By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. July 13, 2018: The co-director of a Washington, D.C. organization has put the blame for the deadly protests over fuel prices in Haiti squarely on the International Monetary Fund (IMF.)
Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told Democracy Now that the IMF’s program in Haiti imposes cruel austerity measures on one of the world’s poorest countries.
“This is actually what triggered it,” Weisbrot told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. “You had this 6-month period where Haiti was supposed to make these reforms in order to get a loan from the IMF … the IMF has this power in poor countries … where if they don’t give a loan, then they don’t get money. And you don’t get money from anyone else, if you don’t get the IMF money.”
Weisbrot also pointed to riots in the ’70s and ’80s, noting: “They used to call them IMF riots, because they were caused by IMF austerity policies.”
He said the IMF was saying, ‘You’ve got to cut these subsidies to gas and kerosene and energy’ … but you’ve got, you know, half the country—majority of the country living under $2.40 a day. They’re living in 58 percent poverty rate, and the economy has been stagnating for year.”
IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said at a briefing Thursday the body has agreed to restructure conditions imposed on the Haitian government. Rice announced that the IMF is working with Haiti to revise its agreement and said while the IMF remains committed to the reduction of fuel subsidies, the fund expects the new plan will take a “more gradual approach” to subsidy reductions.
The new agreement he said will include “compensatory” social programs aimed at mitigating the impacts on the Haitian people. Such measures may include transportation vouchers and other social programs meant to “cushion the impact” of rising fuel prices for Haiti’s most vulnerable people.
There’s no timetable for the announcement of the terms of Haiti’s new agreement with the IMF, according to Rice, but he said the IMF “would like to move as quickly as possible.”
Protests erupted on July 6th, in the capital city of Port-au-Prince after the government announced it would be reducing subsidies on fuel as part of an agreement with the IMF. The reduction of subsidies caused gasoline prices to increase by 38 percent, diesel by 47 percent and kerosene by 51 percent.
The demonstrations continued into this week, and at least two people were killed during clashes. Several foreign hotels were reportedly vandalized during protests, and U.S. airlines suspended flights to Haiti. The Haitian government quickly backtracked on its plan to reduce fuel subsidies due to the protests.