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Haiti: Thousands protest government's call for international armed force

Blocked road with stones Port au Prince   -  
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Haiti

Thousands of Haitians demonstrated Monday in Port-au-Prince to protest against the government and its call for foreign assistance to deal with endemic insecurity, a humanitarian crisis and a burgeoning cholera epidemic.

A day after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for immediate deployment of a special international armed force in Haiti to help the crisis-hit Caribbean state, the demonstration in the capital was marred by violence, with police using tear gas to disperse looters, an AFP correspondent said.

"We certainly need help to develop our country, but we don't need boots" on the ground, one protester told AFP, charging that the international community was "interfering in the internal affairs of Haiti" and that the government had "no legitimacy to ask for military assistance."

Several people were shot and one person was reported to have been killed during the rallies. Protesters blamed the police for the fatality.

"It is a crime perpetrated by the police. This young girl posed no threat. She was killed expressing her desire to live in dignity," said another protester, who declined to give his name.

Haiti has been the scene for several weeks of violent demonstrations and looting, after the announcement by the head of government of an increase in fuel prices.

Demonstrators calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who appealed for international support, also took to the streets in other cities across the country.

The Haitian government on Friday formalized its request for international assistance to staunch spiraling insecurity.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is facing an acute political, economic, security and health crisis, with a cholera epidemic now looming – circumstances that have paralyzed the country and sparked a breakdown of law and order.

Since mid-September, the country's largest fuel import terminal, in Varreux, has been controlled by armed gangs. And last week health experts warned of a resurgence of cholera, three years after an epidemic that killed 10,000 people.

The health ministry said Monday 32 confirmed cases of the disease and 16 deaths have already been recorded, with another 224 suspected cases during the period from October 1 to 9.

The ministry also said cases have been detected in the Port-au-Prince's prison, the largest in the country, where the conditions of detention are dire.

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