MEXICO CITY – Thousands of Haitians took to the streets of Port-au-Prince on Friday in the latest display of public fury at the government over rampant corruption, economic malaise and other grievances.
Chanting antigovernment slogans, the protesters, most walking but some riding in phalanxes of motorcycles, converged on the affluent suburb of Pétion-Ville but were mostly stopped by riot police officers whose armored vehicles blocked the road. Some demonstrators set piles of tires on fire and threw rocks, and the police fired tear gas to control the protest.
Sporadic gunfire was heard throughout the afternoon, some of it from police officers shooting into the air. No injuries or deaths were reported.
Friday’s demonstration was the latest in a week of violent protests that have paralyzed commerce, forced schools and shops to close, and compelled many Haitians in Port-au-Prince, the capital, to hunker down in their homes.
At least 10 people, including two police officers, have died amid the week’s demonstrations, which have featured barricaded streets and rock-throwing face-offs between protesters and counterprotesters. In addition, several people were killed by an out-of-control government car that lost a wheel and plowed into a crowd, further inflaming tensions.
The week of unrest began on Sunday when thousands marched against corruption in Port-au-Prince and other cities. It was the latest manifestation of a campaign that has flourished on social media and that focuses on allegations that Haiti’s government misappropriated billions of dollars earmarked for reconstruction after a devastating earthquake in 2010.
The campaign for transparency, and outrage over the whereabouts of the money — proceeds from a Venezuela-sponsored oil program, PetroCaribe — provided the initial impetus for the protests. But the unrest has also amounted to a referendum on the administration of President Jovenel Moïse and on Haiti’s worsening economic and political malaise. Opposition leaders have tried to harness this momentum to demand his ouster.
“People voted for Jovenel Moïse because they believed in his speeches, and today they’re realizing that his speeches were empty and that he did not deliver,” said Evalière Beauplan, an opposition senator. “The president does not inspire confidence.”
Mr. Beauplan led a Senate investigation into the use of the PetroCaribe money, which was supposed to be spent on social and economic projects. In a report released last year, Mr. Beauplan’s committee accused former government officials of having embezzled the funds.