Haitian leader's answer to food crisis doesn't satisfy critics
Opposition lawmakers have called for Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis resignation in the wake of violent demonstrations over the rising price of food.
Holding a rusty machete in one hand and a dried palm frond in the other, Vilner Chery stood defiantly in front of his community's road blockade, a three-foot high barricade made of boulders, tree trunks, and car parts.Skip to next paragraph
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"Our children are hungry and we can't feed them," he says. "We know we have a president in this country. So we're forced to get out on the street and cry for help to the people who have the capacity to do something for us. That's why we put up the barricades to block the cars. The president must do something about this."
After demonstrations turned violent and street clashes erupted between United Nations peacekeepers and protesters, Haitian President René Préval called for an end to the rioting that has killed at least five people.
On Wednesday, responding to demonstrators' demands for price relief on foodstuffs for the first time, Mr. Préval promised to subsidize the prices of Haitian-grown products, but refused to do the same for imported food.
But opposition lawmakers say he has done "too little, too late." On Thursday, 16 of Haiti's 27 senators signed a letter demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis in the wake of the rioting that shut down the capital, Port-au-Prince, as thousands set up flaming barricades, threw rocks at the national palace, burned gas stations, and looted businesses.
"The proposals of the president, as good as they may be for the future of the country, do not solve the immediate problems of the population," stated the letter signed by the opposition.
Food prices are rising around the world, but perhaps nowhere have they had such a devastating impact than in Haiti, where around 80 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day.
Since US troops whisked away former Frmer President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile during an armed rebellion in February 2004, the prices of rice and beans have nearly doubled, and in the past six months, basic goods have risen 30 percent, according to the Haitian Ministry of Commerce and Industry. In March, people began complaining of severe hunger.
Growing tensions exploded last week in the city of Okay, the third largest in Haiti.