By Harold Isaac
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Thousands of Haitians on Monday joined rallies around the Caribbean country to protest rampant crime and soaring consumer prices as its central bank reported that inflation had hit a 10-year high.
Protesters set up burning barricades in some areas including the capital of Port-au-Prince, some of whom said they were angry over the growing scarcity of gasoline and diesel that could force some businesses to close their doors.
Jean Baden Dubois, Haiti’s central bank governor, said the economy would likely contract by 0.4% this year, following a sharp depreciation of the gourde currency.
“If I take the numbers from June 2022, inflation has reached 29%,” Dubois said in a press conference, referring to annualized inflation. “It’s the highest rate we’ve had in 10 years.”
The demonstrations coincided with the anniversary of a 1791 slave uprising that triggered a long struggle for Haiti’s independence from France in 1804.
Demonstrators held rallies in cities including Cap-Haitien, Petit-Goave, and Jacmel, many wearing red shirts emblazoned with the word “endepandans” or “independence.”
Chronic gang violence has left much of the country’s territory out of control of government authorities, and outbreaks of bloody turf battles between rival gangs have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.
Haitians in recent weeks have also struggled to find fuel, which has left some unable to work.
The country’s fuel stocks have run low as fuel importers struggle to get paid for subsidies that keep fuel prices low in Haiti, and due to difficulties in obtaining dollars from the central bank, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.
(Reporting by Harold Isaac in Port-au-Prince, writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Marguerita Choy)