Haiti Update: Earthquake Recovery and PetroCaribe Protests

Haiti was struck with a powerful earthquake Saturday, October 6. The quake was centered near Port-de-Paix.  Thus far, reports are that 17 people died, and over 300 were seriously injured. Outside of Port-de-Paix, the city that suffered the most damage is Gros Morne.

Reports from Gros Morne are that 7 people are confirmed dead. Dozens of people have been treated for broken limbs, with many being sent to hospitals in Gonaives or St. Marc for further treatment.

Damage to buildings is widespread. For example, St. Gabriel's school lost its second story where 7th and 8th grade classes were held. The auditorium next to St. Gabriel's totally collapsed. The Kay Vizite hospital guest house is uninhabitable. The Lycee public high school sustained damage; it may be two months before students can return to class. Many houses were damaged.

Our partners in Gros Morne, based at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center, where we have been working for 19 years, seem to be all accounted for. Father Charles and the Center director, Guy Marie Garçon reached out to everyone on the team, and everyone working at the center made it through.

Below are images from Gros Morne, including the community of Perou.

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We are raising funds for immediate assistance to provide shelter for people whose homes were destroyed or are now structurally unsafe. We have raised just over $2,000 from an earlier e-mail appeal, and hope to send this and more in the coming week. We are also raising funds for longer-term assistance, to including support for people whose homes have been damaged. If you would like to make a donation, you can do that .

Where is the Money? October 17 PetroCaribe Protests

Hundreds of thousands of people went to the streets this week to demand accountability for mismanagement of PetroCaribe funds. Protests were seen all around the country and were by and large peaceful. However, in Port-au-Prince, the police opened fire on demonstrators after a confrontation in which police tried to clear a road for a presidential caravan. Several police officers were injured by thrown rocks. The police retaliated with live ammunition, shooting at least 13 people, two of whom died.

For more background on the PetroCaribe initiative, the protests and the broader political context, check out this excellent by Jake Johnston of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, published just before the protests.

This movement is not going away. As the economic situation in the country continues to deteriorate, and ongoing frustrations with the political process mount, demonstrations are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The accusations of fraud and outright theft of funds from the PetroCaribe account are symptomatic of the deep structural inequalities in Haiti - and thus the anger, and the demands for change are reflective of these deeper issues. The cross-class coalition that has come together in opposition to the current government and its handling of this and other recent crises, could well become a longer-lasting political force in the country.