capital, gas station,
A Capital gas station on the Boulevard road in Cap-Haïtien on March 11, 2024. Photo by Onz Chéry for Go West Now

Overview:

In the past week, the price of fuel has considerably increased due to the latest escalations in Haiti’s crisis, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis accentuated by hunger around the country.

CAP-HAITIEN — Dieuphene Moïse, a taxi-moto driver, and his family of three have had to significantly decrease the amount of food they eat since the price of fuel was raised last week due to the latest escalation of gang violence and political instability.

“It’s a nightmare,” Moïse said as he stood by his motorcycle in Karenaj, a neighborhood in Cap-Haïtien, on March 11. “We can’t even make soup pen (bread soup). The amount of food we used to eat in one meal is the same amount we eat the entire day now.”

Moïse has been eating less because he has had to save more for higher gas prices. Also, as a consequence of high prices of fuel, his income has been reduced. He now earns an average of 500 gourdes, or about $3.77, a day, when he used to make 2,000 gourdes, or about $15 before.

The price of gas rose from 750 gourdes per gallon, or $5.66, to 2,250 gourdes, or $17, last week in Cap-Haïtien because gangs have blocked roads and port infrastructure in Port-au-Prince to push Prime Minister Ariel Henry to resign, making it harder for distributors to receive and transport fuel around the country. The sudden jump in fuel prices has disrupted the lives of scores of residents who were already just trying to survive. Some residents like Moïse have not been able to work as much as they used to because they do not have the means to purchase fuel.

Henry’s resignation: an ‘important step’ to order

Prices of various food products have also increased due to fuel prices spiking up, making it even harder for scores of residents to eat during the latest events that have given rise to more political instability. Henry resigned on March 11 and paved the way to a transitional presidential council (TPC) projected to take over in the coming days or weeks, depending on how fast the process for its establishment moves forward. But residents do not view this as an instant solution to their many problems and are deeply perplexed about what the future holds.

“It was an important step in the situation in which we are now, where a lot of things have been blocked for multiple days,” said Joubert Joseph, a poet and writer based in Port-au-Prince who was reacting to the news about Henry’s resignation. “But we’re not there yet. That’s not enough to take us out of what we are in. There’s a lot more left to be done.”

Beken Petit Homme, an entrepreneur based in Gonaïves, also feels that he and his compatriots’ misery are nowhere near the end. He is also heavily concerned about who will replace Henry.

“No one knows what will happen or what won’t happen,” Petit Homme said. “It’s a shame for a sovereign country to wait for the international community to see what they’ll do.”

For starters, Henry was installed as prime minister after a tweet from the Core Group, an entity consisting of different countries such as Germany, France, Brazil, United States and other members of the Organization of American States (OAS). And for his resignation, Henry left office after a meeting with Caricom, several Haitian politicians and US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken. So many Haitians like Petit-Homme feel like Haitians had little to say in their own political affairs.

“I have suddenly become a pedestrian now. There is some stuff I want to take care of but I can’t because I’m not driving. If the price of fuel remains like this for another week, a lot of people will start begging in the country.”

Beken Petit Homme, entrepreneur

Hatians held violent protests for more than two years, even attacking the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince in March. This movement threw the country into mayhem and Petit Homme was forced to close his liquor production company, Atibon Kleren, in January when there were daily protests, in which demonstrators looted businesses.

High prices of fuel disrupt lives

Protests have significantly decreased but residents are hit with a new battle: the high price of fuel as gangs continue to cut Port-au-Prince from the rest of the country. In Gonaïves, gas costs as much as 2,800 gourdes a gallon, about $21. Petit Homme has not been driving due to the extremely high cost of gas.

“I have suddenly become a pedestrian now,” Petite Homme said. “There is some stuff I want to take care of but I can’t because I’m not driving. If the price of fuel remains like this for another week, a lot of people will start begging in the country.”

Meanwhile in Cap-Haïtien, Moïse, a taxi-moto driver, is barely able to feed himself, his wife and 5-year-old daughter. He has been getting fewer clients because a motorcycle ride is also more expensive now in his area due to the extreme increase in fuel prices.

“My family is forced to suffer more now than before,” Moïse, 30, said. “What we’re in, however you look at it, it’s the poor people who are suffering the most.”

Frandy Charles, another taxi-moto driver in Cap-Haïtien, has also been struggling to feed himself, his wife and one-year-old daughter.

“I’m beyond stressed out,” Charles said. “I even get headaches. I can’t go home empty handed; so I take whatever the clients give me. But I know I won’t be able to purchase gas with it. As a result, I’ve been working much less.”

Gas sellers in the black market have also been making less income because they have been getting a lot less clients than before the latest twists in Haiti’s multidimensional crisis.

“A lot of people just leave their vehicles somewhere because they can’t buy fuel,” Black, a gas seller, said as he sat on a street corner with a fuel filler bottle in his hand. “So the gas just stays with us. It’s really hard for us.”

Black, 31, preferred to be referred to as his street name because selling gas on the street is illegal.

Meanwhile, Jean François, a construction worker also in Cap-Haïtien, does not usually purchase fuel but he has been heavily struggling to buy food products because they are a lot more expensive for him now. For instance, a bunch of plantains now cost 350 gourdes, or $2.64, when it could be purchased for 200 gourdes, or $1.50, before last week.

François moved from Bon Repos, an area in Port-au-Prince, to Cap-Haïtien in 2023 because gangs took over his neighborhood. François is living a much more peaceful life now in the northern city. But he is still fighting several battles, such as the high cost of living.

“It hurts,” François said. “It doesn’t make me feel good at all. Ariel blocked the country. He’s behind the high price of fuel.”

Scores of residents hope that the Transitional Presidential Council will start soon to take them out of the misery they are in by starting to establish order in Port-au-Prince.

“I’d like for the people who are coming to lead us to actually be working in favor of the Haitian people,” said Petit-Homme quoted previously. “We’re in a really bad state. Yes, we had a PM but he was ineffective. There has not been someone leading us for a while.”

One move that Haitians hope to aim at helping reduce their misery is the impending deployment of a Multinational Security Support (MSS) led by the Kenyan police force. The deployment of 1,000 Kenyan police officers has been put on hold until a new government is formed in Haiti, according to the New York Times. Although some believe that MSS could help tackle the gang violence, many Haitians are against it, partially because the Kenyan police force has been accused of corruption and police brutality.

“The country's problems must be solved in a Haitian way,” said Mackenson Cange, spokesperson of Democratic Alliance Against Transition in Haiti (ADECTRAH).

“If we have people who are determined we can solve the insecurity problem on our own,” Cange added. “We have to identify the people buying the guns and ammunition so that we can stop this issue from repeating itself in the country.”

Email me at [email protected]
Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for Go West Now. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and Elite Sports New York before joining Go West Now in 2019.

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