Update: Marie Antoinette Gauthier and Louis Buteau were among 15 prisoners released on 26 March, after an appeals court ruled their arrests illegal. Two supposed coup-plotters remain in prison, reportedly because of a clerical error.
No leader is universally scorned, but Jovenel Moïse comes close. Turnout was 18 per cent in the elections that made him president of Haiti in 2016. Since then there have been government-linked massacres, including one that killed at least seventy people, a spike in kidnappings, an uptick in murders, rampant inflation, blatant corruption and pervasive fear. For almost all Haitians life has got much worse. Moïse has ruled by decree since January 2020, when most parliamentarians’ terms expired. He has replaced all the country’s mayors with people who report only to him. He would like to cement his authoritarian grip by forcing constitutional reform with a referendum in June.
In the Bahamas, there are more immigrants from Haiti than from all other countries combined. They make up perhaps 10 per cent of the population, which totals 400,000, but it’s hard to know for sure. Among their ranks are thousands of people born in the Bahamas to undocumented parents, who are effectively stateless: the Bahamas does not grant birthright citizenship. Merely to appear Haitian is to risk detention and deportation. A 2014 policy requires non-citizens to carry passports. According to rights groups, the police use the policy to harass and extort money from Haitian immigrants afraid of being deported. Round-ups and raids are frequent. Last year, the courts halted a government plan to raze Haitian shanty towns. Hurricane Dorian has accomplished what the government could not.