Haitian Prime Minister Resigns Amid Riots

Haiti
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According to NPR, Haiti’s Prime Minister, Jack Guy Lafontant, resigned Saturday amid the nation’s protests over the recent oil price hike.

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse tweeted his acceptance of Lafontant’s resignation, adding that he will begin searching for a new prime minister. “I take this opportunity to thank Mr. Lafontant,” Moise tweeted, “and the members of the cabinet for the services rendered to the nation.”

Lafontant, who served as prime minister for only a year, was going to be voted out of office through a no-confidence vote anyway.

After the Haitian government announced their plan to raise oil prices on July 6, protests and riots broke out, causing chaos and destruction. Over the past week, major roads have been blocked off, shops have been vandalized, and protestors have set fire to numerous tires.

Oil prices, however, did increase dramatically, going up “by 38 percent for gasoline, 47 percent for diesel and 51 percent for kerosene.”

These price increases were a requirement of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, “which often requires countries to implement economic reforms in exchange for access to funds.” A little earlier in the year, Haiti signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund in order to receive $96 million in grants.

Over the last week of riots and protests, Lafontant reportedly “refused calls to step down from business and opposition groups, which accused the government of mishandling the double-digit fuel increase that its ministers announced with little notice.”

The Haitian government subsidizes the cost of their fuel, spending around 2% of their GDP on subsidies. According to the World Bank, in 2017 “the richest 20 percent of Haitians were receiving 93 percent of the subsidies.”

A relatively poor nation already, Haiti’s recent oil price hikes proved to be detrimental to Haitian citizens. The World Bank reported that 59% of Haitians “make less than the equivalent of $2.41 per day.”

On Thursday, the International Monetary Fund claimed that it would still support removing subsidies in order to provide the Haitian government with funding for social service programs, but added that they would want such a process to happen gradually.

Because of the riots and protests over oil prices, the U.S. State Department issued a warning on Monday to U.S. citizens, urging them not to travel due to Haiti’s current “widespread civil unrest and violent demonstrations” which included “protests, tire burning, and road blockages.”

Due to the unreliability of varying reports, anywhere from 2 to 7 people have been killed amid the riots so far.