Henfield says avoid traveling to Haiti until calm returns
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Bahamas’ embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, remained closed on Tuesday following countrywide protests that began over the weekend, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield, who advised against travel to the country until calm has returned.
Unrest has been steadily brewing for months over allegations that billions of dollars in foreign aid was embezzled or misused by former government officials under former Haitian President Michel Martelly.
“Like most missions in Haiti, The Bahamas follows the protocols of the United Nations’ missions to Haiti,” Henfield told reporters outside of the Churchill Building.
“They asserted over the weekend that there was likely to be unrest. Following that protocol and after speaking with the ambassador and our personnel on the ground, we decided to close the mission yesterday (Monday), [and] today, I think. That’s where we are [as] apparently, there is civil unrest.
Bahamasair has also suspended service to the impoverished country.
Asked whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised against residents in The Bahamas travelling to the country at this time, Henfield said, “It is always good for Bahamians to be mindful of that and to follow; really Bahamasair always has a good handle on when to go and when not to go because they are always very involved in speaking with us at foreign affairs.
“And so, if Bahamasair does not fly there, I would advise Bahamians not to fly there as well.”
Yesterday marked the third day of countrywide protests in Haiti.
On Sunday, a crowd of several thousand protestors blocked roads and burned tires, demanding transparency and accountability in how the government used funds from the Petrocaribe program, an oil assistance program sponsored by Venezuela.
The program provided below-market financing for oil for several Caribbean and Central American countries.
The Haitian Senate produced reports in 2016 and 2017 which alleged that nearly $2 billion of the money, intended for infrastructure and economic development projects was allegedly embezzled or misappropriated.
That probe implicated 14 former government officials. However, no one was charged in connection with the alleged fraud.
There were also violent protests across the northern city of Cap-Haitien in July in response to the government’s 51 per cent increase in fuel prices.
After days of violent protests, the government suspended the measure.
The widespread protests left seven people dead, according to AP, and prompted airlines to cancel flights to Haiti.
At one point, demonstrators attempted to set a gas station on fire but were restrained by authorities.
Then Haitian Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant resigned following the unrest.