Protesters in Haiti burn buildings, loot police station in drive to remove president (PHOTOS)

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Thousands of protesters in Haiti took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise, setting businesses and government buildings ablaze in chaotic demonstrations prompted by claims of official corruption.

In Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, demonstrators looted a police station and made off with ammunition, ballistics vests and even office furniture on Friday. Elsewhere in the city, homes and businesses were set on fire. A courthouse in the city of Jacmel was also torched.

©  Reuters / Andres Martinez Casares

Police responded to the unrest with tear gas as protesters hurled stones and other projectiles.

Opposition leaders in Haiti have called for President Moise’s ouster for months, citing failure to investigate allegations of embezzlement of state funds by the president’s allies in the previous administration. Food and energy shortages, as well as soaring inflation, have also fueled the protests, which have often descended into violence. In September alone, four were killed in clashes with security forces.

©  Reuters / Andres Martinez Casares

“We are telling … the Haitian population to rise up to overthrow this government because President Jovenel Moise is not doing anything for us, just killing us,” one of the protesters, identified as Francois Pericat told the Associated Press.

In the most recent bout of protests over the last three weeks, pro-opposition demonstrators have gathered in the streets to attempt to force a shutdown of businesses and other public services, hoping to ramp up pressure on the government.

©  Reuters / Andres Martinez Casares

“If Jovenel doesn’t resign today, whatever happens to him is not our responsibility” opposition leader Senator Youri Latortue told a local broadcaster on Friday. “Jovenel Moise will be held accountable for everything that happens in the country today.”

In an effort to quell the unrest, Moise called off his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York this week and delivered a televised address to the Haitians urging unity instead. On Thursday, the government sacked a number of security officials.

Protesters loot a police station in Port-au-Prince, September 27, 2019. ©  Reuters / Andres Martinez Casares

Aside from a State Department directive suggesting US citizens avoid travel to Haiti, Washington has been silent on the most recent round of demonstrations. Members of the opposition have assailed the US over their perceptions that it is tacitly backing the Moise government.

“We are here to tell Donald Trump we aren’t going to accept this from [his administration],” a protester told Voice of America in July. “Come and get your thief [President Moise].”

©  Reuters / Andres Martinez Casares

Responding to the criticism, US envoy Robin Diallo told VOA that Moise was “the democratically elected president,” and had not been found guilty in a court of law, indicating there would be no change in Washington’s position.

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