By Milo Milfort
Port-au-Prince, Sep 16 (EFE).- Socio-political tension continues to mount in Haiti, where on Friday widespread looting and violence was reported as thousands protested demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
The protesters have put the PM’s departure as a pre-condition to leaving the streets, where tires could be seen burning as locals put up barricades and ransacked establishments in the capital as well as other cities such as St Marc and Gonaives.
Protests have grown increasingly violent in different parts of the country, where public entities, private firms and even offices of humanitarian and international organizations have been pillaged.
Chaos reigned in the northwestern city of Gonaives, as premises of the United Nations Office for Project Services was destroyed, apart from several educational institutions such as the Immaculate Conception, Holy Family and the public university of Gonaives.
The offices of soft drink maker La Brasserie la Couronne were also damaged.
On Thursday, offices of Catholic charity Caritas Internationalis and the World Food Program had come under attack in the same city.
“It is simply unacceptable. The looted food would have fed close to 100,000 students until the end of the year and supplied emergency aid to Hairi’s most vulnerable families,” WFP’s Haiti director Jean-Martin Bauer said in a statement.
The western city of St Marc also witnessed looting, as the demonstrators robbed everything on their way and destroyed the regional office of the national old-age pension scheme, apart from currency exchanges and mobile shops.
In the southern Les Cayes, a bank branch was attacked by some demonstrators demanding that the government take back its decision of raising fuel prices for the second time this year.
In an attempt to check the looting and vandalism from spreading, in a social media message the national police urged people to respect the law as streets protests had been allowed and warned that attacks on people’s lives or unlawful behavior would not be tolerated.
Meanwhile residents of Port-au-Prince could be seen wandering on the streets with vessels amid a severe water shortage.
The water crisis has aggravated as streets remain blocked for vehicles and kiosks selling drinks have also been shut down as the capital remains paralyzed.
Large queues could be seen at the few water distribution centers still functioning, and it often became a question of physical might to be able to collect the precious liquid.
On Friday, Port-au-Prince witnessed massive protests demanding the resignation of Henry, who is considered incapable of resolving the ongoing crisis, which could worsen due to the recently announced fuel price hike.
When the measure comes into effect – with the date yet to be announced – it would increase the cost of transport and basic necessities in a country where 4.9 million people, representing 43 percent of the population, need humanitarian aid to be able to survive.
Haiti has been experiencing an unprecedented socio-political and economic crisis for years, marked by the increase in gang wars, armed attacks, murders, robberies, rapes and kidnappings.
The situation worsened after last year’s assassination of president Jovenel Moïse.
Moreover, coordinated violence by armed gangs in the capital and its surroundings has killed at least 300 people, while around 3,000 have been forced to flee the area. EFE