Activists from political party Platform Pitit Desalin march briefly following an opposition press conference, before being dispersed by tear gas in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. Haitian opposition leaders are calling for a nationwide push Monday to block streets, paralyze the economy and push President Jovenel Moise from power, and tens of thousands of their dedicated young supporters are expected to heed their call. (AP Photo/Edris Fortune)

Haiti braces for new protest, demands that leader resign

September 29, 2019 - 9:04 pm

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Opposition leaders are calling for a nationwide push Monday to block streets and paralyze Haiti's economy as they press for President Jovenel Moïse to give up power, and tens of thousands of their dedicated young supporters are expected to heed the call.

People stood in lines all day Sunday under a brutal sun to get water, gasoline and other basic supplies before the next round of protests that many worried would turn more violent than a demonstration Friday during which several homes and businesses were burned as police fired tear gas at protesters.

Several people have died in the past three weeks amid the political clashes.

"I have a feeling that the country is going to change," said Yves Bon Anée, a mason standing next to eight empty plastic gallons that he would fill with gasoline at $2 a gallon for friends, family and himself. He planned to resell his portion to make some money because he hasn't been able to find work in weeks amid Haiti's crisis.

"My kids are suffering," he said of his three young boys.

Opposition leaders and supporters say they are angry about public corruption, spiraling inflation and a dwindling supply of gasoline that has forced many gas stations in the capital to close as suppliers demand the cash-strapped government pay them more than $100 million owed.

Protesters also are demanding a more in-depth investigation into allegations that top officials in the previous government misused billions of dollars in public funds that were proceeds from a Venezuela subsidized oil plan meant for urgent social programs.

Moïse, who took office in 2017 following an election redo, has said he will not step down despite the unrest and instead called for calm, unity and dialogue during an address televised at 2 a.m. Wednesday. It was a rare appearance for the president since the new wave of protests began about three weeks ago.

Laurent Dubois, a Haiti expert and professor at Duke University, said he believes the country will face an increasing impasse unless the parties find a way to reach some kind of resolution.

"There's a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety ... that things are going in a direction in Haiti that we haven't seen in a while," he said. "It seems like we're going into some kind of new phase in Haitian history, but what it holds will be difficult to predict."

Opposition leaders demanding Moïse's resignation say they envision a transitional government after the chief justice of Haiti's Supreme Court takes over as dictated by law if a president resigns.

André Michel, an attorney and professor of human rights, said Haiti's current political system has generated misery, underdevelopment and corruption that have led to poverty, noting that the country's middle class has shrunk.

Michel said Haiti needs to rebuild a new society and state as he called on the international community to back the goal of opposition leaders to oust Moïse.

"The will of the people is clear," Michel said. "If he insists on remaining as president, he will lead the country into chaos."

At a news conference Sunday, opposition leaders urged the dozens of supporters gathered around them to start blocking streets and to help them look for Moïse, whom they contend has gone into hiding.

Among those leading the call to find Moïse was opposition Sen. Youri Latortue, who has denied corruption allegations that U.S. officials made against him more than a decade ago and once led a party allied with Moïse's Tet Kale faction.

"We're going to search for him everywhere," Latortue said.