PORT-AU-PRINCE – Protests erupted, barricades were placed and commerce was paralyzed on Monday, a day after a shooting between military and police killed at least two people and injured 10 in the center of Haiti’s capital, with the government calling it a coup attempt.
A demonstration marched through the avenues of Port-au-Prince, as dozens of cops and civilians showed their support for the police forces.
“What can be the future of the country and the institution, when law enforcement officials, using their condition and the team that the state has entrusted to serve and protect the population, join Illegally armed individuals to attack citizens and their brothers in arms of the [police] and [army]? “ the Justice Ministry wrote in a Monday statement.
It added that the incident was an “attempted coup against a president of the Republic legitimately elected by the Haitian people.”
The capital’s other streets lay empty, shops closed and public transport paralyzed after Monday’s incident killed a policeman and a soldier and wounded three civilians according to army and hospital sources. Security forces carrying sizable weapons and civilians brandishing machetes could also be seen.
A group of policemen dressed as civilians and hooded men attacked Sunday the Armed Forces headquarter during a six-hour assault, as clashes extended to the central Champ de Mars square, in front of the Presidential Palace.
Police also attacked the headquarters of Radio Television Caraibes and burned several vehicles at the station, according to journalists.
Normil Rameau, the Haitian police’s director-general, said police claims are fair and legitimate but called on his agents to avoid infiltration in their demands “because the National Police is an apolitical police.”
“The Police have no preference or membership. Their membership and preference is the Haitian population and the laws of the Republic and the regulations of the National Police,” Rameau said at a press conference.
The Armed Forces condemned the attack Monday, which it said was committed by “individuals oriented to their and the country’s destruction.”
The government canceled Carnival celebrations Monday in Port-au-Prince to avoid “a bloodbath.”
Authorities described the events in the capital as a “war situation,” with shootings throughout the day and blocked streets.
The Government asked in a statement why police adopt “extremist behavior” instead of sitting down to negotiate with the executive, who has “outstretched hands.”
Police have demonstrated several times this year to ask for salary raises, the right to create a union and other labor demands.
They tried to boycott the Carnival last week to pressure the government, by setting fire to stages set up in Champ de Mars.
Haiti has experienced strong socio-political instability since July 2018, due to the economy’s weakness, corruption accusations marring President Jovenel Moise and growing insecurity.