Thousands take to streets in Haiti to protest against kidnappings, president

A demonstrator takes part in a march during a protest against Haiti's President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti February 14, 2021.
A demonstrator takes part in a march during a protest against Haiti's President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti February 14, 2021. © REUTERS/Jeanty Junior Augustin

Thousands of Haitians protested Sunday in Port-au-Prince and several provincial towns against a spike in kidnappings by gangs, as well as accusing the president of establishing a new dictatorship.

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Earlier Sunday in the capital city, a 63-year-old pediatrician was murdered in front of his clinic by unidentified assailants who had sought to abduct him, neighbouring residents told local media.

"We have a president that we no longer recognise because his term is over. Look at how a doctor was killed: is it possible to live in a country like this?" asked protester Moise Gueslin.

Since recent months, Haiti has seen an upsurge in kidnappings for ransom that have affected both the richest inhabitants and those living below the poverty level.

Additionally President Jovenel Moise has been ruling by decree for a year because there currently is no parliament, and only a third of its senators are in office. Legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed.

Moise maintains that his term lasts until February 2022 -- but the opposition argues it should have ended three weeks ago, in a standoff over disputed elections.

In the capital, thousands of people -- some of whom carried the national flag -- also chanted slogans against the UN representative in Haiti, whom they accuse of downplaying the scale of the demonstrations.

The dispute in Haiti stems from Moise's original election. He was voted into office in a poll subsequently cancelled after allegations of fraud, and then elected again a year later, in 2016.

The issue has led to weeks of violent protests on the streets of the poor Caribbean country.

(AFP)

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