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Deadly protests squeeze Haitians in shrinking economy

SeattlePI.com Thursday, 3 October 2019 ()
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Marcel Cineus scanned the crowd for hints of a potential customer as people bustled past his wooden stall filled with hundreds of text books in the hills of Port-au-Prince.

School was supposed to start in early September, and Cineus by now would have sold a couple hundred books. But violent protests have shuttered public schools and businesses and left Haiti’s economy sputtering amid ballooning inflation as the opposition demands the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse.

As a result, Cineus sold less than a dozen books last month.

“Nothing is working with this president,” he said. “Some days I don’t have a single person buying a book. Zero.”

Cineus is now in debt with the wholesale company from which he buys brightly colored math, biography, grammar and geography books for elementary school children. The 42-year-old vendor has had to keep half of what he owes the company so he can buy food for his three children.

It’s a domino effect familiar to many of the nearly 11 million people who live in Haiti, where 60% make less than $2 a day and 25% earn less than $1 a day. Their daily struggles have become more acute as protests and roadblocks force the closure of businesses, sometimes permanently, as people lose jobs and dwindling incomes struggle to keep up with a spike in prices.

Before the newest round of protests began in early September, Haiti’s economy was already flailing. The country had seen a reduction in funds from Petrocaribe, a Venezuela-subsidized oil plan, given the drop in oil prices, and international aid for the devastating 2010 earthquake was dwindling.

The government turned to Haiti’s Central Bank for money, which sparked a devaluation of the Haitian gourde and led to a spike in inflation. Before 2015,...

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