By Milo Milfort
Port-au-Prince, Sep 15 (EFE).- Violence, looting and protests against Haiti’s prime minister worsened Thursday, prompting several embassies to close their doors.
The legations of Spain, France, the Dominican Republic and Canada, among others, remained closed, although consular emergency telephone lines remained operational.
Neighboring Dominican Republic, whose border with Haiti remains “secured,” evacuated civilian staff from its embassy and consulates to protect “the physical integrity of personnel,” according to a government statement.
In Haiti the situation is rapidly deteriorating, especially since leader Ariel Henry announced a fuel price hike earlier this week, and threatens to plunge the poorest country in the Americas into severe chaos.
The anti-government protests are multiplying and becoming larger and more violent in Port-au-Prince and other large towns, with looting, stone throwing, lighting of fires and the burning of barricades, which has led to the total paralysis of activities and shut down public organizations and transport, shops and banks.
One of the marches in the capital was led by Jimmy Cherizier, alias Barbecue, head of the G-9 gang and one of the most feared criminals in Haiti, always targeted by the police.
In the various demonstrations in the capital, in which thousands of people participated on Thursday, chants such as “Let’s go to the supermarket, Ariel Henry will pay” were heard in an announcement of the looting that was about to take place.
The main product looted is food, in a country where more than 40 percent of the population suffers from food insecurity.
Added to the looting were the burning of institutions, organizations and public offices in Port-au-Prince and other cities, such as Gonaïves.
In the capital, the offices of Haiti’s public television were looted, and the demonstrators took equipment and set fire to at least three vehicles.
Despite the intervention of the National Police, who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, the situation remained fraught.
Establishments on the highway in the Delmas area of the capital were also vandalized by angry protesters.
On Thursday there were also serious disturbances in Gonaïves: the offices of the NGO Caritas were looted and the protesters, after a first failed attempt the previous day, managed to take everything they found at the facilities of the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP).
In addition, the WFP offices were set on fire by the demonstrators, against whom the police proved powerless.
Given the increase in tension in the metropolitan area and its surroundings, the directorate of the National Police announced the suspension of permits to carry weapons.
The demonstrators vow to unseat Henry, whose government has already twice in less than a year increased the price of fuel, which has been in short supply for at least three months.
A fuel price increase will further aggravate the economic situation of a population that already lives in extreme precariousness, many without basic services such as water, electricity and health.
The actions against the price rise come on top of those that have been carried out for more than a month in the country to demand the adoption of measures that put an end to the high cost of living and fuel shortages.
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.