Reports indicate that unruly anti-government demonstrations were witnessed across Haiti on October 17. In Port-au-Prince, thousands of protesters clashed with security services in the vicinity of the Statue of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, in the city center. Demonstrators attacked police agents with stones and subsequently the latter forcefully evicted protesters using tear gas. At least two demonstrators were reportedly killed and dozens were injured. The demonstrations took place while President Jovenel Moise paid respects to Dessalines, the founding father of Haiti, during a national holiday in his memory. The protest was organized through social media against the backdrop of an ongoing corruption scandal involving former President Michel Martelly (2012-2016) as well as President Moise, who is perceived to be using his executive authority to undermine judicial investigations into the matter. The case began in November 2017 after the Haitian Senate published a report suggesting that near 4 billion USD were embezzled during Martelly’s term. The funds allegedly came from the Petrocaribe program sponsored by the Venezuelan government, which provided soft credits to the country.
Bearing in mind mounting grievances due to perceived political and judicial inaction amid the ongoing scandal, a prompt resolution to the case seems unlikely. Although anti-government protests are recurrent, the death of two demonstrators could trigger a wider public response, leading to larger protests over the coming weeks. These, in turn, are liable to transpire violently or to be countered with perceived police brutality. Coupled with poor levels of security owing to organized crime and street violence, an increase in protests will likely deteriorate the situation in the country, and could potentially affect political stability.
We advise to avoid nonessential travel to Haiti given the worsening security situation. Those operating or residing in the country are advised to avoid the vicinity of any demonstration due to the likelihood of violence.