Danse Petro: Powderkeg

We seem to have arrived at a crossroad where the situation can evolve in many directions. First, I would like to apologize to you, faithful reader for not posting for over a month. I traveled to Haiti last September, and while there I could not post on my blog. Back then the country was already hell on earth, and I was under house arrest, as my friend the talented photographer Patrice Douge calls it. I was confined in my home because of the threat of being kidnapped. After three days without electricity, I spent my birthday in the dark, with only a battery powered radio for entertainment. As I laid in the dark on most night, the sound of gunfire and an occasional motorcycle were the only thing that interrupted the silence that felt like being in a tomb. Port-au-Prince was full of garbage and gasoline was selling at 500 courses a gallon then, nearly USD $ 5.

Presently, it is reported that a gallon of gas is sold for USD $ 20 to 25 dollars in gourdes, or 4000 to 4500 gourdes. This situation has effectively shut the whole country down because persons cannot even find the precious liquid, much less pay the outrageous price demanded on the informal market. All service stations are closed and you can only buy gas from sellers in the street. Hospitals are closing or reducing services offered since they need diesel fuel to power generators. Because of this traffic is nonexistent and the economy has ground to a halt. All schools, banks and businesses are closed because employees cannot and will not present themselves. Insecurity is raging, as the police itself cannot work properly because of the gas shortage, not that the PNH was that efficient anyway. While kidnapping is raging, the PNH has not dismantled a single gang and has mostly concentrated its effort on breaking up peaceful demonstrations asking for justice and security. A new chief has been selected to lead the force, but so far nothing has changed. People are dying because they are unable to receive medical care, stuck at home because of the crisis that is engulfing the country.

How did we get to this situation? This is what you call a good idea that went bad, or shall we say It was good for the persons who thought of it. Candidates hoping for upcoming elections need fresh money to steal victory from others in the races. Both Michel Martelly and Martine Moise have shown the willingness to run for president, and they fear each other in terms of who will get the nod from the international bosses. They both need a lot of money to pull off the presidential heist, so each is trying to build a war chest. It seemed like a good idea to create a gasoline shortage at the pumps a couple of months back to make some money on the street at double the price, or 500 gourdes a gallon. For awhile, this scheme allowed some persons to make some nice change, and the population was able to adapt to this quasi robbery. Gas was being sold predominantly on the street by minions working for a mafia like cartel, which controlled distribution. Candidates built a war chest and the only ones suffering were the population, except for those who make money easily and in large amounts.

Unfortunately, the gangs who control major parts of Haiti decided to get in on the action too by blocking all distribution of gasoline, stealing a few tankers full, and setting up their own distribution. The gangbangers have decided to raise the price considerably since they know the situation will not last, and also we’re not talking about persons savvy in business. So, they have raised the price sky high because they think persons will pay anything for the precious liquid, notwithstanding the law of diminishing returns. Because the price is too high the demand has disappeared, and persons prefer to fight and demonstrate, rather than pay anything, like the motorcycle drivers working as “taximoto” who are fighting against an unjust situation. They are blocking roads and creating havoc on the pavement all around Haiti, in major towns to force the government to act. In an upcoming post I will look at the political situation, which is as bad as the other sectors in the country.

This situation may lead to widespread looting and rioting because food is becoming scarce, while the cost of most items has risen sharply in markets all over. The transportation network is not working, so food cannot be transported to Port-au-Prince and other major towns. For now most people do not have money to buy, so in the marketplaces business is very slow, nonexistent in some places. Persons are only buying essentials, and even then in small amounts. Hunger is prevalent in poor neighborhoods and persons are not going to starve with no reactions. Upcoming days are going to be rough for persons in Haiti, especially with this hostage saga involving kidnapped Christian missionaries and their families. These victims may be the drop that tips the bucket because certain people are not to be victimized. A dark future is ahead, with no gas and no electricity.

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