Protesters raised new roadblocks and set fire to tires around the capital of Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, as violent anti-government riots that have left at least 18 dead continue to rock Haiti for the fourth straight week.
Haitians first rose up on September 2 to protest a fuel shortage, which exacerbated an already dire economic situation. But they soon turned their attention to President Jovenel Moïse, whom they accuse of rampant corruption and wasteful spending that has all but tanked the economy.
More than 60 percent of the population survives on less than two dollars a day, and almost one half of the population lives with less than one dollar per day, according to Haitian economist Kesner Pharel.
“In terms of public spending, the government has prioritized running expenses over any investment meant to benefit the underprivileged,” Pharel told VICE News.
On top of that, Haitians are angry that government members haven’t faced justice for allegedly misappropriating aid, including Moïse. Before his election, the president ran two companies which were later implicated in an independent report on the misallocation of earthquake reconstruction funds. He denies any wrongdoing, and has so far refused to step down.
In a last ditch effort to ward off the mounting calls for his resignation, Moïse named six representatives Wednesday to lead negotiations with the country’s opposition leaders including former presidential candidate André Michel, and Youri Latortue, a senator who himself has been accused of corruption by the United States.
But it’s unclear if the Moïse's late gesture will stem the tide against him.
"Almost all sectors have spoken against him, including the Church and most business leaders,” said sociologist Camille Chalmers, director of the Haitian Platform for Alternative Development.
"I think there is a step forward in terms of the political consensus against Jovenel Moïse,” he added, "and the political leaders (of the opposition) are maintaining the pressure, because they are aware that they need to break from the current government culture."
"Almost all sectors have spoken against him, including the Church and most business leaders”
Last Friday, in one of the largest riots since the opposition called for operation “peyi lock” (country on lockdown), protesters gathered outside the United Nations headquarters in the capital demanding that the UN and foreign nations end their support for the president, and let the people’s will prevail.
Ambassadors of several embassies and the UN — calling themselves the Core Group — have held meetings with members of the Haitian opposition and business community to try to find a solution to the political impasse. But the opposition refuses to find a compromise with Moïse and has created a 9-member committee that it says will oversee a transition of power.
“We are peacefully fulfilling our civic duty, and protesting one more time,” said protester François Gerard. “One last time, we are telling the Core Group that we are responsible for this country, the destiny of our country is in our hands.”
The opposition has called for a march on Friday that will only put further pressure on Moïse. The final destination will be the president’s residence.
Cover: A protester hurls a tear gas canister back over a wall toward police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. Stones flew and barricades burned in parts of Haiti's capital on Monday as the country entered its fourth week of anti-government protests that have paralyzed the economy and shuttered schools. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell).