Haiti to raise fuel prices, setting off street protests
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti announced steep increases in fuel prices on Wednesday despite fears the move would crush an already frail economy, push even more people to flee the country and unleash the sort of protests that have often paralyzed the capital.
The government-set price of a gallon of gasoline is to increase from 250 gourdes ($2) to 570 gourdes ($4.78), while diesel will go from 353 gourdes ($3) to 670 gourdes ($5.60) and kerosene from 352 gourdes ($3) to 665 gourdes ($5.57).
The government said prices are rising because it can no longer afford to heavily subsidize fuel like it once did. Previously, Haiti received all its petroleum under Venezuela’s Petrocaribe program, which ended several years ago. Since then, the government authorized local distributors to import fuel and has subsidized their purchases.
Protesters against the price hike blocked roads throughout Port-au-Prince on Wednesday with rocks, burning tires, metal gates and even a bed frame, leaving the normally bustling capital void of traffic. Schools and businesses including banks also shut down as columns of black smoke rose across the city.
Marc André, a 28-year-old moto-taxi driver, said he night sell his bike and cross the border into the neighboring Dominican Republic to look for a construction job.
“The price I’m going to charge, most people won’t be able to afford it,” he said. “It’s best for me to leave the country.”
The government did not say when the new fuel prices would go into effect, but tweeted that “prices in Haiti are significantly lower than those on the international market.”
Prime Minister Ariel Henry had warned in a national address early Monday that fuel prices would increase, although his administration did not release details until Wednesday.
A couple thousand Haitians protested the looming increases on Tuesday while also demanding a crackdown on soaring violence and a reduction in the price of basic supplies amid a 30% inflation rate.