Apr 14, 2008
In response to widespread protests against rising food prices in Haiti, the government was forced to give up a small concession by announcing it would cut the cost of rice by more than 15%.
This announcement was made only after at least four people were killed and several dozen wounded by bullets in the course of violent demonstrations against crushing poverty and skyrocketing prices of basic necessities. These demonstrations shook Cayes, GonaVves and the capital, Port-au-Prince.
In Cayes, 30,000 people took to the streets and the demonstrations turned into a riot. Shops were burnt and despite shots by the soldiers, a warehouse run by the United Nations mission in Haiti was stormed.
This country, situated a short distance from the United States, is one of the poorest in the world and the majority of the population suffers from hunger. As a demonstrator cried out, “We can’t stand this hunger. The government must act now, or we’ll burn and destroy everything.”
There have been hunger riots and demonstrations in many other countries from one end of the planet to the other. Almost a day doesn’t go by without the press reporting a new country affected by this wave of anger provoked by soaring prices.
After Mexico a year ago, Africa, Asia and Haiti have been swept by violent riots, which are often brutally attacked by the police. This week four people were killed in Haiti, several hundred wounded in Egypt, two killed in Ivory Coast and, according to the African press, forty killed in Cameroon. This is not counting hundreds of people arrested and imprisoned in many countries for the sole crime of demanding the right to be able to eat.
Senegal, Burkina-Faso, Mauritania, and Morocco also had violent explosions, as did Uzbekistan and several countries in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, the government put armed soldiers around the rice fields to prevent the famished from directly trying to seize them. Everywhere people are protesting for the same reason: the dizzying increase in the price of basic necessities – bread, rice, milk, oil and meat. According to the U.N., the average price of a meal in the poor countries has increased by 40% in a year. This is only an average, which hides still crazier increases.
In fact, there are hundreds of millions of people who are directly threatened by famine: all those who in the cold statistics of international organizations are classified as “less than $1.50 a day” and who spend more than 80% of their income on food.