PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI- As Haiti’s central bank reported a 10-year high in inflation, thousands of Haitians demonstrated around the Caribbean country to protest rampant crime and soaring consumer prices.
In Port-au-Prince and some other areas, protesters set up burning barricades, angry that businesses could close due to a shortage of gasoline and diesel.
Following a sharp depreciation of the gourde currency, Haiti’s central bank governor, Jean Baden Dubois, predicted a 0.4% contraction in the economy this year.
“If I take the numbers from June 2022, inflation has reached 29%,” Dubois said in a press conference, referring to annualized inflation. “It’s the highest rate we’ve had in 10 years.”
During the demonstrations, Haitians commemorated the 1791 slave uprising that sparked 1804 long struggle for independence from France.
Several demonstrations were held in cities including Cap-Haitien, Petit-Goave, and Jacmel, with many rallying wearing red shirts bearing the word “endepandans” or “independence.”
Many parts of the country’s territory have been left out of government control due to chronic gang violence, and bloody turf battles between rival gangs have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.
In recent weeks, Haitians have also had difficulty finding fuel, leaving some unemployed.
Fuel stocks in Haiti have run low due to fuel importers’ struggles to get paid for subsidies and difficulties obtaining dollars from the central bank, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.
However, to curb irregular migration and the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and goods, the Dominican government began building a wall on Sunday that will cover more than half of the 244-mile border with Haiti, its only land neighbor.
Even though both countries share the island of Hispaniola, their development is vastly different. One of the poorest countries in the Americas is Haiti, which is plagued by crime. Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic has prospered in stable politics in recent decades.
The Dominican Republic is an attractive employment destination for Haitians crossing the border clandestinely in search of a job in the construction industry or the fields.
“The benefit for both nations will be substantial,” said Dominican President Luis Abinader as he pushed the button to start pouring concrete into the foundation of the wall in the province of Dajabón, some 230 kilometers northwest of the capital.
According to the most recent immigration survey conducted in 2018, roughly 500,000 Haitians and tens of thousands of their descendants live in the Dominican Republic, a country of about 11 million people with Spanish as its official language.
As a result of the border wall, Abinader estimates that the smuggling of commercial goods, weapons, and organized crime will be reduced.
Before the February 27th anniversary of the Dominican Republic’s independence from Haiti, he began construction of the wall, which is set to be 164 kilometers long.
Approximately nine months will be required to complete the first phase of the project, according to Abinader.
With fiber optics, movement sensors, cameras, radars, and drones, the 20-centimeter-thick concrete wall will be 3.9 meters (12.8 feet) high.
Additionally, 41 access gates for patrolling will be constructed along with 70 watchtowers.