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Violence Leads to the Cancellation of Haiti’s Annual Carnival

By Kerry-Ann Forbes-Barber, Staff Reporter 

Armed off-duty police officers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Dieu Nalio Chery/AP

An outbreak of violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the nation’s capital led to the cancellation of its well-anticipated annual carnival this past weekend on Sunday, Feb. 23.

On the first day of Carnival celebrations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti protests, gunfire and burning flames, which has reportedly left at least one person dead and others injured, forced the Haitian government to cancel the 2020 carnival festivities. 

In a statement from Haiti’s communication ministry issued on Sunday, the government announced the cancellation of the carnival:

“In order to avoid planned bloodshed, the Government takes the opportunity to inform the population that the carnival has been canceled in Port-au-Prince and invites the Haitian people to remain calm while waiting for the next announcements.”

According to Restavek Freedom, Carnival in Haiti, which is also called Mardi Gras, is one of the most anticipated events in Haiti during the month of February. 

The celebration lasts multiple days and people celebrate freely in the streets. The elaborate floats, costumes, music, dance and colors are a reflection of Haiti’s rich and beautiful culture.

Haiti continues to grapple with many ongoing issues since a massive earthquake damaged much of its physical, economic and political structures a decade ago in 2010.

Consequently, the reasons for the unrest in Port-au-Prince on Sunday include protest over police pay and working conditions and demand for the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise.

“Honestly, it’s kind of irritating. We had it in Au-cap and everything was fine but in Port-au-Prince because PDH has been having internal protests they brought stuff like on the streets the other day,” said Naomi Rochelin, a freshman Haitian-American political science major. “Carnival is very important to us and especially in Port-au-Prince, it being the capital and all. It is sad to see that we can’t put our differences aside for a little while to truly enjoy the spirit of carnival.” 

There was a deleterious exchange of gunfire on Sunday between police officers and soldiers outside of Haiti’s presidential palace, which resulted in bystanders running to seek cover, one soldier dead and three police officers wounded. 

Police officers showed up to the opening of Carnival in masks and regular clothes to protest their pay and working conditions. Their goal is to unionize to ensure their wishes are granted.

This violence leaves the country in fear and questions its national security.