- Title: HAITI-STRIKE Haitian public transport goes on strike over high gasoline prices
- Date: 9th February 2015
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PETROL STATION, ROCKS AND MORE OF BURNT TIRES GAS PUMP IN PETROL STATION
- Embargoed: 24th February 2015 12:00
- Location: Haiti
- Country: Haiti
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA61ZB2V9L7YHHSSA1RDAL4ALF5
- Story Text: Anti-government activists hope to shut down Haiti's capital for two days starting Monday (February 9) in a strike over gasoline prices as the country plunges deeper into political and economic crises even as many prepare for the annual Carnival, normally a time of peaceful revelry.
Protest organizers warned residents of the capital to stay off the streets during the two-day strike, saying that those who ventured out would risk their lives.
Prime Minister Evans Paul made an appeal for calm via Twitter over the weekend and said the government would guarantee security.
The impoverished Caribbean nation is in the midst of a political crisis after the previous prime minister was forced to resign in December and parliament was dissolved over the failure to hold municipal and legislative elections.
For three months, President Michel Martelly has faced radical government opponents calling for his removal, with students joining the protests last week.
Haiti's government badly needs to raise cash from the sale of gasoline to pay off its mounting fuel debt with Venezuela's preferential PetroCaribe program, which has ballooned to about $1.5 billion.
The government "cannot lower the price of gas. It's not that we do not want to, it's because we are not able to," Paul said in a statement.
After a one-day fuel strike last Monday, the government announced lower fuel prices, reducing gasoline to 195 gourdes ($4.25) per gallon from 215 gourdes ($4.62).
A member of the public transportation syndicate, Elmo Pierre, said they had been betrayed by the government.
"To the PM Evans Paul. Remember you were one of us from the ghetto and without us you wouldn't be where you are today. To President Martelly, without the people you would not be president today. Remember all the promises you made to us, you have lied to us and remember how we took to the streets for you and today you have betrayed us," Pierre said.
More than 6 million Haitians, about 60 percent of the population, live on two dollars a day, according to a recent World Bank report.
The U.S. State Department and the United Nations peace-keeping force in Haiti have so far stood by Martelly, praising his efforts at compromise, and urging all sides to agree to hold the overdue elections.
On Saturday, the 29th anniversary of the overthrow of the dictatorship of Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier, several thousand protesters marched in protest in Port-au-Prince to demand the departure of Martelly and for lower gasoline prices.
The protesters, who threw rocks and blocked streets with burning tires, were dispersed by police using tear gas. Police prevented them reaching an area near the presidential palace where the three-day Carnival will be staged starting Feb. 15.
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