Haiti: gli studenti ritornano nelle strade
Some students are also taking aim at members of the business elite who, they say, are the ones now holding the reins of power. The powerful influence of the private sector is being blamed for the worsening living conditions for the poor majority.
In the last months of 2003 and early 2004, students were in the forefront of the mass street protests that undermined the legitimacy of the Lavalas Family party government. Weakened by the protest movement that united disaffected sectors from different social classes, that government collapsed in the face of an armed insurgency, and President Aristide left the country on 29 February 2004.
Since then, the interim Prime Minster Gerard Latortue and his cabinet of ministers have failed to bring about anticipated changes in the country's dire economic situation, and criminal violence and human rights abuses have increased.
On 11 May, several hundred State University students marched through the streets of Port-au-Prince to protest outside the Prime Minister's office. "We've been watching this government, and it's not doing anything," said Wisley Joseph, 25, a communications student. "So, we are back on the streets."
The protesting students chanted slogans hostile to Latortue's government, denouncing it in particular for allowing steep price rises for food items and fuel, causing the living standards of the poor majority to fall even further. Around 80% of Haitians live on less than US$2 a day.
One group - students from the Social Science Faculty - also voiced their frustration with the country's privileged elite, and denounced students from the University's Business Management Institute for maintaining the links forged with business leaders during the anti-Aristide mobilisation.
"We no longer want to be the turkeys that get stuffed (we no longer wish to be played for fools)," chanted the Social Science Faculty students, in reference to the private sector-dominated Group of 184, which they say has been using the students to protect its own class interests.
Josue Vaval is a final year psychology student, and a leader of the Haitian Autonomous Student's Movement (MEGA). He said, "MEGA realises that the majority of the population is being excluded at this time. But we are not pro-bourgeois like some other students, and we believe the poorest members of society should be included and become actors in their own history."
Another student protestor, Jean Junior Wilson, told the local Haitian press agency that the origin of the tension between different student groups during the 11 May demonstration was because some students had forgetten that their role was to push the authorities to take measures to help underprivileged masses.
For six weeks now, students from the State University have joined members of trade unions, human rights groups and other progressive organisations in staging a weekly sit-in outside the Ministry of Commerce.
The protestors have been denouncing the recent increases in petrol and diesel which, they say, are making life impossible for small merchants and others who use public transport.
The students and other protestors are also hoping that the sit-ins will force the Latortue government to intervene to reverse recent price rises for maize, rice, beans, cooking oil and charcoal.
At one of the sit-ins, MEGA's Vaval used the presence of the local media to call on other sectors of society to join a mass movement to force to government to take into account the worsening situation of the country's poor. Students used aerosols to re-baptise the Ministry of Commerce building, "the Ministry of High Cost of Living".
On 27 May, struggles broke out between police and student protestors. One student from the Faculty of Ethnology who asked to remain anonymous said, "The government and bourgeoisie dispatched their police on us because the police are their instrument. They were given strict orders to rough us up...but we don't care and will be sitting here on a regular basis, until the price of gas goes down."
The following week, on 3 June, the sixth weekly protest was prevented from taking place by the intervention of Haitian riot police who stopped students from congregating in front of the Ministry building.
Protestors denounced the police action, making the point that the officers would be better employed tackling the wave of crime and kidnapping that has rocked the capital in recent months. They vowed to return the following week, and called on others to join the protest until the prices of essential items are reduced.
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