A few days ago, I noted an article from the AFP which described a wave of illegal immigrants from Haiti into the nearby Turks & Caicos Islands, and how the British Overseas Territory was struggling unsuccessful to handle the inflow of immigrants.
The impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti, hit by days of violent demonstrations that have claimed four lives, has suffered a mass prison breakout after 78 inmates escaped while police were dealing with protesters.
The demonstrations, the culmination of months of anti-corruption protests over the fate of almost $4bn (£3.1bn) in missing funds earmarked for social development – delivered via a controversial deal for Venezuelan petrol – have swelled in recent days under the slogan: “Kot kòb Petrocaribe a?” (“Where’s the Petrocaribe money?”).
The protests have all but emptied streets normally clogged with traffic and pollution as schools, shops and municipal offices closed for fear of more violence. With at least four people dead, an air of uncertainty is hanging over the government of Jovenel Moise, with demonstrators demanding the president stand down.
Describing the escape from the prison in Aquin, a police official said the prisoners had initially left their cells for a scheduled shower but refused to return before fleeing when police were distracted by a nearby demonstration.
The discontent has been driven by a long-running scandal over the fate of money from a deal that first emerged in a government report in 2017, in which it was suggested large sums had been embezzled by officials during the course of the Petrocaribe deal.
According to the World Bank, about 59% of Haiti’s population live below the national poverty line of $2.41 a day, while the estimated 24% living in extreme poverty on less than $1.23 a day now face rocketing inflation.
Haiti is one of a number of emerging markets which are experiencing massive inflation this year thanks to US Federal Reserve interest rate hikes and the resulting strengthening of the US dollar. While corruption is the stated reason for the riots, I think the worsening inflation, which is making the island an even more miserable place to live than normal, is the true cause of the riots.