Protestors in Haiti Demand President’s Resignation as Violence Escalates
|Oct 1, 2019|
Haitian police reportedly used tear gas and live ammunition on demonstrators in Port-au-Prince as they attempted to make the crowd disperse. Protestors continue to call for the country’s president to resign.
Demonstrators in the Caribbean island are protesting food and fuel shortages, accusations of corruption against the country’s political leaders, and the mishandling of the economy. The protests have become more violent in the past few months, Al Jazeera reported. In the past few days, at least four people have died in clashes with police, and many others have been injured.
In wealthier neighborhoods like Petion Ville, crowds looted stores and banks and set a building on fire. The converging crises in the Caribbean nation have caused many to call for President Jovenel Moïse to step down.
“We are telling the people who live in the Cite Soleil area and the Haitian population to rise up to overthrow this government because President Jovenel Moïse is not doing anything for us, just killing us,” Francois Pericat, a protestor, told The New York Times.
On September 25, Moïse addressed the Caribbean nation and stood his ground, saying he would not step down. In his speech, he suggested that he might drop his pick for prime minister, Fritz William Michel, and his cabinet as a compromise, the Miami Herald reported. Michel’s nomination has caused violence in the country’s parliament, with politicians engaging in fights with other members of the legislative body, according to The Guardian.
“We have a responsibility to assume our responsibility in front of the nation and history,” said Moïse, according to the Miami Herald. “It is because of this I am extending my hand to all of the forces of the nation, for us to sit together to form a national unity government that has the capacity and legitimacy to address together the urgent problems the country is undergoing.”
Senator Youri Latortue, one of the opposition leaders, previously told Radio Caraibes that “Jovenel Moise will be held accountable for everything that happens in the country today,” according to The New York Times.
On September 23, a photojournalist and another man were shot and injured by a Haitian senator who opened fire outside of Haiti’s parliament as he tried to get through a crowd of protestors, The Guardian reported. Chery Dieu-Nalio, an Associated Press photographer, was shot in the face and the other man, Leon Leblanc, a security guard, was also injured during the incident in Port-au-Prince. The injuries were not life-threatening.
Leblanc told reporters that Jean Marie Ralph Féthière, a senator, drew his handgun on the crowd. Patrice Dumont, another senator, said Féthière warned the crowd he would fire his gun if they would not allow him to leave. Féthière claims he did not know he shot a reporter, even though Dieu-Nalio was wearing a helmet and a flak vest with the word “Press” on it, according to The Guardian.
“I was attacked by groups of violent militants. They tried to get me out of my vehicle. And so I defended myself. Self-defence is a sacred right,” Féthière told the publication. “Armed individuals threatened me. It was proportional. Equal force, equal response.”
Protests have occurred for months in the country. On June 9, thousands of Haitian protestors in Port-au-Prince demanded that Moïse hand in his resignation over alleged corruption. During the protests, demonstrators flooded the capital’s city center and built barricades with burning tires, Al Jazeera previously reported.
Calls for Moïse to resign began in February after his administration did not investigate the allegations against various officials who embezzled from the Venezuelan energy program PetroCaribe, which provides countries with oil at a subsidized rate, the Associated Press previously reported.
"I will not leave the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers," he said in a speech in February, according to CNN. "I will never betray you."
Moïse’s announcement came right after the US Department of State issued its highest travel advisory for Haiti, a Level 4 “Do not travel” guidance “due to crime, civil unrest, and kidnapping.” As of June 11, the travel advisory has been lowered to a Level 3 travel advisory, “Reconsider Travel.”
“Protests, tire burning, and road blockages are frequent and unpredictable. Violent crime, such as armed robbery, is common, and incidents of kidnapping have occurred. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents, and emergency response, including ambulance service, is limited or non-existent,” the travel advisory states.
“Travelers are sometimes targeted, followed, and violently attacked and robbed shortly after leaving the Port-au-Prince international airport. The US Embassy requires its personnel to use official transportation to and from the airport, and it takes steps to detect surveillance and deter criminal attacks during these transports,” the State Department’s guidance reads.
About the Author
Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.