As we plan for a number of mission trips this winter and spring, the news out of Haiti continues to dominate our attention. Large demonstrations in Port au Prince have resulted in the closing of most businesses. Several major intersections have been blocked for days by crowds demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. As February began the demonstrations spread to a number of other cities.
While the underlying cause of violence is simply a frustration generated by extreme poverty, public anger seems to have been kindled by a sharp rise in gasoline prices. As is the case with the rectory in Boucan Carre and the clinic in Bouly, gasoline in Haiti is often used for generators as well as vehicles. The gasoline crisis is a by-product of the political turmoil in Venezuela, which for years has provided subsidized oil to Haiti. The elimination last fall of the Venezuelan oil shipments, combined with accusations that some two billion dollars in Venezuelan aid to Haiti has been stolen, led to a public outcry and demands that those responsible be held accountable.
Not surprisingly, the political disturbance in Haiti is having an impact on our mission. Fonkoze Bank has informed us that transactions--including salaries for teachers--may be delayed. As the demonstrations continue, Haitians are experiencing a rapid fall in the value of their currency. Not only has the price of gasoline spiked to more than $10 per gallon, but the buying power of Haitians--already extremely low--has dropped some 15 percent in the last 90 days. And, if things were not bad enough, we received word that our donkey, Tupac, died on the trip back from Bouly.
One small silver lining is that we pay the teachers and medical staff who work with us in dollars, which for the time being is the most valuable thing they can have as a hedge against the rising inflation.
At present it is impossible to predict how events will unfold. In the past, similar public demonstrations have resulted in a change of government followed by a period of calm as daily routines return to normal. We are hoping that at least this part of history repeats itself.
Meanwhile, assuming that the demonstrations subside and peace is restored, we are going forward with plans for a medical mission in late February, followed by two other missions in mid and late March. With the help of our partners at St. Kateri, we appear to be on track for funds needed to support our two schools in Boucan Carre. The Sacred Heart portion of the school sponsorships will be held on March 30-31 and April 6-7 after the Saturday and Sunday masses. We will have more details in the March update and in the church bulletins.
Anyone interested in learning more about our program can visit our website at http://www.haitioutreachprogram.com. Our next meeting will be Thursday, March 7, at 6:30 in the library of Sacred Heart School.