A group of Canadian missionaries has been rescued from Haiti amid escalating and tensions over rocketing fuel prices.
The team of 26 Christian workers from “Haiti Arise” in Alberta had to be evacuated out of their compound by helicopter, as the roads were not passable. The group was located about 31 miles from capital Port-au-Prince, which has become the epicenter of street protests and violence in recent months.
“It just has been escalating and building up,” Lisa Honorat, co-founder of the Christian group told Calgary Herald following the group’s arrival back at Calgary airport. “It started to get really scary and it was all over the country, not just in the city.”
The team is home! The first group of them including Haiti Arise co-founder Lisa Honorat and her daughter Miesha arrived in Calgary this afternoon! Tired but thankful to be back!
Posted by Haiti Arise on Sunday, February 17, 2019
“Haiti Arise is still here,” said the group’s CEO, Mark Honorat in a Facebook video Tuesday. “There are lots of needs. The people in our community need food, water and medical assistance.”
“We are going to be here to help the Haitian people,” he continued. “Please donate, and we will provide food, water and help with any other need the people have.”
What is causing the uproar in Haiti?
Over the past couple of weeks, protests have become increasingly violent, with thousands calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. Allegations of corruption have been swirling around Moise in light of the massive hike in prices. Though the president has refused to step down, the Prime Minister, Jean-Henry Ceant, said over the weekend that he has agreed to “reduce certain government budgets by 30 percent, limit travel of government officials and remove all non-essential privileges they enjoy, including phone cards,” according to the Miami Herald.
However, many working Haitians do not believe this is good enough.
“The government is making statements that are not changing anything at this point,” one local, Hector Jean, told the Herald.
Jean noted that he recently purchased a gallon of gas for 500 gourdes ($6), which is double what he usually pays. The government is accused of misappropriating billions of dollars and causing the national currency inflation rate to spike.
“Corruption is one of the biggest problems. We need to fight corruption,” the prime minister declared in his address, referring to the siphoning off of revenues from Venezuelan subsidized oil — something that was discovered through an official auditor’s report into government affairs. For years, oil-rich Venezuela had been providing cheap fuel to Haiti through a deal orchestrated by former leader Hugo Chavez.
Following Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, the Petrocaribe scheme quickly became a money-maker for the Haitian government — as they took control of the subsidized oil revenues and began to line their pockets. Jovenel Moïse, who came to power on Feb. 7, 2017, has been accused of carrying on this legacy of corruption, much to the detriment of the impoverished Haitian population.
According to the World Bank, Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, with 60 percent of the population living on less than $2 a day.
Five Americans arrested
In a rather bizarre development, Haitian authorities announced Wednesday that five heavily-armed Americans were detained at the weekend on charges of “possession of illegal weapons.” In an interview with CNN, Haitian Police Chief Michel-Ange Gédéon noted that those arrested were found to be carrying “automatic weapons, pistols, satellite phones and drones.” The police chief noted that they were taken into custody after being spotted driving suspicious-looking vehicles without license plates.
According to the Herald, three of the men were U.S. military vets, and one a federal contractor for the U.S. government. A shocking detail emerged Tuesday — according to reports, one of the unmarked cars that the men were traveling in belonged to Fritz Jean-Louis, an adviser to embattled President Jovenel Moïse. They were detained about a block away from the country’s central bank in downtown Port-au-Prince.
The men told police “they were on a mission, and they didn’t have to speak to us,” Port-au-Prince police chief Joel Casseus explained. “They said they were on a government mission.”
The State Department has issued a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” warning for Haiti “due to crime and civil unrest.”