Haitian civil unrest enters third day despite fuel hike reversal


PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Mostly young protesters in Haiti blocked streets on Sunday while many damaged or looted stores remained closed for a third day following anger over steep fuel price increases in the Caribbean nation.

Burnt cars remain parked in a commercial area that was looted during protests against fuel price increases in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

Protesters used felled trees to block roadways, as well as piles of tires set on fire, many of which continued to smolder on Sunday, sending thick clouds of black smoke high into the air.

In some cases, police responded with tear gas to disperse crowds.

The remains of charred cars were parked in front of the Best Western and Oasis hotels, in the capital’s southern hilltop suburb of Petion-Ville, as well as near the offices of telecommunications company Natcom.

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The U.S. embassy warned its citizens to avoid the unrest in the capital Port-au-Prince and reschedule any travel plans as several airlines canceled flights.

Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant announced the temporary suspension of double-digit government hikes to prices for gasoline, diesel and kerosene on Saturday afternoon – just a day after they were announced – but the unrest has continued.

Across the capital, few cars and motorcycles were moving on Sunday, while broken windows or otherwise damaged buildings were a more common sight.

At a shopping center in Petion-Ville, police attempted to secure shops that had been attacked, which were littered with broken glass and merchandise strewn on the floors.

The decision to raise prices was part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which requires the impoverished country to enact a range of austerity measures aimed at boosting government revenue and strengthening the country’s economy.

Demonstrators erected flaming roadblocks on Saturday, while others attacked some businesses.

“Due to continuing demonstrations, roadblocks, and violence across Port-au-Prince, as well as short staffing at the airports, embassy personnel have been instructed to re-book any flights originally scheduled for Sunday,” the U.S. embassy said in a statement.

A spokesman for U.S. carrier American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) said it had canceled three out of seven round trip flights scheduled to stop in Port-au-Prince on Sunday.

The carrier’s Sunday route to Haiti’s Cap-Haitien airport had not been canceled.

JetBlue Airways Corp (JBLU.O) also canceled its flights to Haiti on Sunday.

Haiti’s Commerce and Economic ministries announced on Friday that it would lower fuel subsidies in a bid to generate more tax revenue to better fund government services, which translated to a 38 percent jump for gasoline and 47 percent for diesel.

Reporting by Andres Martinez Casares in Port-au-Prince; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and James Dalgleish

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