Life among the dead in Haiti’s largest graveyard

Article published in Göteborgsposten
1 November 2019
By George Harry Rouzier

In Sweden we remember and honour our dead during All-Hallows’ weekend by decorating graves with flowers and lighting candles. In Haiti All Souls Day, 2 November, is marked by the feast of the dead, where thousands of vodou priests and priestesses gather to communicate with the spirits and remember relatives. But in Port-au-Prince, death is not the end.

Full story (in Swedish) here: https://www.gp.se/nyheter/v%C3%A4rlden/livet-bland-de-d%C3%B6da-p%C3%A5-haitis-st%C3%B6rsta-kyrkog%C3%A5rd-1.19840816

Haiti: ‘My success belongs to my parents and siblings’

Article published in Omvärlden
6 August 2019
By Ralph Thomassaint-Joseph

Widlore Mérancourt  lives a privileged life in Haiti. But on his shoulders rests the responsibility for nine family members, and his greatest fear is that something will happen to him – something that would throw him back into the poverty of his past.

‘I’m 27 this year but can’t plan anything for my own life. With the responsibility for an entire family it is impossible to think about the future. My parents always told me they invested in me so that I would be able to help my brothers and sisters. So I grew up knowing that my success in life belongs to my parents and siblings.'”

Full article (in Swedish) here:

Haiti: Protests stun Haiti

Political life seems to have gone into slow motion in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, as people wait for President Jovenel Moise to step down.

It’s been this way since the national audit office published the second part of an inquiry into loans to Haiti under Petrocaribe, a regional alliance covering the purchase of Venezuelan oil at preferential prices and promotion of economic cooperation.

The report pointed to the president as being part of arrangements that many regard as a tainted. 

Youth demonstrations over the issue have been growing, with tens of thousands participating in a major protest on 9 June. Now the Catholic Church, the private sector’s financial forum, writers and other groups have sent written demands for the president’s resignation.

On 12 June people were encouraged to stop following the president on Twitter, and in the following 24 hours he lost 10,000 followers.

But still he stays. 

He claims to be the solution, not the cause, of the country’s problems, a position he justified in a in a mid-June speech in which he denied involvement in corruption and pointed out that the audit report covered a period before he became president in 2017.

Nevertheless, demonstrations continue, with barricades and burnt tyres in the streets. Schools remain closed although final examinations are imminent.

“We demand that the president resigns and hands himself over to justice,” a demonstrator, Velina Elysee Charlier, told me. “In order to truly develop, we need an end to impunity.”

/Ralph Thomassaint-Joseph, Port-au-Prince

The postcards written by journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot Project website.

Fuel crisis damaging economy

Motorbikes and cars waiting in long queues for increasingly scarce petrol have become a common sight in Port-au-Prince in recent weeks. Hundreds of vendors approach waiting vehicles with yellow petrol cans. Fights sometimes break out over who gets to sell or buy first.

This fuel crisis is damaging the  economy. Thousands of children can’t get to school, many employees fail to get to work and businesses are badly hit:  “Our clients can’t get anywhere and sales are down in all sectors”, complains businessman Réginald Boulos.

He and many others are forced to turn to the black market, where  a gallon of petrol sells for 500 gourdes (about US$5.9), or about 250 per cent  more than the price at the pump – if the pump wasn’t empty. 

Haiti has stopped receiving cheap oil from Venezuela, which is struggling with its own economic and political crisis. To make matters worse,  a waiting oil tanker has refused to unload until the government pays some of the US$60 million owed for previous deliveries.

Fuel price increases affect almost all Haitians and it feels as though the country could erupt at any moment.

/Ralph Thomassaint Joseph, Port-au-Prince

The postcards written by journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot Project website.

Political and artistic graffiti festival

With its shanty towns and unplanned growth, Port-au-Prince gives a chaotic impression. The lack of urban planning is one of the city’s major flaws.

That’s why the theme for the Haitian and foreign artists taking part in the third graffiti festival Festi-Graffiti was “The resurrection of the public space”.

In Haiti, graffiti mainly expresses political views. During the dictatorship in 1957-1986, the lack of freedom of speech made graffiti a way of shocking those in power and criticising society – a tradition that is still alive, especially during elections.

Some artists in the graffiti festival highlighted the recent and increasingly loud demand for transparency in government spending. But above all, the artists were given the opportunity of conveying their aesthetic visions for the city.

“We want to turn graffiti into an art form just like any other, and show that it’s about more than just criticising or flattering politicians”, said Widler Resonance, chairman of the collective for urban and modern art.

/Ralph Thomassaint Joseph, Port au Prince..

The Postcards from journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot  website.