Violent protests erupt across Haiti over fuel price increases

A more than 50 per cent rise in petrol prices sparked the angry demonstrations

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2018, 12:36pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2018, 7:56pm

Major protests erupted on Friday in Haiti as the government announced a sharp increase in petrol prices, with demonstrators using burning tyres and barricades to block major streets across the capital and in the northern city of Cap-Haitien.

At least three people were killed. Journalists saw the body of two protesters who had been fatally shot in the Delmas area of the capital as demonstrators clashed with police. It was unclear who shot the men.

The third death was a security guard for a former political candidate who was stopped at a barricade. The security guard got out of the vehicle and fired a gun in the air to disperse protesters. The crowd reportedly seized the man when he ran out of bullets, beat him to death and set his body on fire as the vehicle sped off.

Protesters tried at one point to set a service station on fire but were chased away by police.

The demonstrations began after the Commerce Ministry and Economic Ministry issued a joint statement announcing an increase of 38 per cent to 51 per cent for petrol, diesel and kerosene. The increases take effect Saturday.

Government officials agreed to reduce subsidies for fuel in February as part of a help package deal with the International Monetary Fund. The agreement also included increased spending on social services and infrastructure and improved tax collection in an effort to modernise the economy of one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere.

A litre of diesel will cost about US$4 and a litre of regular gas will cost nearly US$5 under the new prices. The increase will reverberate through the economy of a country where about 80 per cent of the people earn less than US$2 a day.

Opposition groups said they expected more protests throughout the country on Saturday.