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PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - Police in the Haitian capital, Port-au Prince, clashed Wednesday with protesters calling for President Jovenel Moise to step down amid corruption allegations.
A VOA Creole reporter who was covering the protest saw police throw rocks at activists as the officers swept the area near the presidential palace. Video showed a policeman kicking a reporter's motorcycle, causing it to fall onto the road. Witnesses say police also fired tear gas at demonstrators who set up burning barricades and disrupted traffic.
The Associated Press reports one person was shot in the head as demonstrators attempted to reach an area where the heavily guarded Moise was placing a wreath at the National Mausoleum. It was not immediately clear who fired the shot. Moise was commemorating the 217th anniversary of the Battle of Vertieres. In the Haitian Revolution, forces led by slaves defeated Napoleon's French expeditionary army
"Haitians must understand that they have to collaborate to resolve the country's problems - no one is coming to rescue them," President Moise said during a national address in which he enumerated his efforts to resolve the country's political, economic and security problems.
"Haitian people are tired of Jovenel Moïse; he will no longer be able to govern the country," Haitian opposition leader André Michel, leader of the Democratic and Popular Sector, said.
Moise has been leading the impoverished country by decree, without the input of a parliament. Most lawmakers' terms expired in January after a failure to organize elections in October due to widespread unrest and a crippling economic crisis.
U.S. calls for elections
Calls for elections to take place have come from the United States and international bodies.
"Haiti's legislative elections are now overdue. We continue to call for elections as soon as technically feasible. We understand that the OAS secretary-general has called for those elections to be held by the end of January," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a video clip posted on Twitter on October 15.
The Organization of American States as well as the United Nations have also called for prompt elections.
Protest in front of U.S. embassy
Across town in the Tabarre neighborhood of the capital, opposition leader Jean-Charles Moise (no relation to the president) led a large protest in front of the U.S. embassy.
"On this November 18th, I stand here to tell the United States we can't take it anymore. We are dying of hunger. Americans please, people in your country are throwing food away, while we in Haiti go three days without eating. Everyone is afraid (to speak these truths)," he told the crowd of reporters, supporters and protesters gathered around him. The opposition leader demanded the U.S. stop meddling in Haiti's affairs and stop enabling a president he said the majority of the people view as corrupt.
Tires were found burning in the middle of the road not far from the embassy compound.
The political situation in Haiti has not helped the country generate financial assistance from the international community, hampering its ability to respond to problems that include food shortages and the coronavirus pandemic.
The opposition is planning more protests later this month to pressure the president to resign.