Haiti (MNN) — Over the last few week, riots have been surging through the streets of Cap Haitien and Port au Prince in Haiti. Though they all but stopped a few days ago, For Haiti With Love’s Eva Dehart received word Wednesday morning that protests were reigniting in Port au Prince.
“The thing that triggered it was a major increase in the price of all fuels,” Dehart says. “Diesel went up to three dollars a gallon and gasoline went up to five dollars and fifty cents a gallon.”
“It just took things so totally out of reach of the poor people, and the only way they know how to get attention down there is to hit the streets.”
Why was everyone so incensed? Dehart says people just wanted to watch some soccer.
“Neither Port au Prince nor Cap Haitien was providing power for the people, which meant that they wanted to go out and buy gasoline or diesel for any generators that might be available,” she says. “They wanted to watch the World Cup. It’s very important to them, and suddenly their access to that was shut off. When you only have one form of recreation and your access to that is suddenly shut off, then you get upset at the government.”
According to Dehart’s contacts, Port-au-Prince was violent enough that there were paid rioters. In most places, the riots escalated quickly thanks to high emotions.
“You’re talking about people who make, in their own money, two dollars a day, and they’re looking at gasoline costing twenty dollars a gallon.”
Though Cap Haitien’s riots went quiet immediately after fuel prices went back down, Dehart says Port au Prince tends to be more passionate about politics, hence the resurgence of discontentment.
“It’s a lot of very complicated politics and finances, and poor people are caught in the middle of all of this.”
Now, even in areas where the riots have ended, the fallout of the chaos is still having repercussions.
“What you’re going to start seeing now is a lot of respiratory issues because there were so many burning tires and burning rubbish piles and everything was going up in flames,” Dehart says. If it weren’t for recent rains, the lack of wind would have let the smoke settle so that everyone would be breathing it in.
So far, only one victim has come to For Haiti With Love’s burn clinic because of the fires, but property damage could be one of the most problematic results of the protests.
“They’re destroying businesses that would help the economy, they’re destroying homes of families that will be displaced,” Dehart says. “There’s just no logic to what happens when a mob gets into a frenzy.”
But it’s not all bad news. None of For Haiti With Love’s facilities or personnel were harmed, and several missions groups visiting the country were actually thankful for the opportunity.
“Their whole thing was thanking God for extra time with the people, and they had a whole different outlook on the fact that their stay had been extended,” Dehart says.
“A lot of compassion and a lot of good things took place in the background where God was getting a lot of glory out of the mess.”