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Warren Campaign Holds Haitian-American Outreach Roundtable in Florida

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Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is betting on a series of intimate gatherings with minority communities  in Florida leading up to the state’s Democratic primary vote in March.

It’s a strategy playing out in invitation-only meetings between Warren’s campaign staff and voters.

A recent gathering in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood drew about 20 influencers and leaders of South Florida’s Haitian-American community. One by one, they filed into the Miami Workers Center where konpa music played gently in the background.

The introduction by Jonathan Jayes-Green, national Latinx outreach director for Warren’s campaign, touched broadly on her platform and why she’s the candidate to elect.

“Her vision is to make our government work for working people, for people across the board—people who have not had political power, who are people who’ve been disenfranchised, people who have been at the margins,” said Jayes-Green.

With Florida’s Democratic primary less than two months away—on March 17th—several of the Democratic candidates are ramping up their efforts to reach voters in this key battleground state.

“I want to learn from communities here in South Florida and across the state, how do we as a campaign serve as better allies in their fight? And how do we speak to them directly?” Jayes-Green said.

He quickly wrapped up and added that this roundtable was designed for the people in the room to talk and for him to listen.

Almost immediately, Francesca Menes, co-founder of the Black Collective, raised her hand and told the campaign they had a problem.

“Don’t come into a Haitian community giving us literature that’s English and Spanish,” she said holding up one of the campaign’s fliers. “You have surrogates on your team who can help you identify people to, you know, translate this into Creole.”

After English and Spanish, Haitian Creole is the third-most spoken language in Florida. And several of the voters in the room agreed the campaign can’t afford to underestimate the value of speaking to people in their native tongue.

“You’re sending a message that we’re talking to you,” said Santra Denis, who runs a nonprofit focused on Haitian millennials and Gen Zers. “And it’s respect. When you see Creole, you see, you’re talking to me.”

Jayes-Green told the group the campaign is working on getting literature out in Haitian Creole to use in Florida. The campaign later added that literature will also be used in other places with large Haitian-American populations like Boston, Philadelphia and New York.

In Florida, Haitian-Americans represent a strong voting block that largely sways democratic. More than 200,000 Haitians live in the South Florida region alone.

“We understand just how integral Haitian people and Haitian leaders are to the political landscape here,” said Jasmen Rogers-Shaw, Florida’s deputy community organizing director for the campaign.

Sampson Borgelin, a North Lauderdale city commissioner who attended the roundtable, stressed it’s not enough to come just for show.

“The Haitian community has been taken advantage of over and over and over again,” he said.

Borgelin pointed out that Republicans have also tried to sway Haitian-American voters. In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump met with Haitian Trump supporters in Miami. 

“You use the community to come and vote for you. Then you tell me you’re going to be the champion, but you turn around to say things to denigrate the country,” he said,” referring to how President Trump would go on to reportedly call Haiti a “shithole” country. 

Still, many in the room agreed there is power in showing up and showing up early.

For Alexandra Audate, showing up is the first step, she added she wants to hear more on how Warren’s campaign will connect their policies and personalize them to Haitian-Americans.

For example, she said Warren’s strategy around the school-to-prison pipeline and criminal justice reform should resonate in this community if delivered correctly.

“Every Haitian mom who has had a kid who was incarcerated can relate to another mom whose child was incarcerated,” she said.

And when it comes to immigration, nearly all of the Haitian-American voters said they want to see Senator Warren talk directly to Black immigrants about foreign and domestic policy.

“I would like to see some type of reflection when foreign policies are being discussed to also talk about root causes of migration,” said Menes. “We’re going to continue to have this influx of issues, whether it’s around climate or economics or political instability in other countries.”

Currently, there are thousands of Black migrants stranded at the Mexico border—from Haiti, Cameroon, Liberia and other predominantly Black countries. 

“We need a reversal on the policies around asylum,” said Vanessa Joseph, a Miami attorney.”

While Warren’s website does specifically mention Black immigrants in the senator’s plans around immigration, including asylum protection, Joseph said there needs to be more public facing conversations focused specifically on Black immigrants.

“We need a pathway to citizenship. We need a pathway to actually get residency, because what’s happening is not just an attack on, you know, unlawful immigration,” Joseph said. “It’s an attack on immigration and Black immigrants tend to feel excluded from that space.”

Most of the voters at the round-table said they were still undecided.

Linda Joseph, a union leader, expressed she really likes Elizabeth Warren, but, “My fear is electability. If you could calm that fear, I would go toe to toe for her. I’m just so afraid. I never used to be before Donald Trump.”

Jayes-Green, the campaign’s national Latinx outreach director, said he’s heard that same fear expressed as he travelled around the country. And his answer is always the same:

“We have the best chance to win,” he said. “Senator Elizabeth Warren has been underestimated before.”

At the end of the meeting, Rudy Jean-Bart, a college professor, said Warren is in his top three along with Senator Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang. 

“I think what separates Elizabeth Warren thus far though is the campaign’s willingness to hear from the Haitian community directly,” he said.

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From College Dropout To Logistics Entrepreneur: A Pioneer In Trucking

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Ebony Grimsley-Vaz

Written by Ebony Grimsley-Vaz

trucking
Haiti-born Pierre Laguerre dropped out of college to be a truck driver. Now he’s a transportation logistics entrepreneur. His mobile platform, Fleeting, is seeing 30% month-over-month growth connecting commercial drivers with on-demand trucking jobs. Photo By Cyrus Baron, provided by Fleeting

As more people turn to e-commerce for their daily needs, the need to move products around the country is more urgent than ever. The trucking industry is on track to experience a shortage of 100,000 drivers by 2024, according to a report by the American Trucking Association.

Pierre Laguerre wants to lead the way in closing the gap in the predicted shortage. He’s the founder and CEO at Fleeting, a mobile platform that connects commercial truck drivers with on-demand trucking jobs. Since launching this mobile platform in 2019, Laguerre says Fleeting has seen 30-percent month-over-month growth.

A three-time entrepreneur, Laguerre has almost two decades of experience in the logistics transportation industry. He credits his knowledge of the industry and listening to customers’ pain points for the quick growth of his company so far.

“In my head, it’s like, ‘OK, how much are you willing to pay to make that pain go away?’ Once I started looking at that way, I started to really dig in,” Laguerre told Moguldom.

While Laguerre has heard his fair share of “no’s”, he has also won pitch competitions and generated revenue.

He was able to fundraise $500,000 from investors who believed that, “Yes, this startup has potential”. He counts among his investors Arlan Hamilton and Chamillionaire.

Laguerre shares with Moguldom his views on autonomous trucks, how his first two companies failed, how being hospitalized changed his outlook on growing a new tech startup, and how he’s pioneering change in the culture of transportation.

We want to change the stigma of working in transportation logistics — make it more appealing to bring more millennials, LGBTQ communities and other marginalized people to understand how important trucking is and that they can make a lot of money on their own terms. These are the things that in five years we look to be pioneering and leading: a new generation in trucking.

Pierre Laguerre, founder and CEO of Fleeting, a mobile platform that connects commercial drivers with on-demand trucking jobs

Moguldom: How did you get into the transportation industry?

Pierre Laguerre: I was born and raised in Haiti. I came here when I was 15. When I was a kid in Haiti, I always wanted to be a neurologist. It was the picture I had in mind for America. However, living in one of the roughest areas of Brooklyn at the time and seeing the gang banging, drug dealing and murder, I wanted a way out. I wanted to escape.

After I graduated high school, my uncle took me on a cruise and it changed my entire perception of the world. I was like, “Oh man. The world does not revolve just around this tiny community. There’s much more outside of the world.” From then on, I really was trying to find a way to get an exit.

It looked like trucking was the most promising way for me. I dropped out of college and became a truck driver. I was able to drive across the country and get out of the neighborhood. I was making about $90,000 a year. I started looking at how to become an entrepreneur, especially in transportation logistics.

Moguldom: How long were you driving before you started your first company?

Pierre Laguerre: I drove for years. I even went on to become an owner-operator for about two years. I failed at that because of an accident and hurt my back. I lost everything in 11 months. I started a window cleaning business in New York and then went right back into trucking again. I built a trucking staffing company, Mac Transport Staffing. It made about $2 million in revenue within two years. I then built another trucking company, JP&L Transportation, where I owned around 11 trucks. It had $1.2 million in revenue within its first year. And even still throughout this time, I was still driving trucks myself.

“While my son was in a hospital down the street, I was laid up in another
one. I said, ‘God, if this kid can fight at 3 months old, there’s no way I’m giving up.
Just give me a second chance to walk out of here alive. I will build another business. I will add a team, I’ll add technology to build a sustainable, successful company.’ This is why Fleeting exists today.” — Pierre Laguerre, founder and CEO of Fleeting, a mobile platform that connects commercial drivers with on-demand trucking jobs. Photo: LinkedIn

Moguldom: Are both companies still in operation today?

Pierre Laguerre: No. I was running both of those companies simultaneously by myself. I didn’t have a team I could trust to delegate and I felt the burnout. Then I had my son who was born with Down syndrome. He went through multiple surgeries. It was very painful seeing him go through it all. It felt like my world started coming down around me. It started affecting my business. My businesses were falling apart.

One night I was carjacked and I had my skull cracked. It left me in the hospital. I had 67 staples in my head and a titanium plate in my forehead. While my son was in a hospital down the street, I was laid up in another one. What kept me alive was seeing my son fighting for his life at 3 months old. And I said, “God if this kid can fight at 3 months old, there’s no way I’m giving up.” I said, “Just give me a second chance to walk out of here alive. I will build another business. I will add a team, I’ll add technology to build a sustainable, successful company,” and this is why Fleeting exists today.

Moguldom: Beyond overcoming your personal tragedy and closing your other businesses, what are some lessons learned from the challenges in starting Fleeting, your third company?

Pierre Laguerre: For me, it was first understanding the entire landscape or the ecosystem of venture capital while running a tech startup. I’m used to running my own company and doing things in a typical logistics manner because that’s what I’ve known. That’s what I’ve been doing. But now when you come into the realm of tech startups, it’s a different dynamic. There’s a different culture, it’s a different game.

I’m used to running my own company and doing things in a typical logistics manner. But when you come into the realm of tech startups, it’s a different dynamic. There’s a different culture. It’s a different game.

Pierre Laguerre, founder and CEO of Fleeting, a mobile platform that connects commercial drivers with on-demand trucking jobs

For me it was finding a way to adapt to the industry, understanding the lingo, understanding how to raise venture capital, how to present yourself, your story and your numbers. I think that was the biggest challenge.

But other than that, as far as building the business, I always knew there are challenges building a business, but I didn’t expect to have that much challenge and pushback from a group of people outside the logistics industry. They would say, “Oh no, this idea won’t work because your market is not big enough.” I learned how to really focus more on what matters the most, which is a paying customer. So I’m focusing on the customers and the drivers and the people that we’re serving. And this is why we really started growing.

Within seven months of launching, we’re doing $500K annual revenue, $1.7 million in GMV and we are pretty much growing at 30-percent month-over-month. It’s because I focused on what matters the most building a business, and not anyone telling me that I need to prove X, Y and Z before they can invest in my company.

Moguldom: Besides knowing the industry, is there anything in particular that helped you to see revenue in the first year of starting your first tech startup?

Pierre Laguerre: I think knowing the space, doing the research to understand what pain the customers have right now. What is the pain that a driver or a company has right now? In my head, it’s like, “OK, how much are you willing to pay to make that pain go away?” Once I started looking at it that way, I started to really dig in. We started approaching it that way. 

Our customers didn’t like the fact that they’re paying expensive insurance on trucks that are just sitting there not being utilized. So, they use us to fully maximize those trucks. Trucking companies can’t hire and retain truck drivers and they’re spending a lot of money to hire them. We actually help them solve that problem through our technology by helping them find drivers on-demand to keep their truck operating.

Also, I think having a team that understood the pain, as well as the field, helped us to be more in tune with the need. It became a lot easier for me to step out of sales and really focus on fundraising. I think that’s what helped us to raise capital — the fact the team support is there. To be able to go out and raise capital and still put up big numbers is very interesting and not something I think could do by myself. A big shout-out to my team. I appreciate it.

Within seven months of launching, we’re doing $500K annual revenue, $1.7 million in GMV and we are pretty much growing at 30-percent month-over-month. It’s because I focused on what matters the most building a business, and not anyone telling me that I need to prove X, Y and Z before they can invest in my company.

Pierre Laguerre, founder and CEO of Fleeting, a mobile platform that connects commercial drivers with on-demand trucking jobs

Moguldom: Have you raised any money thus far?

Pierre Laguerre: We’ve raised a total of $500,000. We’ve raised from investors like Quake Capital, Arlan Hamilton, also Chamillionaire, E40 and we have a few angels on the cap table as well on our raise.

Moguldom: When you had your other two businesses you were doing it all by yourself. This time around, how did you go about picking your team?

Pierre Laguerre: The team part was very important to me. I said I wasn’t going to build another business again by myself. I needed a team. But coming into the venture game, I see how important the team was because that’s something that the investors really pressed on. I was able to build a team of five of us working full-time on Fleeting through networking. We have Paul, our COO. Paul has a commercial lending background. We have Benny, head of sales. Benny also was the former COO at Freightstar. We have our CTO, O’Neil, who is also the former CTO of a company called AirWatch which was acquired by VMware for over $ 1billion. And we have Ryan who is focused on the UX design.

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For me, the team is very important. I really did spend a lot of time meeting a lot of people. I won a lot of pitch competitions as well which I think also made it a lot easier to network with people. I was very open with my strengths and my weakness and what I was looking for in a company. We really have a very strong team I’m very proud of.

Moguldom: What do the next five years look like for Fleeting?

Pierre Laguerre: The next five years look very interesting. We’re very optimistic about the future. In the next five years, we really want to change the stigma of working in transportation logistics. We want to make it a little bit more appealing to bring more millennials, LGBTQ communities, and other marginalized people to understand how important trucking is and that they can make a lot of money on their own terms. These are the things that in five years we look to be pioneering and leading a new generation in trucking.

Our customers didn’t like the fact that they’re paying expensive insurance on trucks that are just sitting there not being utilized. So, they use us to fully maximize those trucks. We help them solve that problem through our technology by helping them find drivers on-demand to keep their truck operating.

Pierre Laguerre, founder and CEO of Fleeting, a mobile platform that connects commercial drivers with on-demand trucking jobs

According to the American Trucking Association, the industry will be short 100,000 truckers by 2024 and that’s a huge problem that can affect every American citizen.

Moguldom: Do you see autonomous driving affecting your industry at all?

Pierre Laguerre: Not at all. We have to be very careful when we talk about autonomous because it creates all this fear and worry. We probably won’t even see it in our lifetime because, in order for that to happen, our entire infrastructure needs to be changed. Our entire infrastructure cannot sustain autonomous trucks let alone cars right now. We have to also look at regulation. Insurance companies are saying, “OK well who’s going to insure this thing?”

They are still another 50, 60 years away from autonomous for trucking. But there is one thing I can see working and it’s called the “platooning model.” It is where one driver is driving the truck and they’ll probably have three or four trucks behind, following the first driver. But the three or four trucks behind won’t have any drivers in them. The first driver will be leading all three trucks. What will happen is when that truck gets to the final mile, you need three drivers at a ramp to jump in each truck to go do the final-mile delivery. Even then, for Fleeting, we see ourselves being in the center as the main company that provides drivers.

Either way, Fleeting will still be a pioneer in the space. We’re not worried about autonomy. Also, one of the largest companies that was leading autonomous trucks is now looking for a buyer. They’re looking to sell the company because they can’t raise capital. I don’t think people should really get too hung up on worrying about autonomous right now. We have a long way to go.

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Haiti gears up for annual carnival celebration

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Haitians gear up for the annual Carnival celebration.

This year, the Mardi Gras festivities are seen as controversial in a country struggling
with gang violence, kidnappings and political unrest.

“I could go to China to take that (raw textiles) basically because, I know I will work with that, with more money but we don’t have money. But in the last minute we know that we are still going to be called (by the government) anyway. Anyway, as producers we don’t have a place where we can go to borrow money”, Arnelle Laguerre, a designer said.

Think about the children who are dancing and the cash required for their transportation.

The colorful parade generates money and some say much of those funds are badly needed in the Caribbean nation. For others, the merrymaking is wildly misplaced.

“If the carnival ends todayor tomorrow they should start thinking about the carnival for next year. Start thinking about things like the infrastructure, the road where they will have the carnival procession, clothes for children, the ambiance and money the children will need. Think about the children who are dancing and the cash required for their transportation”, dance instructor, Pierre Kerense said.

There have been damage done to parade stands and several vehicles. This has prompted calls for the carnival to be cancelled for a second year in a row.

But Haitian Prime Minister, Jean-Michel Lapin is having none of it.

He said festivities would go ahead as scheduled and along the usual route.

Rehearsals have been taking place in the Haitian capital of Port-au-prince for the February 23- 25 event.

The carnival is the most intense period for Haiti’s dress makers as it involves parties and other culturally related gatherings.

AFP

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a political agreement is still possible

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Haiti: a political agreement is still possiblePort-Au-Prince, Feb 21 (Prensa Latina) The Civil Society Initiative assured a political agreement in Haiti is still possible, despite recent failures in the negotiations between the country’s different parties.
Rosny Deroches, director of the organization, pointed out the feasibility of forming a government of consensus and national unity, capable of easing the complex sociopolitical and economical situation the country suffers.

Dercohes assured to the Alter Presse multi-platform that the Head of State Jovenel Moïse must address the complicated question of a reduction in his mandate, despite the president having rejected publicly this option.

However, Deroches considers essential reaching an agreement on the governance, which would allow boosting development and unblocking the economy.

For his part, Clarens Renois, coordinator for the National Union of Reintegration, insisted on the necessity to continue dialogue ‘to avoid a greater division in the country’.

Its breakup could worsen the crisis and have grave social consequences, said Renois.

The moderate opposition, members of the Civil Society and government representatives met late in January in the Apostolic Nunciature for political talks.

After three days, the talks got bogged down upon reaching the point of the Head of State, when his representatives refused to shorten the period, quoting the Constitution’s dispositions.

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Community members reflect on Haiti service 10 years after tragic earthquake

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WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — This weekend marks exactly 10 years since an incredible group of doctors and nurses from North Texas left for Haiti along with local spiritual healers with the goal to bring at least some relief to victims of the Jan. 12, 2010 catastrophic 7.0 earthquake.

People there were desperate for help, and KFDX’s very own Darrell Franklin was fortunate enough to see for himself and report back to Texomans on how the North Texas Medical Mission tried to help as many of those victims as possible in a short period of time.

A decade later, he talked with some of those members of the relief team about this mission they will never forget.

By the time the North Texas Medical Mission arrived on the earthquake-ravaged island in late February 2010, the Haitian government was estimating a death toll of 230,000 people.

Dr. Jerry Myers left a week ahead of the group to try to work out logistics, and there were problems from the beginning.

“The night before we were flying the group in, we didn’t know if the airport was going to open,” Myers said. “I knew we could not come across the border because they would confiscate everything we were bringing in. We kind of bribed our way through the airport”

Several members of the mission team were shocked by the devastation that surrounded them.

“One of the things that first impressed me on that first day was driving through all the ruins and then coming upon what we call shantytowns or tent cities, which literally you could smell before you saw them,” Dr. Robert McBroom said. “We’d pass by. They had a whole line of porta-potties outside the tent cities. Every one of them was flooding over into the gutters.

One of McBroom’s first patients was a child.

“I had to rely on interpreters to try to get at what he was complaining of,” McBroom said. “Mostly it was dehydration and diarrhea. That little kid was drinking out of the gutter.”

McBroom said the little boy was drinking where wild hogs, chickens and livestock were.

“Not to mention their own excreta,” McBroom recalled.

“We were in a situation where there’s still bodies beneath the rubble,” Myers said. “When we went to Port au Prince and when we went through there, there were people just walking around the rubble, knowing that their family’s still in there and even in the area we were at. There were still people in the rubble. They hadn’t gotten out bodies. It was a very difficult situation.”

Another member on the team, Dr. Dan Bolin, said one of his first patients he attended to was a little girl a few days old who he took to a Red Cross tent.

“I’m not a pediatrician, but I saw this little girl,” Bolin said. “Of course, I knew she was gonna die if we didn’t… The baby was 9-days-old and under, probably had a low birth weight, probably was premature, dehydrated, lethargic. That is one of the most, you know, distinct memories I have. I hope that little girl survived.”

Some of the people they spoke with recalled the terrifying moments during the earthquake when the ground was shaking. How the houses fell and how people were under rubble for days on end.

The team would examine or treat up to 600 people a day, and one reason there were such long lines seeking help could have been because Pastor Kile Bateman was part of the team.

“Before I knew it, I had a microphone in my hand, and I got to speak some Creole, get everybody all excited,” Bateman said. “Then they said, ‘tell them why you’re here,’ so we shared that we have a medical team here. I didn’t know exactly how to tell them about the location, but they interpreted that. And that’s how a lot of people heard that there were going to be doctors, nurses, healers that were going to be coming, so they began to spread the word.”

Pastor Patti Bateman said she remembers what he said to children during that time.

“Well, mostly I would just use whatever Creole I have and know,” Bateman said. “Some of that is crazy songs and singing. Jesus loves the little children in Creole and our kids are both adopted from Haiti. We love Haiti. We love people. We love the country. We love the culture.”

From being in the streets to interacting with the residents, Bolin said the impact made during that time will be in his heart and mind forever.

“I got the feeling they don’t laugh a lot there, but they laughed at some of us and some of the things you did,” Bolin said. “I think that was as much of a gift as anything is for them to laugh and show a positive spirit.”

The devastation and medial issues the team witnessed were heartbreaking they said.

“There was a lot of infection, a lot of abscesses, and obviously from injuries that weren’t taken care of from broken bones that were set,” Bolin said. “We had to regroup with those things. But these people have no medical care. I mean, I saw a lady with a blood pressure of 225 over I don’t know what. You know, we saw breast cancer in a 30-year-old, thyroid diseases that I didn’t even see in medical school.”

Lung infection. Pneumonia. Untreated asthma. Sickness from drinking soiled water. These doctors remember it all.

For a week, this team hurt right along with their patients, but what would hurt the most was not knowing if their patients would get care and survive once they left the ravaged island.

“You took a terrible infrastructure and made it worse,” Myers said. “You kind of left realizing that it’s not going to get much better, but you feel like you’ve at least made a mark there.”

The energy and effort put in during that trip continuously play on their desire to serve.

“What matters is that we make the effort,” McBroom said. “If we could give anybody five minutes of comfort with the type of services that we provided that week, then we will have accomplished our mission.”

“This is probably the last time we’re going to be together. This has been an incredible thing,” Bateman said in 2010.

It was indeed an incredible thing, Pastor Kile Bateman said.

“They worked from early, early morning to when the sun went down,” Bateman said. “Hardly any breaks. Maybe a little bit of water or something to eat.”

Though it was tough and heartbreaking, those team members don’t regret a second of it.

“I’ll have to say this was the best day in medicine I’ve ever had,” Dr. Tim McCleland said in 2010.

“This has been an incredible thing,” Bateman said. “The only way you’re going to know what all you’ve done here is probably when you get to heaven and you get to see the impact you made here.”

It was an incredible mission accomplished where a North Texas medical and spiritual mission brought healing to Haiti.

Watch the full 34-minute conversation between Darrell Franklin and the 2010 Haiti mission trip team.

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good business or bad taste?

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Port-au-Prince (AFP) – Haiti is gearing up for its annual Carnival celebration, but the Mardi Gras festivities are controversial in a country struggling with gang violence, kidnappings and political unrest.

Some say the money generated by the colorful parades is much needed in the impoverished Caribbean nation. Others believe the partying is wildly misplaced and in poor taste.

“How can anyone think about going to Carnival and dancing without being able to get home safely, with the risk that you could be killed, kidnapped or shot at?” said one official who asked not to be named.

The official was standing on the main square in the capital Port-au-Prince where the annual parade usually takes place — amid the charred ruins of the grandstands that went up in flames this week.

Since the start of the year, Haiti has seen an uptick in kidnappings for ransom, against the backdrop of constant gang violence in poor urban areas.

In the face of the crime wave, police in Port-au-Prince protested Monday, demanding better working conditions and the right to unionize.

At the end of that demonstration, the parade grandstands were set alight.

“An officer just starting out makes 19,000 gourdes a month,” or about $180, said one cop taking part in a fresh protest on Wednesday.

Dressed in civilian clothes, but carrying his service weapon and wearing a mask, the officer said he had not been able to pay his daughter’s school fees for five months.

– Not just a party –

Despite the destruction of the parade stands and several vehicles, and amid calls for Carnival to be cancelled for the second year in a row, Prime Minister Jean-Michel Lapin said the festivities would go ahead on schedule — and along the usual route.

In a street adjacent to the central Champ de Mars, dance instructors observe young girls rehearsing their parade routines.

Like most everyone in Port-au-Prince, Pierre Kerense is stressed out by the tense atmosphere in the city caused by the seemingly endless violence and crime.

But the 45-year-old choreographer says that the three-day Carnival ending on Mardi Gras is more than just a party.

“This is also business — many people depend on Carnival every year to pay their rent and their children’s school fees,” he said.

Carnival is the most intense period each year for the country’s seamstresses and tailors.

The workshop of Arnelle Laguerre is buzzing with activity — fabric is cut, feathers are attached and sequins are sewn into costumes by hand.

“In the days leading up to Carnival, we work flat out, with lots of extra people — I can sometimes have 40 people working by day and others who come to take the night shift,” says Laguerre, who has worked on costumes for the festival for 20 years.

– Deadly protests in 2019 –

In February last year, at least seven people were killed in violent incidents as protesters demanded the resignation of President Jovenel Moise and an improvement in their standard of living.

The upheaval prompted the government to cancel Carnival — a bitter pill to swallow for all of the professionals who depend on the festivities to make ends meet.

“We had started to do the work, and to spend money,” recalls Laguerre, who stocks up several months before Carnival in anticipation of the costume orders she usually gets.

“We still had to pay (the workers).”

Given the steep lending rates at Haiti’s banks, many artisans rely on informal loans, which can threaten the stability of their small businesses if things go sour — and their ability to keep workers on the payroll.

Surrounded by piles of half-made costumes, Laguerre prefers not to do the math on how much she has laid out this year.

“Power in the neighborhood just went out. We have to turn on the generator. All that adds to the costs,” says the 58-year-old.

In her studio, everyone knows how many sewing machines can be plugged in at the same time without blowing the power.

Every day, the electricity cuts only magnify the stress and fear among the residents of Port-au-Prince, who flee the streets of the capital when night falls to avoid being the next kidnapping victim.

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