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Haiti prime minister resigns after deadly unrest

Haitian Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant speaks to the deputies at the lower house of the parliament to announce his resignation, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 14, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Haitian Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant has stepped down following days of deadly and violent protests prompted by a now-suspended plan to raise fuel prices.

Lafontant announced his resignation in a speech delivered at the lower house of the parliament and broadcast live on television on Saturday, saying that President Jovenel Moise had accepted his resignation.

Earlier, there had been calls for a vote of no-confidence against Lafontant in the parliament.

Moise later said on Twitter, “I take this opportunity to thank Mr. Lafontant and the members of the cabinet for the services rendered to the nation.”

Lafontant, a 57-year-old medical doctor and politician, took office in March 2017 with ambitious plans to boost agricultural production, improve infrastructure, and expand access to clean water.

The Haitian government unveiled a proposal earlier this month to eliminate fuel subsidies, which in turn would have hiked fuel prices, including the price of gasoline by 38 percent and that of diesel by 47 percent.

The controversial plan drew angry protesters to the streets in major cities across the poverty-stricken Caribbean country, with demonstrators setting up roadblocks and some attacking hotels and businesses.

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

The protesters looted stores and set two police stations ablaze in the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

The unrest caused embassies to close and airlines to suspend flights to Haiti for days.

Before his resignation, Lafontant had announced a temporary suspension of the double-digit government hikes in prices for fuel to quell the demonstrations, but the protests continued, reportedly leaving at least three people dead.

Cars burn in a hotel parking lot in Port-au-Prince after protesters set them on fire during a demonstration against the government, on July 7, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The decision by the government to eliminate fuel subsidies 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.

On Thursday, the US-based organization called on Haiti to create a revised reform plan that would include “a more gradual approach” to ending fuel subsidies, which were expected to generate around 300 million dollars.

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