PORT-AU-PRINCE – Thousands marched in the Haitian capital on Friday to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise even as residents of Port-au-Prince sought to return to normal after days that saw the city paralyzed by protests.
Opponents of the president set out from the city center for the wealthy Petion Ville area, but only a small group of marchers reached the intended destination.
Police set up a security perimeter outside of Petion Ville and deployed tear gas to break up the demonstration, while some of the marchers responded by hurling rocks at the cops and nearby shops.
The Democratic and Popular Sector coalition denounced the police operation against what the group described as a peaceful protest.
“We will not engage in dialogue with this government that represses peaceful demonstrations,” the Sector said in a statement, reiterating the call for Moise to step down.
A government spokesman, Eddy Jackson Alexis, urged the opposition to respect democratic principles and said that police were under orders not to tolerate acts of violence.
In an address to the nation Wednesday night, Moise appealed for dialogue while warning that he would not allow anyone “to endanger the interests of the country.”
The opposition, however, criticizes the president for failing to offer any specific policies to address problems such as inflation, corruption and a jobless rate topping 60 percent.
More than half of Haiti’s 10 million people survive on less than $2 a day and the nation has been rocked for months by disturbances that began in July as a reaction to plans to increase fuel prices.
Though the government quickly rescinded the price hikes, the protests continued with a focus on corruption, specifically the embezzlement of $2 billion in funds that Haiti received through PetroCaribe, a Venezuelan program supplying crude oil to Caribbean and Central American nations on generous terms.
The Haitian parliament published a report last year blaming former senior officials for irregularities in the use of the PetroCaribe funds, but no one has been indicted.
Three people, according to police, were killed in a massive mobilization last Sunday in Port-au-Prince, while opposition groups put the death toll at 11.