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Haitians Riot Over Sharply Rising Food Prices

Haiti protests

hide captionHaitians run through the streets during demonstrations in Port-au-Prince against the cost of living in Haiti.

Thony Belizaire, AFP/Getty Images

Riots and unrest have thrown parts of Haiti into chaos, as people protest the high cost of living and sharply rising food prices.

The AP describes the scene on the ground:

"On Wednesday, police cleared away torched cars and other debris left by two days of looting and rioting. But helicopters circled the air amid black smoke rising from intersections as protesters continued to set tires ablaze, and gunfire was heard throughout Petionville, where many diplomats and foreigners live.

Several people have been injured by bullets and rocks in the capital, including a Haitian police officer, U.N. police spokesman Fred Blaise said. Five people have been killed in food riots in the southern city of Les Cayes, where protesters tried to burn down the U.N. compound last week."

The article also points out this interesting fact:

"Food prices, which have risen 40 percent on average globally since mid-2007, are causing unrest around the world. But they pose a particular threat to democracy in Haiti, where most people live on less than US$2 (euro1.27) a day."

Related: UN: Food Costs Threaten Haiti Stability

What should be done to stabilize the country? If you have family or friends in Haiti, what have they told you about the conditions there?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

We should all be in the streets protesting this ongoing issue of the rich getting becoming very rich and the poor and middle class becoming very poor.Personally I'm making more money today than did 5 or 6 years ago but I still feel the crunch. Gas, food, health care cost continue to rise. Company's are cutting jobs. Most of America is suffering just to maintain a decent standard of living.

Sent by Glenn | 11:37 AM | 4-10-2008

This is nothing new nor unexpected. There have been food price/fuel price increases riots globally for the last four years. From Bangladesh to the Phillipines to Thailand to China. It was common knowledge that Nigerians who use to be self-sufficient in the culivation of various rice strains [enough to export to neighboring nations in fact] all but ceased their production during the petro boom of the 1980s and opted for importing rice at the then lofty price of $5.00 per kilo of Asian rice. VietNam prior to the US agent orange and napalm destruction in the 1960s was a net rice exporter to the world. The then-US war,in fact, help lead to the California rice industry becoming a dominant market player due to VietNam's decline. And, anyone who knows a bit of Japanese history, knows there have been many a gohan[rice in Japanese] riots that have led to changes in shogunates and emperor dynasties.

As prices go up and wages are constant or declining due to inflation outstripping one's ability to maintain a certain standard, more and more will people be on the street, roads and footpaths. Check your grocery receipts from last year and compare them with today for same items, any changes?

I am surprised that AP would feature this and in a sense take a cheap shot at denigerating Haiti and Haitian [first freed African peoples of the New World] and not pickup on this little bit which is similar from AFP their siblings of sorts..

check it out --since it aint just us African folks upset....

http://www.france24.com/en/20080404-arcelor-mittal-french-workers-vandalise-factory-office-job-cuts-steel&navi=ECONOMIE

Sent by K MJUMBE | 3:47 PM | 4-10-2008

Haitians were not the first free nation in the New World. They were first bloody murderes who killed white population of Haiti ( the French colonists) by burning women and children. Indeed, they are first racists, never being punished for it.
May be it is time to tell the truth?

Hey, are you going to publish it, politically correct bustards?

Sent by Rita Kron | 11:45 PM | 4-10-2008

Haitians defeated the French and English at a time when Napoleon was winning everywhere else. If their revolution was bloody maybe it's because they reflected the brutality of the French slave owners. If Napolean hadn't betrayed Toussaint L'Ouverture there wouldn't have been such brutality. The French colonists had only themselves to blame for what happened.

Sent by Chris Clifford | 1:05 AM | 4-11-2008

oh my chango-buddha.. Ms. Kron read for content please i stated "first freed African peoples of the Western Hemisphere"-Haiti and Haitian are that! But if you had proper well rounded education you would know that huh? Whites in the New World were more likely to die from yellow fever, dengue fever or malaria and of course their own viral pox diseases imported than anything else. The French colonists killed more Taino indians and Africans when Haiti was termed Saint Dominque and African free-labour was gracing europe nations sugar bowls than any Africans could have during the wars of independence. How many of your relations ever got out the canes field and cut your quota? Yeah, right and France and the Banque de France still owe the Haiti peoples their capital assets from the marred treaty between Charles X and J P Boyer in the 1820s [interest is still calculating and is due - fact, the western coup that has Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the Republic of South Africa is tied directly to H.E. Aristide November 2003 demand on France to pay these funds back]. As far as telling the truth, certains folks seem dead set on working real hard to avoid just that...the truth but you did not hear it from me... i suggest you round out your education. Take a course in African, Asian, East Indian and Latin Americans in the West Hemisphere history [with economic emphasis] course taught by an African, Asian, East Indian and Latin [respectively] and grow a little. Barring that you could meet me in a sugar cane field someplace like cuba or haiti and we can 'set it off' with the 24inch machetes on fire and see which one of us will make it to 'crop over' point with stacked cane... think about it next time you reach for the sugar bowl...

Sent by K Mjumbe | 4:32 AM | 4-11-2008

Rita Kron...I dont want to continue the foolish talk, but what were the French doing to the slaves on Haiti, people dont revolt unless they have a reason to, just ask the American colonist and the many slaves who revolted in North America...By the way, to show what kind of respect the French had for their foe...research where the leader of the Haitan revolution died? (toussaint l'ouverture)
Haiti was once the richest nation in the Western Hemisphere now their people have to riot for food, how does that happen...

Sent by Kevin Williams | 6:38 AM | 4-11-2008

You must have jumped in you time machine and went back to around 1804 and sat through all of that, Now that you were elightened, Did you, Bill and Ted, bring someone back to be a source / or represent your claim.

Haitians were the most successful of the many African slave REBILLIONS in the Western Hemisphere. you should look up the word racist. The word racist doesn't apply much to black people, because black people didn't generate hate towards people over skin color. The majority fought for freedom, and what they felt was right. The rest just had learned from what was already there, that one can hate a person, as opposed to a group of people, over their skin color. They probably figured that they couldn't hate a group of people that they didn't know.
And the Haitians couldn't have been racist since alot of them during that time were engaged in interracial relations, after with whites having money and capable of dressing up nicely with jewelry and looking and beautiful, skin color would have never been a reason for hate. Envy maybe, but not skin color. Does this seem reasonable to you?
~

Sent by Jason | 10:22 AM | 4-11-2008

Wow!!! that's a bold comment. Haitians first murderers - maybe you ought to learn a little more about world HISTORY. What Nation will just sit back and let another Nation marches in and takes over their sovereignty. Why do you think there's still a war going on in IRAQ. Better yet let's say for the sake of argument: A stranger comes into your home rapes your wife and daughters, takes the little bit cash on your dresser - what would be your next reaction, Ms French colonist defender?
Just a little History, what do you think happen to all those Native Indians that inhabits (hispanola) that's still Haiti in case you didn't know, before Africans were brought into the island?
Haiti Needs help to sustain its economy and all those big Nations needs to realize we are all connected and depend on each other to maintain life. When will we start looking beyond GREED to enrich ourselves and start helping the less fortunates. We are One PLANET and we have to COEXIST.

Sent by Jef St Pierre | 10:56 AM | 4-11-2008

Everyone, stop feeding the troll. "Rita" is sitting back busting a gut laughing at your outrage. Whether she's a troll or just someone dumber than mud, the best policy is simply to ignore her.

Sent by Kasreyn | 12:38 PM | 4-11-2008

So, after all this banter, guys, have we come up with a solution to the current crisis yet? How many of us will actually donate the needed food, clothes(even used) and basic necessities? Put up or shut up. The Haitian history is plagued by bloody altercations but where do we go from here?

Sent by Haitian sympathizer | 12:13 PM | 4-14-2008

I have been involved in missionary work in Haiti for 10 years and just returned from a week-long stay there on the day the protests broke out last week. I had many conversations with people there during our stay and have also sought to understand the nature of the root of the problem that has led to the higher food prices. The problem is global and complex; it is not uniquely a Haitian problem. However, people who live on little or no margin worldwide are the hardest hit, and this describes 80% of the population in Haiti. Haitians are intelligent and resourceful people. Because of their poverty, far too few of them are able to get an education and learn the skills needed to be able to support themselves other than through subsistence farming. Haiti desperately needs to develop a middle class, but it will take decades of political stability and well-functioning government to make that possible. In the short term, I encourage my fellow concerned Americans to partner with responsible organizations that work to give the Haitians a hand up, not a hand-out. Food is available in Haiti. The problem is not scarcity but rather that people simply can't afford it and are literally eating dirt instead. I don't think that food aid itself needs to be sent to Haiti (indeed, such food aid has recently been so tied up in bureaucratic red tape that containers of it have rotted on the dock while the endless papers are filed to release it). Subsidized food prices would be helpful.
My own experience in Haiti is that the churches are truly the grassroots organizations that are best positioned to meet people at their point of need, because they know their communities well. They can also work more swiftly than larger organizations because they are "leaner" and more efficient. I strongly urge anyone who has church connections in Haiti to contact them and see how they can partner to provide financial relief to the local community through the church. If you don't have such a connection and want to help anyway, I would be glad to help you make a connection. My mission focus is on the island of La Gonave (truly the "sticks" and the poorest of the poor, even by Haitian standards), but I also have an excellent ministry contact in Pignon, which is in the central plains of Haiti, where there is also no shortage of poverty and need. Let's all stop fussing and criticizing, and do something constructive instead! NPR has my permission to share my e-mail address with anyone who is genuinely interested in helping with relief in Haiti.

Sent by Sandra Chai, M.D. | 3:34 PM | 4-15-2008

im sick of the ignorance and the miss leading comments of haitian americans that are hideing from the country the love so much and demonizeing the country they are hideing in. i.e. the usa. i ahte the stupidity of americans thinking in there black and white views as well i live in haiti and trust me if they werent killing and looting because of food prices it would be something elese this is the culture and mentality of many people within haiti, everytime something happens they dont like they use it as an excuse to say people are attacking them or to steal and destroy

Sent by some white guy in haiti | 3:20 AM | 7-11-2008

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