A solidarity delegation of U.S. college students and members of the Haiti Justice Alliance met on Monday, July 2 with a committee of representatives from Jalousie in Pétion-Ville, Haiti where 80,000 people reside and are facing imminent forced evacuations. Lacking consent, information, and alternatives, this is in serious violation of inalienable human rights.
According to the representatives, the Mayor of Pétion-Ville and the Minister of Environment visited the community on June 5 and informed the population that they were required to evacuate the mountainside by the beginning of the following month, marking approximately 10,000 homes. They explained that the area was intended to be bulldozed on July 5, clearing the impoverished dwellings from plain site.
Since this brief and shocking encounter, the community has been unable to get the government's attention. Protests and press releases haven't been successfully received with responses or solutions. Without a relocation plan and compensation for the homes, land, and inconvenience, these people are left wondering and waiting for their fate. Panic and worry have set in now that the date is approaching as questions are still left unanswered.
"Are they going to come in the morning, at night? We don't know anything."
Recent radio announcements confirmed the date of the evacuations, but community members are still unsure of the details. Individuals had received SMS messages 15 days prior to the proposed demolition, yet a formal dialogue hasn't taken place. President Martelly has remained apathetic, claiming he is against the evacuations, yet not stepping in to interfere with the destruction in any way.
"The president doesn't know we exist."
Disconnect between the Haitian government and the community has created insurmountable fear and confusion. The Minister of Environment has stated in news sources that the evacuation is necessary in order to create proper drainage systems to handle the continual flooding. However, none of this has explicitly been explained to the Haitian people, and they have not had a chance to voice their concerns. Question after question need answering. Where will they go? How much money will they receive? Where are they going to work? How are their children going to eat? How are they going to attend school? Left in the dark, these people are scared and live in misery.
Two and a half years post-earthquake, the majority of Haiti's population is still suffering, including the community in Jalousie. Amidst their strength and resilience, these individuals live in poverty. The representatives speak of their daily challenges: the hardships of unemployment, food scarcity, and the lack of involvement in the decision making process in Haiti. Most of the women in the room work as domestics and a handful of them support their families as single mothers, struggling to feed their children.
"In this area, water is like gold" one man said.
The added stress of a looming relocation has taken its toll.
"We are so tired we can't sleep"
Nestled into the rocky mountainside, the meeting room's window frames a perfect view of the gargantuan Oasis Hotel, partially funded by Bill Clinton. The stark contrast between the gleaming orange towers and the grey desolation surrounding paints a clear picture of the current social stratification in Haiti. It also perfectly exemplifies the misappropriation of funds and the skewed prioritization in regards to development.
Perhaps the intent is to relocate individuals to the countryside, decreasing the population in Port-au-Prince and improving living conditions. But relocation can't happen until several social structures are established, including connecting roads, agricultural development, and employment opportunities. Quick fixes and façade alterations aren't going to create lasting change. Development isn't a solution, it's a process. This process should include all participating and affected populations.
These representatives of Jalousie aren't asking for favors or handouts, they are asking for democracy. They are asking for the government to listen. They are asking for answers.
We are reaching out to U.S. policy makers and the international community to shed light upon this blatant disregard for human rights. We are requesting answers and an open dialogue from the Haitian government regarding the relocation plan. We stand in solidarity with the people of Jalousie in Pétion-Ville and demand attention on their behalf.
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