Haitian Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant has handed in his letter of resignation to President Jovenel Moise. Lafontant, a 57-year-old doctor who took office in March 2017, resigned shortly before a no-confidence vote was to be called in Haiti’s parliament, which could have led to his removal from office. President Moïse issued a statement saying that he had accepted Lafontant’s resignation, as well as those of members of his cabinet, and that he was working to choose a new prime minister.
The resignations come after widespread violent protests rocked the island nation. The demonstrators were protesting the government’s plan to hike the nation’s fuel prices by a considerable amount. Earlier this month, the Commerce Ministry and Economic Ministry announced that prices would go up 38 percent for gasoline, 47 percent for diesel, and 51 percent for kerosene.
The backlash was immediate. Protestors took to the streets, vandalizing businesses, burning tires, and blocking roads. Missionary groups from Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina were stranded in Haiti as American Airlines, JetBlue and Spirit Airlines canceled flights to the island nation. The U.S. State Department issued a “do not travel” warning for U.S. citizens over the “widespread civil unrest and violent demonstrations.” Reports differ on how many people have been killed in the riots.
Lafontant had said the price hikes were needed for Haiti to balance its budget. They were part of an agreement between the Haitian government and the International Monetary Fund to gain access to $96 million in loans and grants. Haiti’s government subsidizes the cost of fuel in the country, but it is one of the world’s poorest countries, with the majority of Haitians making less than the equivalent of $2.41 per day, according to the World Bank. The day after the riots began, Lafontant announced that the price hikes would be suspended.