After a strong gang removed a severe fuel blockade, Haiti’s gas stations reopened for the first time in two months early Saturday morning in Port-au-Prince and for the first time in two months throughout the country.
Now there is gas! People exclaimed, “There’s gas now!” as they honked their horns and sped by on their motorbikes as Haiti’s capital slowly returned to its usual cacophony.
Sweat dripped down people’s foreheads as they pushed their automobiles and motorbikes to the next petrol station and queued up beside colorful “tap taps” with inscriptions such as “Thank you Jesus.”
Davidson Jean-Pierre, 35, who operates a small house-painting company, said, “I would say that this is the day when my life starts anew.”
During the blockade, ladders and other large equipment could not readily move on the few motorbikes in circulation. Now, he and his staff could travel around Haiti with these items.
Jean-Pierre said, “My squad will get back on its feet.”
Since mid-September, when a gang federation known as G9 took control of an area around a crucial petroleum port, life in Haiti has been stalled, leaving millions of people like Jean-Pierre temporarily unemployed.
To topple Prime Minister Ariel Henry after he proposed a raise in gas prices, the action drove gas stations to shut, hospitals to reduce vital services, and businesses like banks and supermarkets to reduce their hours of operation. It also exacerbated a cholera epidemic that has killed scores of people and infected thousands, making it impossible for corporations to deliver drinkable water.
Earlier this week, approximately 400 vehicles filled their petrol tanks at the recently liberated Varreux dock in Port-au-Prince. At the same time, a heavily armed police convoy drove them to gas outlets in the city and beyond.
The truck drivers came after the G9 gang, headed by former police officer Jimmy Cherizier — dubbed “Barbecue” — declared a week earlier that it was dismantling the blockage, days after battling with police who tried to regain control of the region.
While the truck drivers delivered 1.9 million gallons of diesel and 1.2 million gallons of gasoline, many who waited in line for hours under the scorching heat on Saturday feared the fuel would soon run out.
“I don’t know how long it will stay,” said Arnel Filter, 28, who was also worried about rising gas costs and a severe economic crisis caused by double-digit inflation that has pushed this nation of more than 11 million people farther into poverty. “Not all people are equal. We lack the same capacity for survival. We are all slowly dying here.”
During the blockage, a gallon of gasoline on the black market cost a minimum of 4,000 Haitian gourdes ($30), a sum Jean-Pierre refused to pay out of concern that it may have been contaminated.
On Saturday, he intended to purchase liters of water and refill his propane gas tank, two simple activities that were difficult due to the blockage.
Meanwhile, tap tap drivers such as Marc André, 40, expressed satisfaction that gas stations had reopened. Still, they were concerned about the effect of high gasoline costs on their livelihoods since clients could not pay the total charge.
“They increased petrol prices at the wrong moment, when the economy is struggling,” he remarked. “It will be very difficult for those who have nothing. The fuel seems to be a savior, yet it will cause suffering to a large number of people.”
In the middle of September, the prime minister indicated that his government could no longer afford to subsidize petrol aggressively. In a nation where 60 percent of the population makes less than $2 per day, the price of a gallon of gasoline climbed from 250 gourdes ($2) to 570 gourdes ($4.78), diesel from 353 gourdes ($3) to 670 gourdes ($5.60), and kerosene from 352 gourdes ($3) to 665 gourdes ($5.57)
Jean Jol Destin, 39, a tap tap driver in Haiti, said that the government does not comprehend what he has undergone to earn a livelihood.