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News > World

Haiti Cancels Carnival As Protesters Demand End To Corruption

  • Carnival performer in Haiti.

    Carnival performer in Haiti. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 February 2019

In another blow to the impoverished country, Haiti officially cancels Carnival. 

Haiti’s official carnival celebrations are canceled, the minister of culture announced.

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The religious and historical celebrations were set to begin Sunday in Gonaives, this year’s selected host city, until Jean-Michel Lapin announced Wednesday that the national festival would be canceled in light of major protests across the country in the runup to the annual festival that ushers in Catholic Lent.

Major demonstrations have taken over the country since Feb. 7 when citizens and opposition politicians began to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise after he reduced public spending and announced the nation to be in an economic emergency. His foes are also demanding Moise step down over his misuse of PetroCaribe funds, an oil alliance between several Caribbean states and Venezuela.

Police repression during protests has resulted in at least 26 deaths and 77 people injured.

"The organization of the national carnival demands a time of preparation,"  Lapin said at a press conference.

The capital of Port-au-Prince and Petion-Ville, the cities that host the nation’s largest carnival celebrations, announced the cancellation of their festivities earlier this week.

Not since 2010 when more than 200,000 people were killed in an earthquake that also left 300,000 injured has a carnival been canceled. More than 1.5 million Haitians became instantly homeless at the time.

Haiti’s carnival is known for its lively parades that include massive floats with papier mache productions and people dressed in elaborate costumes. The three-day holiday incorporates elements from the country’s pre-Columbian roots along with its African diaspora and Catholic influences.

Opposition leader Andre Michel told Reuters: "The fight will continue ... we will continue to seek the president's resignation, and we need to have a PetroCaribe probe because we need to end the corruption in this country that has allowed a small minority to get majority of wealth.”

Just under 60 percent of Haiti’s population lives in poverty. The Caribbean nation still suffers from major infrastructural damage caused by hard hitting hurricanes and earthquakes over the past 12 years. However, it's political corruption has also been implicated in keeping the country in continual economic and political dysfunction.

The World Bank says: “Fundamental to the pervasive problem of poverty in Haiti is the long history of political instability and the lack of governance. Corruption and misuse of public funds have resulted in a decline in the quality of all public services, … and the provision of basic infrastructure.”

Senator Evalliere Beauplan told Reuters: "People are living in misery. We won't stop until we get what we need. We need better leaders in government that give people hope. Until then the battle will continue."

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