Fri | Nov 22, 2019

Embattled president faces fifth week of protests

Published:Tuesday | October 15, 2019 | 12:11 AM
Police surround a motorcycle that tried to drive through a police barricade on the road leading to the home of President Jovenel Moïse in Petion-Ville, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Sunday.  AP
Police surround a motorcycle that tried to drive through a police barricade on the road leading to the home of President Jovenel Moïse in Petion-Ville, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Sunday. AP

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AP):

Haiti’s embattled president faced a fifth week of protests on Monday as roadblocks went up across the country after opposition leaders said they will not back down on their call for Jovenel Moïse to resign.

While Port-au-Prince remained relatively quiet, demonstrations in other cities and towns come a day after tens of thousands of Haitians marched through Haiti’s capital in a peaceful protest organised by artists. Business groups, church leaders, and human-rights organisations also have joined the call for Moïse to step down amid anger over corruption, inflation, and scarcity of basic goods, including fuel.

Among those who marched was businessman Anthony Bennett, who sought to run for president in 2015 and said the private sector also was suffering.

“I think it’s time that everyone understands that things cannot continue like this anymore,” he told reporters. “Everybody is just hoping to get a visa to run away. The Haitian population has had enough.”

Police fired tear gas at a small group of people gathered near a couple of burning tires in downtown Port-au-Prince, including Monteau Patrickson, who is leading protests in the area.

He said he won’t accept anything except Moïse’s ­resignation, adding that he was encouraged by Sunday’s demonstration, noting that it included the bourgeoisie.

Former Prime Minister Evans Paul, a Moïse ally, told The Associated Press on Monday that the government expects to meet with civil-society leaders and the ­opposition, which has publicly rejected Moïse’s call for unity and dialogue.

“We can put everything on the table,” Paul said, adding that that includes the president’s mandate. “The country has to keep living. We’re clear that the president has lost the public’s support.”

Much of the anger stems from an investigation released by Haiti’s Senate that accuses former top government officials of misusing some US$2 billion in funds tied to a Venezuelan subsidised oil ­programme that were slated for social programmes. The report also mentioned a company once owned by Moïse, who has denied ­corruption allegations.

The United Nations (UN) noted in a recent report that Haiti has not had a functional government since the president’s second prime minister resigned in March. It also warned of a “looming constitutional crisis”, given the failure to organise local elections scheduled for this month, noting that the terms of many legislators expire in January. In addition, a new budget hasn’t been approved for two years, prompting organisations like the International Monetary Fund and others to withhold aid.

“Against this backdrop of political crisis, the security situation remains volatile,” the agency said, adding that killings have increased by 17 per cent compared to last year.

Monday’s protest comes a day before the UN’s Mission for Justice Support in Haiti ends its mandate, marking the first time since 2004 that there will be no UN peacekeeping operation in Haiti. Instead, it will create the UN Integrated Office in Haiti, which will play an advisory role.