Port-au-Prince was the scene of a massive march Sept. 30 against the administration of President Michel Martelly and the elevated cost of staple foods.
The protest, organized by the Fanmi Lavalas party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991, 1994-96, 2001-2004), also commemorated the first coup d’état against Aristide in 1991. Fourteen political opposition organizations backed the protest and accused the government of implementing “a demagogic policy against the people and against the country.”
Many of the protestors held up red cards — like those used in soccer to eject a player who has committed a serious offense — against Martelly, who they accused of corruption and failing to maintain campaign promises by allowing the cost of staple foods to increase.
“We give Martelly the red card,” the protestors chanted, among them parliamentarians that belong to Fanmi Lavalas like Senator Moïse Jean-Charles, who told the press his party agreed to give Martelly two months to change the direction of his administration.
A leader of Fanmi Lavalas, Schiller Louidor, said the poverty of the Haitian population is a “consequence of the recurring coups d’état” during the past 25 years.
“We want to tell the president that we no longer accept this misery,” Louidor said, demanding that Martelly fulfill his campaign promise to provide welfare to the people. More than 80 percent of the island nation’s 10.5 million inhabitants live on less than US$2 a day, and only 5 percent of the 4.2 million individuals of working age have stable employment.
Martelly returned to the country Oct. 1 after participating in the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he assured attendees that his country is emerging from political instability and the devastation of the 2010 earthquake that left roughly 300,000 people dead and 1.5 million more affected, of which half a million still live in tents.
“I can really say that momentum is underway and I have no doubt that we will be able to see results in months or a few years,” Martelly told the United Nations.
Thousands of supporters greeted the leader upon his return to Haiti, and he walked with them for 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) from the airport to the government palace.
“This isn’t a response to the protests,” Martelly said of his supporters’ rally. “But there are people with political motivations who want to exploit the problems of the increased cost of living. I want to tell them to follow me, to mobilize to change the lives of Haitians and get them out of the tents.”