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The Port-au-Prince metropolitan area has been under tension this Monday, February 5, 2024, as gunfire broke the morning silence in neighborhoods in the city. Early in the morning, bursts of automatic weapons were heard notably in Lalue, Bel-Air, Nazon, Solino, etc. Public transportation slowed down, impacting both formal and informal activities which functioned half-heartedly throughout the day. Schools kept their doors closed, while traffic was sporadic in certain areas and almost impossible in other areas such as Champ de Mars, Lalue, Canapé-Vert, Bourdon, Delmas, Lizon where residents erected barricades using burning tires, stored trucks, or other devices. Unidentified individuals also threw oil on the road along Delmas 32. These activities were undertaken in response to the call for a strike and anti-government demonstration masterminded by the organization called Anti-Corruption Trade Union Brigade, Brigade syndicale anti-corruption (BSAC). The group asked the people in general and transport drivers, to observe the strike to bring attention to the dangers on the roads which have been dangerous for travelers who risk being kidnapped or extorted. The group is trying to force the authorities to plan and carry out operations to dismantle armed gangs and unblock the roads.

Besides the strike action, political parties have also called for demonstrations too. The new political party, Les engagés pour le développement (EDE), led by former Prime Minister Claude Joseph summoned its supporters to a sit-in in front of the official residence of the prime minister and his office located at the Villa d’accueil in Musseau. Police had to be called in and they used tear gas to disperse the crowd, which in turn complained about the police repressing an otherwise peaceful gathering. Former senator, Jean Charles Moïse and his supporters met similar fate when they were also repelled with tear gas from gathering at the Prime Minister’s residence, as they call for his departure. In Jérémie, the same level of civil disobedience was live as early as Sunday when during the pre-carnival festivities, there were clashes between the police and revelers.  In the middle of the foot bands, they launched spicy slogans against the police, PM Ariel Henry, and the departmental delegate. The police had to use tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Meanwhile, former leader of the anti-Aristide rebellion, Guy Phillipe, was seen on the streets of Pétionville, all smiles and boldly shaking hands with people and exchanging on place Saint-Pierre. He was simply escorted by two bodyguards and shared with the media that he had promised the people that he’ll be in the capital before February 7, 2024.  “I promised the population that I would be in Port-au-Prince before February 7. I have never lied to my people. I am here for the demonstration on February 7.” 

The news of his presence caused panic in the streets and aroused the curiosity of several residents. While demonstrating on the main road to Delmas, hundreds of bikers rushed to Pétionville with the aim of meeting the former elected senator of Grand’Anse. For several days, Guy Philipe, who pleaded guilty to money laundering linked to drug trafficking in the US and served time in a US jail until he was released and deported late last year, has been calling for civil disobedience against Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Relying on supporters and agents of the Protected Areas Brigade (BSAP), he promises the population a “revolution” against armed gangs. His presence in Port-au-Prince comes on the eve of February 7 and the day after a day of tension in the metropolitan region on Monday, punctuated by demonstrations, barricades, heavy shooting and a public transport strike.

In other news, Prime Minister Ariel Henry swore in new members of the salary commission, Conseil supérieur des salaires (CSS) and the Board of Directors of Social Security Bodies, Conseil d’administration des organes de sécurité sociale (CAOSS) in a ceremony held in his new offices, Villa d’Accueil, located in Musseau. This ceremony follows the decree taken by the Cabinet which nominated the members to both commissions. According to the Prime Minister, his government must ensure the effective functioning of all social protection and promotion structures, and this ceremony reflects the government’s policy aimed at balancing relations between employers and employees, while guaranteeing the right to social security. He went on to stress that the revitalization of these structures responds to the obligation to address the problems of minimum wage and social security, which are often sources of great tension in the country. In June 2020, the state adopted the national policy document for social protection and promotion (PNPPS), whose objective is to sustainably reduce poverty, reduce inequalities and promote the empowerment of citizens. The Ministry of Social Welfare is responsible for establishing, an appropriate social security regime to combat psychological, economic, social, and other risks, according to the head of government, while renewing his government’s determination to guarantee citizens’ enjoyment of the right to security. The members for the wage commission include Guerline Jean Louis, Jean Nerva Siméon, and Jhon Jerry Constant, from the Ministry of Social Welfare; Price Ciprien, Rotcheeld Lucarne, and Pierre Julcin representing the business sector; and from the workers and labor, Prince James, Mackenson Desardoin and Pierre Joseph. As for the social security and welfare commission, (CAOSS) the members are Rudy Hériveaux, Wilson Paulémond and Michèle Navar representing the government; Yvette Edouard Augustin, Rose Midrène François and Tom Adamson representing the business sector, and Marc Dorvil, Laimond Jean Paul and Jacques Belzin representing workers.

Finally, in an interview with a local radio station, the US Charge d’Affaires in the country, Eric Stromayer had renewed the US’s unwavering support for interim PM Ariel Henry, stating that the head of government will only leave after the elections. While the entire country is in turmoil to demand the departure of Ariel Henry, the American government supports him to the end. The diplomat exhorts all political actors to dialogue with the Prime Minister, saying that only honest and credible elections can put an end to this last transition which lasts too long. 

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