PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP)— Angry protesters rallied in the Haitian capital on Wednesday, demanding the departure of Prime Minister Ariel Henry after he failed to step down in line with a political agreement forged in 2022.
Haiti has been engulfed by unrest since Monday, with thousands of people demonstrating in Port-au-Prince and across the country.
“This Wednesday is D-Day. It’s the day when Ariel Henry must leave office,” a motorcycle taxi driver who was rallying in the capital told AFP, asking his name to be withheld.
“I hope he will listen to reason. Otherwise, the voice of the people will be listened to,” the protester added.
Local media reported that some of the demonstrations have turned violent as protesters clashed with police and at least two people were shot and killed in the unrest.
According to an agreement concluded in December 2022 following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise a year earlier, Henry was supposed to hold elections and then cede power to newly elected officials on February 7, 2024.
But Henry has remained in power, with an aide saying the prime minister intends to form a government of national unity.
The Western hemisphere’s poorest nation, Haiti has been in turmoil for years, with armed gangs taking over parts of the country and unleashing brutal violence, leaving the economy and public health system in tatters.
The 2021 assassination of Moise plunged the country further into chaos. No elections have taken place since 2016 and the presidency remains vacant.
Another protester, who is 40 and unemployed and who also declined to give his name, said Henry “has not provided any solutions to our problems.”
“The country is being held hostage by gangs. We can’t eat. We can’t send our children to school,” he added. “We can’t take it anymore.”
The protests have been called by several opposition parties and joined by workers from the National Agency for Protected Areas, an environmental agency that has rebelled against the government.
February 7 is a symbolic date for Haitians as it marks the anniversary of the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986.
On Tuesday evening, a police station in the northeastern province of Ouanaminthe came under attack, local media reported. Major roads and schools have been closed across the country since Monday.
The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, said Wednesday it was reinforcing its borders due to the violence.