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Haiti tense after unpopular fuel-price hike

Friday, July 06, 2018

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) — Roadblocks went up in protest and gunshots sounded in the capital of impoverished Haiti today, ahead of a fuel price rise to comply with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement.

Burning tires blocked major routes in the capital Port-au-Prince, while sporadic gunfire could be heard in several districts of the city.

Earlier, the government said that starting this weekend, the price of gasoline will rise 38 per cent, diesel will go up 47 per cent and kerosene will be 51 per cent higher.

The measure is highly unpopular among the majority of people in a country which is the poorest in the Americas.

Roadblocks erected in protest further complicated traffic already snarled by drivers trying to fill up before prices rise. But most gas stations had closed in the mid afternoon.

The framework signed in February between the IMF and Haiti implied the ending of subsidies for petroleum products, which are a major source of the budget deficit.

Haiti's government justifies the decrease in subsidies by saying they unfairly benefit the neighbouring Dominican Republic, where pump prices are higher.

"Each day it's a subsidy of 5,000-6,000 barrels that we finance for the other side of the border, which is a heavy burden for our economy," said Jude Alix Patrick Salomon, Haiti's Minister of Economy and Finance.

Conscious of how unpopular their announcement was, ministers held a press conference about the price increase during the World Cup football quarter-final match with Brazil, the side most Haitians fervently support.

Only at the end of the match, in which Brazil was eliminated at the hands of Belgium, did trouble erupt in the capital.

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