly, out of work, watching the overstocked Valentine's Day flowers go bad. No one is buying flowers in these difficult times.

"The country we live in is very expensive," said one man, who would not give his name.

"The dollar is skyrocketing. There is trash everywhere. Everything is malfunctioning. My feeling is that it is the beginning of the end of the world in Haiti."

Sunday was quieter in the Haitian capital after more than a week of protests, but anger among its residents was still palpable. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

Another worker at the flower stand, who would also not give his name, said Haiti is a country with an inert political class.

"Where are the senators?" he said, "Where are the ministers? Senators and ministers are the representatives of the people. And they have all remained mute."

Day-long wait for propane

Around the corner from the flower stand, people had been queuing in the heat all day with empty propane tanks hoping to get a refill. When the propane truck arrives, there are cheers of joy.

None of the people in line would agree to an interview, and they turned their backs when the CBC News camera came out. Anger about their situation is sometimes directed at journalists, of whom may are skeptical.

Haitians line up for propane in Port-au-Prince on Sunday. When the Sodigaz truck pulled into the distribution centre, there were cheers of joy, but some people turned their backs to the camera, not wanting to be filmed or quoted by journalists. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

While the weekend was relatively calm compared to the violence of last week, the anger is still present, and there was a small protest in the Pétion-Ville neighbourhood of the capital, where garbage that had remain uncollected during the tumultuous days of demonstrations was set on fire.

Garbage in the Pétion-Ville district of Port-au-Prince. Garbage has been left uncollected during the protests and occasionally set on fire by demonstrators. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant announced nine measures to alleviate the country's economic crisis on Saturday and said the government would reduce its own expenses by 30 per cent.

Whether that decree and the Sunday afternoon press release asking everyone to get back to normal will be enough to quell the protests and appease the Haitians who have taken to the streets will be put to the test in the week ahead.

It remains to be seen whether Haitians' anger at these two men, Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant, left,and President Jovenel Moïse, pictured in September 2018 at the National Palace, will subside this week. Protesters have been calling for the resignation of both over the alleged corrupt mishandling of funds that were supposed to have gone toward development. (Dieu Nalio Chery/Associated Press)

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