Haitians yesterday braced for more upheaval as opposition leaders, emboldened by a massive protest demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, pledged to remain on the streets.
Friday marked one of the largest demonstrations since the protests began weeks ago as opposition supporters say they are tired of corruption, ballooning inflation and a shortage of basic goods.
They also called on other countries to withdraw support for Moise, blaming him for Haiti’s economic and social problems.
“If they love Jovenel that much, then send him somewhere else,” said Assad Volcy, who launched a political party two years ago but is joining forces with opposition leaders from other parties trying to oust Moise. “We’re going to keep protesting until he resigns or goes to jail.”
The unrest on Friday came after several weeks of protests in which 17 people have been reported killed, the economy has been largely paralyzed, 2 million children have been unable to go to school and badly needed aid has been suspended, especially to rural areas.
The US, UN and other important international players have yet to drop their support for Moise, making it appear unlikely that he would step down, despite protests that have made gasoline, food and water scarce in some areas.
At least two people were shot on Friday as police in riot gear blocked the main entrance to the airport and fired tear gas at the crowd, which threw rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails.
Carlos Dorestant, a 22-year-old motorcycle driver, said he saw the man next to him shot, apparently by police, as protesters crossed a barrier near the UN office.
“We are asking everyone in charge to tell Jovenel to resign,” he said, his shirt stained with blood. “The people are suffering.”
Several protesters held up signs asking the US for help.
“Trump give Haiti one chance” read one, while another quoted a tweet by US Senator Bernie Sanders.
A third referred to US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who discussed the crisis with Haitians in Miami on Thursday.
Some protesters also held out red cards for Moise like those used to penalize and eject soccer players from a game.
The opposition has rejected Moise’s call for dialogue and created a nine-person commission it says would oversee an orderly transition of power, with many demanding a more in-depth investigation into corruption allegations which involve the use of funds from a Venezuela-subsidized oil program.
Critics have said that Moise has not looked into the former top government officials accused, including ally and former Haitian president Michel Martelly.
Moise, who owned a company named in the investigation, has denied all corruption allegations.
He says he will not resign.
Opposition leaders including attorney Andre Michel rejected the president’s invitation for dialogue.
“Jovenel Moise must step down as quickly as possible,” he said. “The battle will go on.”
Moise’s ally, former Haitian prime minister Evans Paul, also met earlier this week with the Core Group, which includes officials from the UN, the US, Canada and France to talk about the political situation.
He has said that he believes Moise has two options: nominate an opposition-backed prime minister or shorten the length of his mandate.
Laurent Dubois, a Haiti expert and professor at Duke University in North Carolina, said there is no clear answer on what might happen next as the turmoil continues.
“The thing that haunts all of this is ... is this going to lead to the emergence of more authoritarian rule?” he said.
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