Haiti’s Political Crisis, Surfside Housing Concerns, Support Surfside Fund
Haiti remains in a political crisis following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Plus, search and rescue turns to recovery at the Surfside condo collapse. And millions have been raised for the Support Surfside Fund.
On this Thursday, July 8, episode of Sundial
Haiti Political Crisis
A group of gunmen assassinated Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse and wounded his wife in their home Wednesday morning. His wife, Martine Moïse, was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and remains in critical condition. Haiti’s police chief later announced that seven suspects have been killed during a shootout with police and six others have been arrested in connection to the assassination.
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Moïse's death leaves a political vacuum in the country that continues to struggle with the Coronavirus pandemic and a weak economy. University of Miami Professor Louis Herns Marcelin is the chancellor for INURED, a research institution in Haiti. He believes any political change must come from within and not be made by the international community.
“Haitians have to be at the core. We cannot have experts from outside come into Haiti, with their own political projects imposing it on Haiti. And after that they go and the situation remains the same as it was before,” Herns Marcelin said on Sundial.
The Haitian diaspora has been outspoken in South Florida about the grief they’re feeling for their families and loved ones that remain back home. WLRN’s Palm Beach County Reporter Wilkine Brutus spoke with Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard, whose family migrated from Haiti to South Florida.
“The overriding message that I’m getting from them, they’re calling on the Haitian people to remain calm and remain peaceful during these dark days,” Bernard explained. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph is the de facto head of state while the country continues its investigation into the assassination of President Moïse and begin the process of finding a new leader.
Surfside and Housing Concerns
Miami-Dade County officials made the difficult decision Wednesday night to transition the search and rescue mission at the Surfside condo collapse to a recovery effort. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava explained rescue workers have exhausted all possibilities to find survivors and now their work shifts to finding bodies they can bring back to family members to pay their respects. WLRN Reporter Veronica Zaragovia was covering the press conference last night.
“There was a 15 minute moment of silence after the announcement with all the search and rescue team members and officials and clergy and family members. You could see the enormity, how big this operation has been and how many people it has affected,” Zaragovia said on Sundial.
The tragedy at Surfside has also led to investigations of other condo buildings and whether they are structurally sound. The city of North Miami Beach closed the Crestview Towers Condominium last Friday. The 10-story building was evacuated immediately, people living in 156 units were displaced and faced with finding sudden housing for them and their families.
The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust is housing 55 individuals, 6 dogs and 3 cats. Residents can go back into their units Friday for 15 minutes to gather personal items but it's unknown if and when they will be able to move back into their homes.
“You have people with babies as young as 4 months old,” said Ron Book, Chair of the Miami Dade County Homeless Trust. “Lots of 1 years, 2 olds, 3 year olds and 6, 7 and 8 year olds. Just today, I found eight more families that had been living in cars.”
Book expressed concerns that as more buildings are inspected, they may be deemed unlivable by the county and cause an influx of housing needs upon the Homeless Trust.
Fundraising for Surfside Victims and Survivors
Millions of dollars have been raised for the victims’ family members and survivors of the Surfside tragedy. The Coral Gables Foundation, Key Biscayne Foundation and Miami Foundation teamed to create the Support Surfside Fund. Thus far the fund has raised more than $2 million and has more than $1.3 million in pledged donations, according to Loren Para, public affairs director for the Miami Foundation.
“We’ve already distributed $155,000 to about 150 individuals that have been directly affected,” Para said on Sundial. “We’ve been able to interface with victims, their families, and individuals directly. We’ve sent out prepaid Visa gift cards [because] a lot of these folks haven’t been able to access their bank accounts, bank cards and drivers licenses.”
The fund recently announced a partnership with the National Compassion Fund, which has worked for years supporting victims of mass tragedies including those impacted by the shooting in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Retired Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padron is charged with overseeing the distribution of monies collected in the Support Surfside Fund. The fund has also provided $155,000 in direct support to organizations working on the ground, eight organizations that include the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Jewish Community Services of South Florida.