Four dead and dozens injured in anti-government protests in Haiti

Four dead and dozens injured in anti-government protests in Haiti
A protester jumps over a burning barricade during a protest against the government in the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 10, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Jeanty Junior Augustin

Political unrest continues in Haiti as thousands of protesters took to the streets of Port au Prince, calling for President Jovenel Moise to step down.

Local news organisations have reported that at least four people have died and dozens more have been injured as the protests turned violent across the country.

Tyres were set on fire, stores looted, and mayors have cancelled upcoming carnivals as a result.

Haiti's worsening economic crisis has led to a drop in living standards and inflation of around 15%, but Mr Moise and other officials are being accused of corruption and misappropriating funds of over $1bn in relation to the PetroCaribe oil alliance.

PetroCaribe is an oil alliance that was launched in early June 2005, between a number of Caribbean states with Venezuela, that allows members to purchase oil.

The payment system of the PetroCaribe alliance means members can purchase oil at market value for 5%-50% up front with a grace period of one to two years. The remainder can be paid in a 17-25 year financing agreement with 1% interest if oil prices are above $40 per barrel.

President Jovenel Moise was not sworn into office until 2017, when an electoral tribunal declared him the winner of the November 2016 elections. The elections had been annulled due to investigations of fraud.

Mr Moise has yet to comment on the protests, but Secretary of State Eddy Jackson Alexix wrote on twitter:

"The Government recognizes the right of everyone to manifest and express their rights under the law. But looting stores and businesses, blocking streets, burning tires, smashing cars, casting oil on the streets, is not included.

"They will destroy the country's economy and make the gourdes[Haitian currency] more expensive every day before the dollar."

Just last month, Mr Moise said: "If the year 2018 has been characterized by economic, political and social challenges, the year 2019 should allow us to worry about the respect of the constitutional prescriptions, strive to overcome the crises that threaten the survival of the Nation.

"2019 is the year of major events. It is historic. We must make credible elections."

A core group made up of United Nations officials, along with a number of ambassadors, have deplored the loss of life in a statement and called for "constructive and inclusive dialogue in order to identify and implement realistic and lasting solutions to the political and economic crisis currently occurring in Haiti.”

"Reiterating the fact that in a democracy change must come through the ballot box, and not through violence, the Core Group urges the executive and legislative branches of power to collaborate for the electoral law and the 2018-2019 budget law to be adopted and promulgated as soon as possible.

"It is only through these actions that the elections scheduled by the Constitution for October 2019, can be held in a free, fair and transparent manner, and that an institutional vacuum will be avoided."

Haiti is due to hold legislative and local elections on October 27, 2019.

The World Bank cited Haiti as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80% of its rural population living in poverty.

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