Haiti’s Senate leader has called on the prime minister to resign in the face of escalating political unrest after days of protest sparked by a gas price hike.
Separately, an opposition leader, Mirlande Manigat, on Monday renewed her calls for the prime minister, Jean Henry Ceant, to step down. “I have tried to show some forms of political collaboration for the sake of freedom and order,” Ceant said on Sunday. “What do I gain from this? I see no benefit.”
Ceant was appointed to help reunite the country after the inauguration of Jovenel Moïse as president last October, succeeding Michel Martelly. Martelly, the former singer and political neophyte, was in office for nearly a decade.
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The price of a litre of gasoline has risen by 15% in Haiti, from 80 Haitian gourdes to 90. The chief crisis comes as Moïse is attempting to work with the opposition while maintaining support in his coalition government.
It is unclear whether Ceant intends to leave office or stay on, with opposition leaders vowing to increase pressure on the prime minister.
Since the gas price increase, protests have intensified, with demonstrators burning tires and attacking gas stations. Haiti has long relied on oil, gas and oil products.
President Moïse has ordered the armed forces and Haitian navy to arrest demonstrators, whom he accuses of violence. But he has not sought to suppress protesters’ anger, with protests continuing on Monday.
Protests were also held in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Sunday after the army said soldiers and police will carry out arrests on protesters. Soldiers and police manning barricades read out notices on television and radio stations that anyone violating the protests “will be treated like common criminals”.
The opposition has demanded the government reimburse Haiti for its gas imports.
Both the prime minister and the president of the Senate, Jocelerme Privert, are part of a commission of experts appointed by the United Nations to help the country find a durable resolution to the crisis.
Privert defended his opposition to Ceant, saying he did not “have the mandate to dissolve” a government that he headed in the 1980s. Privert and the prime minister are part of a core of the opponents of Moïse’s administration, who demand that he resign.
However, the government has refused to accept opposition demands, stressing that the prime minister has a constitutionally mandated mandate until the end of this year.
Privert also said that new legislation aimed at preventing public protests and ensuring security in Haiti should be submitted to the Senate this week, a request that required the support of all senators.
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Moïse, who never held public office before being elected, appointed the general who led the charge against Haiti’s dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, as minister of finance.
That man, Jean-Louis Michel, is the current prime minister. The supreme court has now prohibited him from taking office, and he has accused the opposition of installing it in a bid to deny him the new mandate.