Haitian civil unrest enters third day despite fuel hike reversal

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 pic)

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

The US embassy warned its citizens to avoid the unrest in the capital Port-au-Prince and reschedule any travel plans as several airlines cancelled 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. The decision to raise prices was part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which requires the country to enact a range of austerity measures aimed at strengthening its economy.

On Saturday, demonstrators erected flaming roadblocks, while others attacked hotels and 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 US embassy said in a statement.

A spokesman for US carrier American Airlines Group Inc said it had cancelled three out of seven roundtrip flights scheduled to stop in Port-au-Prince on Sunday.

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

JetBlue Airways Corp also cancelled 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 government revenue, which translated to a 38% jump for gasoline and 47% for diesel.

The decision proved deeply unpopular among the nation’s overwhelmingly poor residents.