Sat | Oct 19, 2019

New protest hits Haiti amid demands that president resign

Published:Monday | September 30, 2019 | 4:06 PM
Haitians gather for a nationwide push to block streets and paralyze the country's economy as they press for President Jovenel Moise to give up power, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, September 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators set fires Monday and chanted calls for Haiti’s president to resign as the opposition to Jovenel Moïse tried to increase pressure for him to leave office.

Protesters said several people were hit by gunfire, including a local journalist.

Schools, businesses and government offices were closed as protesters gathered chanting, “Down with Jovenel!”

“We can’t continue to live like this,” said 34-year-old Lestin Abelo as he poured gasoline on a pile of debris that quickly caught fire.

“We have a government that’s not doing anything for the people.”

Opposition leaders and supporters say they are angry about public corruption, spiralling inflation and a dwindling supply of gasoline that has forced many gas stations in the capital to close.

Suppliers have demanded that the cash-strapped government pay them more than $100 million owed.

Protesters also are demanding a more in-depth investigation into allegations that top officials in the previous government misused billions of dollars in proceeds from a Venezuela-subsidised oil plan meant to fund urgent social programs.

Critics accuse Moïse of trying to protect his ally, former President Michel Martelly, and of participating in the corruption himself before becoming president.

Blood spattered the concrete floor near the Bernard Mevs Hospital as the protest grew violent.

Under heavy rain, a group of men rushed into the emergency room carrying a friend they said was shot in the left leg by police. Jean-Pierre Finfin, 34, said he was standing next to his friend when the bullet hit.

He was still shaken as he recounted being part of a crowd marching toward Petionville when he said police fired.

Local radio journalist Joseph Edmond was shot in his right hand while covering the protest.

He was taken to a hospital for treatment, said his colleague, Eddy Baptiste, who was next to him when it happened.

He said 22-year-old Edmond was injured when police in an unmarked car began firing at a distance so they could get away from the crowd.

Police threw tear gas and scattered thousands of protesters at mid-afternoon, with one canister landing on a family’s roof as several people fled the house in panic.

Other protesters fled with handkerchiefs over their faces as they flushed themselves with water.

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