Haiti Opposition Summons New Protests Against President

Oct 4, 2019
2:18 PM

A woman with painted nails leans against a truck as hundreds of people wait for distribution to restart, after a federal government hand-out of food and school supplies was temporarily suspended when the lines turned into jostling crowds, at the mayor’s office in Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

By DÁNICA COTO, Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Opposition leaders in Haiti urged the international community to withdraw their support for President Jovenel Moïse as protesters marched to the United Nations’ headquarters on Friday in a push to demand the ouster of the embattled leader.

Friday’s march comes after almost four weeks of protests in which 17 people have been reported killed, the economy has been largely paralyzed, 2 million children have been kept from going to school and badly needed aid has been suspended, especially to rural areas.

Gasoline, food and water have also become scarce in certain areas as protesters enforce barricades, upending the supply chain.

“We will continue until Jovenel leaves office,” said Sen. Sorel Jacinthe, who was once the president’s ally but joined the opposition earlier this year.

The opposition has rejected Moïse’s call for dialogue and created a nine-person commission it says would oversee an orderly transition of power, while protesters have taken to the streets in anger over a shortage of basic goods and corruption allegations targeting former top government officials.

Many critics are demanding a more in-depth investigation into allegations which involve the use of funds from a Venezuela-subsidized oil program, saying Moïse has not looked into those accused, including ally and former President Michel Martelly.

Opposition leader and attorney André Michel said the international community should recognize the demands of protesters as he blamed Moïse for the country’s economic and social problems.

“He has plunged the country into chaos,” he said.

Moïse’s ally, former Prime Minister Evans Paul, also met earlier this week with the Core Group, which includes officials from the United Nations, U.S., Canada, France and others to talk about the political situation. He has said that he believes Moïse has two options: nominate an opposition-backed prime minister or shorten the length of his mandate.

Moïse, who owned a company named in the investigation, has denied all corruption allegations. He has also has urged dialogue and said he will not resign.

Laurent Dubois, a Haiti expert and Duke University professor, 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.

Police drive away after providing security for the federal government distribution of food and school supplies at the mayor’s office in Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Meanwhile, frustrated Haitians have vowed to continue protesting.

On Friday, police fired tear gas at thousands gathered under a bridge to demonstrate as dozens of vendors rushed into an industrial park near the United Nations’ headquarters.

Getta Julien, 47, said she had enough of the protests and the president as she stabilized portions of rice, beans and vegetables she had packed into foam containers.

“He has to go,” she said. “He’s doing nothing for the country. Nothing at all.”

Nearby, others cheered as Jacinthe arrived and greeted supporters, including an artist riding a white horse amid burning tires as he carried a large red and black flag that read, “Long live the economic revolution.”

One protester, 38-year-old electrician Delva Sonel, said he did not want the international community to interfere.

“We’re trying to send a signal to the world that we’re not a little country,” he said. “We want to tell them to stay out of our business.”

Some questioned why international leaders had not spoken publicly against Moïse even as he and his administration face corruption allegations.

“How can they support this government if it represents everything that is wrong?” said Israel Voltaire, a 35-year-old attorney. “With us being a democratic country, it’s like we’re losing the war.”