The Port-au-Prince international jazz festival, traditionally held in late January, has been postponed indefinitely because of gang violence that has plagued the Haitian capital for months, event organizers said Monday.
“We can’t take the risk, either for the 150 musicians or for our teams or for the public,” Milena Sandler, director of the Haiti Jazz Foundation, which organizes the festival, told AFP.
“We have been thinking for a while now that it would be difficult, even morally, to stage a festive event in this context,” said the head of the festival that brings together musicians from more than a dozen countries every year.
Long confined to the poorer districts of the capital, gangs have in recent months extended their reach and increased the number of kidnappings.
Their sway over the capital regularly prevents secure access to oil terminals, and the resulting fuel shortages have severely disrupted the transport sector and forced hospitals, businesses and schools to drastically reduce their activities.
In this chaotic context, the United States and Canada have recommended that their citizens living in Haiti have an emergency plan to leave the country.
Sandler nevertheless remained hopeful that the “Papjazz” will take place sometime in 2022.
“If the situation in the country does not allow for the usual format of concerts over eight days, we will still have something and it won’t be virtual,” she said.
“If it must be for one day, it will be for one day,” Sandler said, adding that the festival’s Haitian and international partners were considering a program for the end of June.
The only time the festival had been canceled was in 2010, when a massive earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince and several towns in Haiti on January 12, killing more than 200,000 people.