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In Photos: Haiti Opposition Groups Launch New Round of Street Protests

Thousands of people took to the streets of Port-au-Prince to call for the resignation of President Michel Martelly.
January 17, 2015, 3:35pm
Toutes les photos sont de Benedict Moran

Thousands of opposition supporters marched through the streets of Port-au-Prince on Friday, calling for the resignation of Haitian President Michel Martelly.

The protesters called the demonstration "Operation Burkina Faso," named for the West African country where an October 2014 uprising toppled a president who ruled for 27 years.

"There is too much corruption, too much misery, too much unemployment," said André Fadot, one of the main organizers of the march, who said demonstrations would take place daily until next Friday, when the UN Security Council is set to visit the Caribbean country.

"No negotiation," Fadot said. "No truce. This is just the beginning."

Haiti's parliament dissolved Monday after opposition lawmakers failed to reach an agreement with the president over scheduling elections and extending their own terms in office.

Since then, Martelly has ruled the country by decree. Members of the international community — including Secretary of State John Kerry — have largely backed Martelly's actions.

Marchers sang songs associated with Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the popular but polarizing former president who was twice forced into exile. Aristide's party, Fanmi Lavalas, has been at the forefront of anti-government protests.

But not everyone backed the opposition's demands.

"The situation is much, much better since the [2010] Earthquake," said Pierre Datson, a 28-year-old supporter of Martelly, who watched the protest from the side of the road, where he ran a small stall that repaired cell phones.

"The economy is much better, and there are schools," Datson said. "Everyone who is marching here just want to claim power themselves."

Many of the protesters are associated with political groups connected to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Catholic priest who served as Haiti's first democratically elected president. He was ousted in a 2004 coup d'etat during his second term in office. He returned to Haiti in 2011 after seven years in exile.

Political graffiti is ubiquitous in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. A section of this graffiti refers to President Martelly as a kidnapper.

Opposition protesters rally the crowd at the start of Friday's demonstrations.

Friday's protests against Martelly were largely peaceful, though demonstrators lit a number of fires.

A musician riles up opposition demonstrations ahead of Friday's march.

After leaving the area known as St. Jean Bosco, demonstrators marched through downtown Port-au-Prince encouraging people to join.

Martelly took office in 2011. Many protesters accuse him of corruption, mismanagement of the 2010 earthquake relief funds, and cronyism.

Onlookers above the path of opposition protesters.

Stervel Mackingson (not pictured), an opposition activist marching Friday, called for Martelly to resign. "He made us believe that he wanted Haiti become a paradise," Mackingson said. "But Martelly made things worse."

Andre? Michel is a lawyer pursuing corruption charges against Martelly and his family. This sign calls Michel "the lawyer of the people."

Protesters used tires to block the road and prevent police vehicles from approaching.

Opposition activists claim there were 15,000 protesters, though it is impossible to confirm that number. This sign says in Haitian Creole, "Live by the ideals of Desaline," a founding father of Haiti.

Haiti's police are trained by the UN Mission in Haiti, known by the acronym MINUSTAH.

_Follow Benedict Moran on Twitter: _@benmoran