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Haiti officials to lose perks in PM’s response to violent unrest | Haiti News





Government officials in Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, will lose their perks under emergency economic and anti-corruption measures announced on Saturday by Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant after days of deadly protests.

The unrest is the latest upsurge of discontent over corruption in the Caribbean half-island, where protesters want the ouster of President Jovenel Moise.

They demonstrations also reflect widespread anxieties about the state of the economy, amid ballooning inflation and people’s struggle to pay for basic necessities.

Everything is more expensive now, the country is on lockdown, you can’t go uptown or downtown to buy anything,” Frederique Gamaniel, a market vendor told Al Jazeera. 

At least seven people have died in Haiti since February 7 when the latest protests began.

Protestors vandalized and looted shops and supermarkets during the protests [Jeanty Junior Augustin/Reuters]

On Saturday, Prime Minister Ceant said in a 20-minute address that the government’s first decision has been to “cut the prime minister’s budget by 30 percent,” which suggested the presidency and parliament will take similar measures.

“We also need to withdraw all unnecessary privileges for high-level government officials, like allowances for gas and telephones, needless trips abroad, and the amount of consultants,” he said on state television.

On Sunday, nine days after the riots started, a relative calm returned in Port-Au-Prince.

“We are in Port-Au-Prince where there is a sense of calm that is returning to different parts of the citiy,”  Al Jazeera’s Manuel Raplo said from Haiti.

“[But] this doesn’t mean that tensions are gone,” he added. “This doesn’t mean that the discontent is over, there are still pockets of unrest in the city where demonstrators continue to call for the resignation of the Haitian president.” 

The demonstrations are the culmination of months of anti-corruption protests over the fate of almost $4bn in missing funds that were earmarked to be used for social development in the country under Venezuela’s social programme, Petrocaribe. 

The demonstrators gathered under the slogan: “Kot kob PetroKaribe a?”,  Where is the petrocaribe money?.

Answering to that question, Ceant said: “I guarantee you, the youth, that the question will not go unanswered.”

Through Petrocaribe, Venezuela for years supplied several Caribbean countries with oil at cut-rate prices. The arrangement offered Haiti fuel at  with a downpayment of 60 percent of the purchase price, and the rest of the cost spread at very low terms of interest over 25 years.

Investigations by the Haitian Senate in 2016 and 2017 concluded that nearly $2bn from the programme was misused. 

The investigation called for charges to be brought against two former prime ministers and several cabinet ministers for alleged embezzlement, abuse of authority and forgery. 

According to analysts, this aggravated the confidence crisis in the country.

“People don’t trust the government, people don’t expect solutions from the government, they don’t even believe in what they’re saying,” Etzer Emile, an Haitian economist told Al Jazeera.

At least 7 people have been killed in protests against the Hatian government this month  [Jeanty Junior Augustin/Reuters]

After at least three people were killed by gunfire during protests in late November, Ceant promised a crash programme to create jobs in poor neighbourhoods, and assured that he was hearing the complaints of young Haitians.

The prime minister’s announcement to curb government perks came after President Moise on Thursday broke his silence after a week of protests and said he would not hand the country over to drug traffickers and that a dialogue was the only way to stop a civil war.

“I, Jovenel Moise, head of state, will not give the country up to armed gangs and drug traffickers,” he said, alluding to government officials who he said reportedly took to the streets along with “heads of gangs wanted by the law.”

He added: “I heard the voice of the people. I know the problems that torment them. That’s why the government has taken many measures. I asked the prime minister to explain them and to apply them without delay to relieve misery.”

His speech ignited anger in some parts of the population. “The president fanned the flames with his speech,” Joachin Patrick, a Haitian protester said.

“It’s clear now, the poor Haitians that live in the ghetto need to rise up against the president.”

Despite international aid Haiti remains the  Western Hemisphere’s most impoverished country.

According to the World Bank, about 59 percent of Haiti’s population live below the national poverty line of $2.41 a day, while an estimated 24 percent live in extreme poverty on less than $1.23.


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Ottawa announces new funding to combat online child abuse





Ottawa has announced $22 million in funding to fight online child abuse.

Noting that police-reported incidents of child pornography in Canada increased by 288 per cent between 2010 and 2017, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale made the announcement Tuesday.

It follows a London meeting last week that focused on the exploitation of children between Goodale and his counterparts from the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, collectively known as the Five Eyes intelligence group.

Major internet companies, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft, were also at the meeting and agreed to a set of rules the members of the group proposed to remove child pornography from the internet quicker.

On Tuesday, Goodale warned internet companies they had to be better, faster and more open when in comes to fighting child abuse on line.

In this Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 photo, detectives use the Cellebrite system to extract information from cellphones at the State Police facility in Hamilton Township, N.J. “Operation Safety Net,” the results of which were announced in December, netted 79 people suspected of exploiting children. (Thomas P. Costello/Asbury Park Press/Canadian Press)

“If human harm is done, if a child is terrorized for the rest of their life because of what happened to them on the internet, if there are other damages and costs, then maybe the platform that made that possible should bear the financial consequences,” Goodale said.

The government plan includes $2.1 million to intensify engagement with digital industry to develop new tools online and support effective operating principles, $4.9 million for research, public engagement, awareness and collaboration with non-governmental organizations and $15.25 million to internet child exploitation units in provincial and municipal police forces across the country.

Goodale said the strategy recognizes that technology is “increasingly facilitating the easy borderless access to vast volumes of abhorrent images.”

That, he said, makes investigations increasingly complex,

“This is a race where the course is always getting longer and more complicated and advancing into brand new areas that hadn’t been anticipated five years ago or a year ago or even a week ago,” Goodale said.

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Gas prices expected to dip in Ottawa





If you can wait an extra day to fill up the gas tank, your bank account might thank you.

Roger McKnight of Enpro is predicting a five cent dip in gas prices Wednesday night at midnight.

This comes after a four cent drop this past Friday, just ahead of the August long weekend.

McKnight said the reason for the drop, both last week and this week, is due to comments made by US President Donald Trump. 

He says after the drop, the price will be, on average, 118.9 cents/litre in the Ottawa region.

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Oka asks Ottawa to freeze Mohawk land deal, send RCMP to Kanesatake





The town of Oka is asking the federal and provincial governments to slap a moratorium on a proposed land grant to the local Mohawk community in Kanesatake and to establish an RCMP detachment on the First Nations territory to deal with illegal cannabis sales outlets.

The requests were contained in two resolutions adopted Tuesday night by the Oka town council.

The administration of Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon held its first public meeting since the start of the controversy that pitted the town council against the Kanesatake band council over a decision by a local promoter to give local lands to the Mohawk community.

The three resolutions are addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, Quebec Premier François Legault’s government and the Kanesatake band council led by Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon.

As each resolution was read into the record, Quevillon stressed that the town of Oka was only looking to live in peaceful cohabitation with the Mohawk community.

The town also called upon Ottawa to establish a consultation process that would take into account the concerns of residents in Oka and  Kanesatake.

Quevillon’s administration also wants access to the plans detailing what lands are at the centre of negotiations between the federal government and the Mohawk community for purchase, suggesting the talks are simply a disguised form of expropriation.

“They’re giving money to (the Mohawks) to buy our land and annex it to their territory,” Quevillon said.

Despite its demands, the Oka council adopted an official statement addressed to the Kanesatake band council saying the town’s population wanted dialogue and peaceful cohabitation, with Quevillon citing the 300 years of close links between the two communities.

During the council meeting’s question period, some residents suggested that the council deal with other groups that say they are speaking for Kanesatake, including Mohawk traditionalists. Mayor Quevillon replied that the town would only deal with the band council and did so out of respect for Grand Chief Simon.

The mayor also argued that the RCMP, a federal police force, was best suited to be deployed in Kanesatake, where it would ensure the law would be respected, particularly on the issue of illegal cannabis shops.

Quevillon contended such a deployment was the only way for both communities to work together toward their mutual economic development.

Meanwhile, the apology Grand Chief Simon has said he is expecting from Quevillon for remarks he made earlier this summer about the Mohawk community in Kanesatake does not appear to be coming any time soon.

Asked by a resident if he would apologize, Quevillon left the answer to those citizens who attended the meeting, the vast majority of whom replied, “no.”

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