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Haiti president suspends fuel price hikes, pleads for calm

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Protesters destroy a poster of Haitian President Jovenel Moise as they demonstrate against a hike in fuel prices, in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petion-Ville, Haiti, on July 7, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Haitian President Jovenel Moise has called on protesters to stop blocking roads and burning tires, following the suspension of a sharp fuel price increase that triggered violent protests and left at least three dead in the Caribbean nation.

In an address broadcast on state television on Saturday, the Haitian leader said he had “corrected what had to be corrected” earlier that day.

“As soon as you speak, I listen. Because you started sending me this message last night, I received it and corrected what had to be corrected,” Moise said. “To those watching me tonight, I ask you all: go home.”

On Friday, Haiti’s Commerce and Economic ministries had announced that fuel price increases, including a 38-percent jump for gasoline and 47 percent for diesel, would take effect at midnight. The announcement drew angry protesters to the streets in major cities across the country, with demonstrators setting up roadblocks and others attacking hotels and businesses.

Protesters barricade a street to protest against an increase in fuel prices, in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petion-Ville, Haiti, July 7, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

As a result of the violence, at least three people reportedly lost their lives, namely a police officer, a security guard for a former legislative candidate, and an opposition leader.

Two police stations were also set ablaze, and gunshots were fired during protests in the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

“The poor people want to be able to eat,” one masked protester told Reuters as a car blazed behind him. “I want to tell Jovenel that Haiti is not for him and his family. Haiti is for every Haitian. He needs to leave the country and leave the country to us so we can live.”

In a statement on Twitter, Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant announced the temporary suspension of double-digit government hikes in prices for fuel, also saying that the government strongly condemned the acts of violence and vandalism.

The decision by the Haitian government to raise fuel prices was part of a framework signed in February with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which requires the poorly-resourced country to end subsidies for petroleum products and enact a range of austerity measures.

American airlines cancel flights to Haiti capital

Meanwhile, US carriers American Airlines, JetBlue and Spirit Airlines announced flight cancellations to Port-au-Prince on Saturday, citing civil unrest.

A spokesman for the airline said it was not yet clear when flights would resume.

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