Tue | Nov 12, 2019

Protesters bar president from visiting historic site

Published:Friday | October 18, 2019 | 12:22 AM
A man leaps over fire during a voodoo ceremony to grant protection to the people as protesters calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse gathered at a bridge in the Delmar area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Thursday, October 17.
A man leaps over fire during a voodoo ceremony to grant protection to the people as protesters calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse gathered at a bridge in the Delmar area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Thursday, October 17.

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AP):

Haiti’s embattled president was forced on Thursday to hold a private ceremony amid heavy security for what is usually a public celebration of one of the country’s founding fathers.

Jovenel Moïse and other officials appeared at the National Pantheon Museum in downtown Port-au-Prince as hundreds of armed police officers closed down the surrounding area while protesters who demanded his resignation began to gather nearby.

“This is not how a government should be ­functioning,” said Mario Terrain, who is 29 and ­unemployed. “The president is in hiding.”

Moïse did not speak to reporters and left after the brief ceremony to commemorate the death of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, whose rule ended in 1806 following a military revolt. Protesters had prevented Moïse from visiting Pont-Rouge, the site north of the capital where Dessalines was killed and where the ceremony is usually held.

Anger over corruption, inflation and scarcity of basic goods, including fuel, has led to large protests that began five weeks ago and have shuttered many businesses and schools.

A couple hundred protesters had already ­gathered at Pont-Rouge as they criticised Moïse.

“We dare the president to come,” said 28-year-old Joel Theodore. “It will be his last day in office.”

The president held a surprise press conference on Tuesday and said he would not resign as he once again urged unity and ­dialogue. Opposition leaders, ­however, said protesters would remain on the streets until he steps down.