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Fresh protests rock Haiti as economic crisis bites

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Fresh protests rock Haiti as economic crisis bites

Haitians brace for fuel price hikes, after a speech by PM Ariel Henry, amid a growing scarcity of gasoline and diesel that could force some businesses to shutter.

Demonstrators gather at a road block during protests over rising fuel prices and crime as inflation surged to its highest in a decade.
Demonstrators gather at a road block during protests over rising fuel prices and crime as inflation surged to its highest in a decade.
(Reuters)

Residents of Haiti’s
capital Port-au-Prince have sheltered at home as gun fire
rung out, road blocks and burning tires were placed along city
streets and protesters threw stones in an angry response to
expected new fuel price hikes and crime.

Tuesday’s demonstrations come as inflation surged to its
highest in a decade, chronic gang violence has left much of
Haiti’s territory beyond government reach, and outbreaks of
bloody turf battles between rival gangs have left hundreds dead
and thousands displaced.

The start of the school year has been postponed a month
until October as parents struggle to make ends meet, and daily
life for countless Haitians is punctuated by a seemingly endless
search for fuel. Meanwhile, transit costs have soared, as have
the prices for many food staples.

Haitians are now bracing for fuel price hikes, after a
Sunday speech by Prime Minister Ariel Henry, amid a growing
scarcity of gasoline and diesel that could force some businesses
to shutter.

“Do we find it normal that the state tries to set up social
programmes yet is only able to mobilise 3 billion gourdes ($26.1
million) while we’re spending more than 50 billion gourdes
($434.8 million) to subsidize fuel for those who can pay it at
normal rates,” Henry said.

“We will have to adjust fuel prices,” he warned.

US: Security situation ‘unpredictable’

Videos circulating on social media on Tuesday underscore the
dire situation. One shows a man attempting to ride a motorbike
down a blockaded street as another man pelts him with rocks
until he topples over. The man gets up off the ground limping
and then faces his attacker when the video cuts off.

Another video shows dozens of Haitians scattering in the
street after the sound of gun blasts, then switches to scenes of
people being attended to after suffering apparent gunshot
wounds.

Both Henry and Haiti’s national police chief Frantz Elbe
have urged international partners to give support to the police
in order to control the violence.

“There are numerous reports of road blocks, burning tires,
and rock throwing in multiple locations throughout the
Metropolitan Port-au-Prince area. Please avoid all unnecessary
travel and remain vigilant as the security situation is
unpredictable,” the US Embassy in Haiti said in a security
alert.

Haiti’s fuel stocks have run low as fuel importers struggle
to get paid for subsidies that keep fuel prices low on the
island nation, and due to difficulties in obtaining dollars from
the central bank, sources have told Reuters news agency.
Source: Reuters

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