Haiti Braces for New Protest, Demands That Leader Resign

Sep 30, 2019
9:29 AM

Activists from political party Platfòm Pitit Desalin march briefly following an opposition press conference, before being dispersed by tear gas in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Edris Fortune)

By DÁNICA COTO, Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Opposition leaders are calling for a nationwide push Monday to block streets and paralyze Haiti’s economy as they press for President Jovenel Moïse to give up power, and tens of thousands of their young supporters were expected to heed the call.

People stood in lines all day Sunday under a brutal sun to get water, gasoline and other basic supplies before a round of protests that many worried would turn more violent than a demonstration Friday during which several homes and businesses were burned as police fired tear gas at protesters.

Several people have died in the past three weeks amid the political clashes.

“I have a feeling that the country is going to change,” said Yves Bon Anée, a mason standing next to eight empty plastic jugs that he would fill with gasoline at $2 a gallon for friends, family and himself. He planned to resell his portion to make some money because he hasn’t been able to find work in weeks.

“My kids are suffering,” he said of his three young boys.

Opposition leaders and supporters say they are angry about public corruption, spiraling inflation and a dwindling supply of gasoline that has forced many gas stations in the capital to close as suppliers demand the cash-strapped government pay them more than $100 million owed.

Police officers wait to have their truck filled with gas at one of the few open service stations, where car and motorcycle drivers were waiting in lines of more than an hour to fill their tanks, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

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-subsidized oil plan meant to fund urgent social programs.

Moïse, who took office in 2017, has said he will not step down despite the unrest and instead called for calm, unity and dialogue during an address televised at 2 a.m. Wednesday. It was a rare appearance for the president since the new wave of protests began about three weeks ago.

Laurent Dubois, a Haiti expert and professor at Duke University, said he believes the country will face an increasing impasse unless the parties find a way to reach some kind of resolution.

“There’s a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety… that things are going in a direction in Haiti that we haven’t seen in a while,” he said. “It seems like we’re going into some kind of new phase in Haitian history, but what it holds will be difficult to predict.”

Opposition leaders demanding Moïse’s resignation say they envision a transitional government after the chief justice of Haiti’s Supreme Court takes over as dictated by law if a president resigns.

Opposition leader André Michel gives a press conference in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Edris Fortune)

André Michel, an attorney and professor of human rights, said Haiti’s current political system has generated misery, underdevelopment and corruption that have led to poverty, and noted that the country’s middle class has shrunk.

Michel said Haiti needs to rebuild a new society and state and he called on the international community to back the ouster of Moïse.

“The will of the people is clear,” Michel said. “If he insists on remaining as president, he will lead the country into chaos.”

At a news conference Sunday, opposition leaders urged the dozens of supporters gathered around them to start blocking streets and to help them find Moïse, who they contend has gone into hiding.

Among those leading the call to find Moïse was opposition Sen. Youri Latortue, who has denied corruption allegations that U.S. officials made against him more than a decade ago and who once led a party allied with Moïse’s Tet Kale faction.

“We’re going to search for him everywhere,” Latortue said.