(Reuters) – Haitian leaders pleaded for calm on Saturday as violent protests over fuel price hikes entered a second day and airlines canceled flights to the Caribbean nation.
Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant announced the temporary suspension of double-digit government increases to prices for gasoline, diesel and kerosene on Saturday afternoon – just a day after the fuel price hike was announced.
But as local television footage showed, the government’s decision to back down did not keep angry residents from taking to the streets with some erecting flaming roadblocks as well as attacking hotels and businesses.
“The government strongly condemns the acts of violence and vandalism perpetrated following the announcement of the adjustment of the prices of petroleum products,” Lafontant said in a statement.
U.S. carriers American Airlines and JetBlue announced flight cancellations Saturday to the capital Port-au-Prince citing civil unrest.
The U.S. Embassy in Haiti advised personnel and Americans in the country to shelter in place.
The U.S. State Department said separately that it was aware of vandalism at a Best Western hotel, where media reports said Americans were staying, and at an American Airlines office in downtown Port-au-Prince.
“At this time, we have not received any reports of U.S. citizens injured in the incidents,” the State Department said in a statement.
On Friday, Haiti’s Commerce and Economic ministries announced that fuel price increases, including a 38 percent jump for gasoline and 47 percent for diesel, would take effect at midnight.
The now-suspended decision by the government of President Jovenel Moïse to raise prices was part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which requires the country to enact a range of austerity measures.