PORT-AU-PRINCE – A large tree trunk, branches, boulders and wrought iron piled in the middle of Delmas 75 street, not far from the Canadian Embassy, is one of the barricades that have blocked traffic every day for a month and a half in the Haitian capital.
Under constant guard by young people between ages 17-35, mostly men, the barricade turn cars and motorcycles into traffic jams.
“The barricade symbolizes our curriculum vitae, our future and our life. We live in a system that exploits people and of which inequality is part and parcel. We want another system. We want to stop living in a country that is a paradise for a tiny group and hell for the majority,” Davidson Veus, coordinator of the Tet Delmas organization, told EFE about the symbolism of the barricades.
A little farther on from Delmas 75 are another two barricades: the first made of rocks and, a short way ahead, another of wrought iron that completely obstruct the street.
The barricades have popped up every morning in Port-au-Prince since the protests broke out last Sept. 16 against President Jovenel Moise, despite the authorities’ repeated attempts to clean up the streets.
“The first of the protesters’ demands is the unconditional resignation of Jovenel Moises. We’re not asking him to leave the country, but rather to answer the questions put to him in court. Even after that, the barricades will remain in place to demand a change in the entire system,” said Veus, who was inspecting the barricades in the suburbs and giving orders to the youths accompanying him.
For at least 18 months, barricades on the highways have constituted a strategy of Haiti’s popular uprisings.
They made their first impact between June 6-8, 2018, when the country went through its first “closure,” which in turn led to the resignation of Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant.
Since then, such strategies have been used in Port-au-Prince and some provincial capitals by protesters demanding a clean slate.
For more than seven weeks, Haiti has gone through a new popular uprising sparked by a fuel shortage in the context of a country plagued by corruption, inequality, insecurity and hunger.
“This is a movement that is getting more popular support every day, to the extent that people are demanding real change. If in the past it was the political parties that took the initiative to shut down the country with the aid of paid activists, we now feel it is the poor neighborhoods that are doing it on their own,” said the sociologist James Beltis, who is also a member of the Nou Pap Domi organization, which demands that the case of PetroCaribe corruption be tried in court.
He sees this as one of the reasons why the government is finding it so incredibly difficult to eliminate the barricades.
“This means that barricading the streets will last a much longer time,” Beltis said. “For me, it’s working. It illustrates the illegitimacy of the current government. It shows that it has no ability to govern the country and that the crisis has gone beyond its ability to do anything about it.”