Businesses, Schools Closed as Haiti’s Capital Reels from Political Chaos

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WASHINGTON / PORT-AU-PRINCE – Businesses and schools were closed Tuesday in Port-au-Prince as Haiti’s private sector protests the insecurity and chaos that has overwhelmed the nation.

Meanwhile, AP photojournalist Dieu Nalio Chery is recovering from a bullet wound in his jaw that he sustained when a Haitian ruling party senator fired his gun in the parliament yard. A parliament security guard also sustained a bullet wound in the stomach. He is recovering after being treated at a nearby hospital.

Senator Ralph Fethiere pulled out his gun and fired when opposition supporters began yelling at him and approached him aggressively as he was getting into his vehicle.

Ruling party Senator Ralph Fethiere fires his gun outside parliament in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sept. 23, 2019.
Ruling party Senator Ralph Fethiere fires his gun outside parliament in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sept. 23, 2019.

The senator, one of two ruling party lawmakers who were photographed with guns in hand Monday as members of the Senate gathered for a confirmation vote on Prime Minister designate Fritz William Michel, was not arrested. He issued a statement condemning the incident and defended his actions, claiming he was the victim.

“(I) vehemently blame certain ill-intentioned armed individuals who did not hesitate to open the door of (my) vehicle to physically aggress (me). The impact of the bullets on (my) car were duly noted by an officer of justice,” the statement said.

In an interview with local radio station Scoop FM, Senate Leader Carl Murat Cantave said he too was hit by supporters of opposition lawmakers at the parliament.

“Violence has no place in Haiti’s political process,” a spokesperson with the State Department Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs told VOA, “even as we recognize the importance of forming a government to address Haiti’s urgent priorities.”

Looting, attacks

The condemnation follows a day of looting and attacks after angry protesters took to the streets, reacting to news of the Senate shooting. The Banque de L’Union Haitienne (BUH) in the upscale suburb of Juvena was looted of rice, corn meal and other items stored on its upper level floors, then later set on fire.

Demonstrators chant anti-government slogans during a protest against fuel shortages and to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.
FILE – Demonstrators chant anti-government slogans during a protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sept. 20, 2019.

Haiti’s sports minister-designate told reporters she was carjacked as she left the Karibe hotel, also in Juvena, where Michel and members of his cabinet gathered to await news about the Senate vote. She was unharmed after leaving her car to the assailants and returning to the hotel.

Haiti has struggled to end chaos since March of this year, when Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant was forced to resign in a no-confidence vote.

President Jovenel Moise’s current choice for the prime minister position is accused of corruption, prompting attempts by the opposition to block his confirmation vote by vandalizing parliament. While the lower chamber of deputies approved Michel’s nomination on Sept. 3, the Senate has tried and failed five times to approve him.

UNGA

Some observers question if the country’s current leaders are fit to lead.

Moise, who at first delayed a trip to New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly, canceled his visit late Monday. He said Foreign Minister Bocchit Edmond would represent Haiti at the UNGA and deliver the speech in his stead.

The president has remained silent about protester demands and criticism, as well as the chaos and violence at the parliament.

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