PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Thousands of protesters marched through the Haitian capital to the United Nations (UN) headquarters on Friday in one of the largest demonstrations in a weeks-long push to oust embattled President Jovenel Moïse.
At least two people were shot as police in riot gear blocked the main entrance to the airport and fired tear gas at the crowd, which threw rocks and bottles.
Carlos Dorestant, a 22-year-old motorcycle driver, said he saw the man next to him shot, apparently by police, as protesters dismantled a barrier near the UN office.
“We are asking everyone in charge to tell Jovenel to resign,” he said, his shirt stained with blood. “The people are suffering.”
Several protesters held up signs asking the United States (US) for help. “Trump give Haiti one chance” read one, while another quoted a tweet by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. A third referred to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who discussed the crisis with Haitians in Miami on Thursday.
The unrest on Friday came after almost four weeks of protests in which 17 people have been reported killed, the economy has been largely paralysed, two million children have been kept from going to school and badly needed aid has been suspended, especially to rural areas.
The US, UN and other important international players have yet to drop their support for Moïse, making it appear unlikely that he will step down, despite protests that have made gasoline, food and water scarce in some areas.
“We will continue until Jovenel leaves office,” said Senator 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 said would oversee an orderly transition of power, with many demanding a more in-depth investigation into corruption allegations which involve the use of funds from a Venezuela-subsidized oil programme.
Critics said Moïse has not looked into the former top government officials accused, including ally and former president Michel Martelly.
To protest against the alleged corruption and a shortage of basic goods, Haitians have taken to the streets in force.
Opposition leader and attorney André Michel said the international community should recognise the protesters’ demands and 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 UN, US, Canada and France 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 urged dialogue and said he will not resign.