Sept. 13 (UPI) — Demonstrators protesting new tax increases in Haiti turned violent — burning cars and throwing rocks at police — in several areas of the capital of Port-au-Prince.
The violent protest Tuesday was the biggest demonstration by Haitian citizens since President Jovenal Moise took office in February.
The demonstrations were called for by former presidential candidate Jean-Charles Moise after lawmakers approved an unpopular budget hours before Hurricane Irma arrived Friday. The hurricane damaged about 8,000 homes in northern Haiti.
The new budget includes higher taxes on purchases, including cigarettes and alcohol, and a new tax to be paid before citizens can access government services. At the same time, it also includes a 74 percent increase in salaries, cars, staff and per diem payments for government legislators.
Protesters erected burning barricades in streets and faced riot police who were firing tear gas and warning shots. Police said seven people were arrested.
The tax increase comes at a time when foreign aid to Haiti is slowing. The country, regarded as the Western Hemisphere’s poorest, is still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake.