Police in Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince clashed with demonstrators Monday who took to the streets to protest the nation’s high fuel prices, reports said. The protests remained largely peaceful, though police at times used tear gas and said they arrested 20 people.
Opposition leaders joined forces with a drivers’ union strike to spearhead the protests, Reuters reports. Protesters crafted barricades and burned tires to prevent those who did not strike from traveling through the city and told local residents to stay out of the streets for their own safety.
“Because of the price of fuel, the cost of living is going up,” Port-au-Price resident Ralph La Croix told Reuters, according to the BBC. “If the government could cut the price of fuel so it was lower, the population would live better.”
The protesters also sought to force closure of key infrastructure in Port-au-Prince, such as schools and banks, according to Al-Jazeera. The demonstrations were expected to continue through Tuesday.
The Haitian government recently lowered the cost of gasoline from $4.62 per gallon (215 gourdes) to $4.25 per gallon (195 gourdes), Reuters notes. But protesters argue the price reduction did not match the rate at which the cost of fuel has fallen around the world amid OPEC in-fighting.
Haiti was dealt with months of protests regarding its political and economic climate. Former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and the Haitian parliament were forced to resign in December after the government failed to hold scheduled elections.
Protesters continue to call for President Michael Martelly to step down from his post. Both the United States and the United Nations have supported Martelly’s presidency and called for calm until elections can be held.
Haiti’s government owes Venezuela $1.5 billion and counts on fuel sales to raise funds. Leaders have said the government cannot afford to further reduce the price of gasoline.
Haiti “cannot lower the price of gas. It’s not that we do not want to, it’s because we are not able to,” current Prime Minister Evans Paul said.