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  • Streets are blocked and schools closed amid a general strike in the Haitian capital of Port au Prince

    Streets are blocked and schools closed amid a general strike in the Haitian capital of Port au Prince | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 November 2018

The country has been at a standstill since Sunday's initial protest, which has become a massive general strike.

A religious federation in Haiti called for dialogue as civil unrest and a general strike across Haiti continues Thursday in protest of the current government and the Petrocaribe corruption scandal that has gone unchecked.

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It is the fourth consecutive day of action by citizens bringing the country to a near-standstill and resulting in multiple deaths.

Protests erupted Sunday in which police reported three people killed, although organizers said that number was higher, with 11 dead.

The death toll increased as the week’s crisis continued. A government vehicle ran over and killed six people in Port au Prince Wednesday, EFE reports.

In a statement, the Protestant Federation of Haiti (FPH) is urging the opposing sides to find a common strategy in order "to avoid once again the shame of foreign interference" and worsening consequences in the crisis that they say "could lead to the collapse of the nation-state."

Their request echoes a call by President Jovenel Moise for dialogue Wednesday. "The path of dialogue is what peace and development can achieve," Moise said.

"Let's cultivate the Vatican's spirit," he said in a Tweet. "Let's stick to one another. Let's cooperate to build a better Haiti where every Haitian lives better. Let's cooperate with our elders at the Vatican so each person on the ends of this earth can be equal."

However, members of the political opposition demanded Moise’s resignation for failing to investigate corruption allegations against previous governments related to the management of PetroCaribe, a regional integration initiative created 13 years ago by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The energy cooperation agreement between Venezuela and other Caribbean countries is a political initiative to facilitate Caribbean access to hydrocarbons skipping intermediation, market prices, and speculation.

Moise’s government has repeatedly expressed a commitment to investigate the alleged irregularities in the management of PetroCaribe funds from which more than US$2 billion were diverted, according to a Senate investigation. So far no one has been prosecuted.

Opposition leader, Andre Michel, is calling for further protests Friday in Petionville, a sector of the capital, Port au Prince. Michel told reporters that Moise "has no legitimacy or power, he is still here because the Haitian bourgeoisie continues to support him."

After clashes with police Sunday, opposition groups, such as the Democratic and Popular Sector coalition, called for a complete shutdown of work and institutions starting Monday.

In the Haitian capital Thursday, schools did not open, gas stations were closed, and public transport was paralyzed. This is partly because the price of gasoline has increased by more than 30 percent in recent days.

In recent months, Haiti, where more than 5 million people survive on less than US$2 per day, has been the scene of demonstrations and now a general strike. Protests began in July after an increase in fuel prices.

Since last August there have been more protests to demand that the government look into the allegedly fraudulent handling of PetroCaribe funds and prosecute those responsible.

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