Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Continued Protests in PAP

The protests have been pretty steady here. We tried to get some printed up passports out of immigration yesterday, but the parquet (court) is just a few hundred yards pass immigration. There were many protesters. I could not drive down that way and did not want to drive any closer than I already was.

A few days ago, when the manifestations (protesting) started, about 80 cars were damaged, several cars were burned and one person was killed. In addition lots of rocks (big ones) were thrown, big trask containers were dumped over to create road blocks, etc. So they arrested about 24 students/protesters and they were kept in parquet where they were seeing a judge yesterday, thus the protests outside of parquet.

By evening, the protesters had moved up to the intersection of Martin Luther King Blvd. and John Brown Ave. Police was there with tear gas cans and in their battle gear. Surprisingly, no UN involvement, they are keeping a low profile.

According to the newspaper, the protests started over an increase of the minimum wage proposal. Currently the minimum daily wage is 25 Gourdes (about $0.60) to 200 Gourdes (about $5.00). That may not seem like much to most westerners, but this minimum wage increase would include everybody including domestic help, etc. and the people who employ them cannot afford to pay the equvalent of $5.00 per day. For example, an middle level goverment worker with a college degree earns about 20,000 Gourdes per month (about $500). So, one has to look at this within this particular perspective. If somebody has to support a family on $500 per month, how can they pay a household help $100 per month?

Because of President Preval's refusal to increase the minimum wage to that level, the protests started.

As we tried to get things accomplished yesterday in the downtown area, it was like driving through a maze of sorts because the protesters had made roadblocks out of big boulder rocks, big trash containers that were tipped over, cars, furniture, you name it... I would turn a corner and look down a road and it would be blocked. At one point, I drove around a corner and there were a bunch of guys sitting on chairs, blocking the road. I guess that they were taking a rest from protesting. :)

The manifestations (protests) are only the downtown area for now and no outlying areas seem to be affected.

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