PORT-AU-PRINCE – The political crisis in Haiti is worsening after Wednesday marked a week of violent protests by opposition groups demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise, which left at least nine people dead.
Demonstrators, mostly young men, returned to the streets of the capital Wednesday to insist on the resignation of Moise, who remains silent and out of sight after he last called for dialogue on Feb. 9, as he faces increased rejection by several sectors of the opposition and violence increases.
At least one man was killed Wednesday and several people, including a journalist from the daily Le Nouvelliste, were injured during violent clashes between protesters, who threw stones, and policemen, who responded with gunshots, around the National Palace.
Demonstrators in Delmas, just south of the capital, tried to set fire to the headquarters of the state radio channel, requiring the intervention of firefighters and police.
Faced with the climate of uncertainty and insecurity that persist in the nation many embassies, including from Spain and Mexico, have suspended consular service, while others such as Canada and the Dominican Republic are closed.
Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant convened a council of ministers for Wednesday, while Chancellor Edmond Bocchid is in Washington to discuss the situation with National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Assad Volcy, one of the opposition leaders, told EFE that “there is no turning back. We have to solve the problem of inequality and hunger,” adding that it is “the end of a system that wants to end an entire generation.
In statements the Senator Youri Latortue, a former ally of Jovenel Moise, called on the ruler to resign “to avoid chaos and more blood.”
Most schools have remained closed since Feb. 7 when the protests began, while public transportation is practically non existent, just as commercial activity is.
During these days of demonstrations many businesses and fuel stations have been looted, and public and private vehicles burned, aggravating the situation of insecurity in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
The streets of the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince are filled with garbage and barricades, some of them burning, making it impossible for traffic to pass.
The demonstrations are organized by leaders of opposition parties and popular groups, who have asked the population to intensify their actions until Moise resigns.
So far, the only pronouncement of the international community came this weekend through the Core Group, made up of the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, the ambassadors of Germany, Brazil, Canada, Spain, the United States, France, the European Union and the special representative of the OAS, who called for dialogue to seek a solution to the political and economic crisis.
The protests are taking place in the midst of a severe economic downturn, which was aggravated this year by a sharp depreciation of the gourde, Haiti’s official currency, and an electricity supply crisis resulting from the shortage of gasoline.
Haiti’s economy, where more than half of its 10 million inhabitants survive on less than $2 a day, grew by just 1.4 percent in 2018, one of the lowest growth rates in the region and well below the 2.2 percent forecast at the beginning of last year, which was later reduced to 1.8 percent.
Demonstrators also demand justice for alleged irregularities in the Petrocaribe program, through which Venezuela supplies oil to Haiti at soft prices.
An audit presented last week by the Court of Auditors revealed irregularities between 2008 and 2016 in this program and pointed to 15 former ministers and current officials who are involved in this case, as well as a company run by Moise before he became president.