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Violence erupts in Haiti over national budget

Haiti 957x598 - Violence erupts in Haiti over national budget

A protester throws a tire onto the fire set by demonstrators on a main road in the centre of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, on September 12, 2017. Demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the government and the new budget for 2018, throwing stones at the police, setting tires on fire and blocking some streets. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL

Protesters brought parts of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince to a standstill Tuesday, setting vehicles alight and damaging local businesses in violent demonstrations against the government’s budget plans.

“These little thieves in Parliament voted for this budget to help the government exploit the people,” said protester Marco Paul Delva, standing by a barricade of flaming tires near the legislature.

Traffic in the center of Port-au-Prince and on key routes around the city ground to a halt after protesters threw stones and tires across roads.

Although demonstrators gathered in relatively small groups, the protest took police by surprise — and they were unable to intervene in some blocked-off areas.

Protesters set at least two cars on fire and threw stones that smashed several shop windows.

Protesters directed their anger toward senators who voted for the 2017-2018 budget last week, and the deputies who approved it Saturday — but some expressed grievances based on false information.

“To renew your driving license, you must now show a receipt confirming you have paid 10,000 gourdes ($158), no matter if you are a poor taxi driver or a street vendor,” claimed Jean Claude Reimbold.

“But the bourgeois pay nothing: thanks to their corruption, they don’t pay for water, electricity or income tax.

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“They make us pay 1,000 gourdes for a voter ID card — they want to deprive us of our rights.”

The National Identity Office, which produces the cards, denied Monday the free document would cost 1,000 gourdes once the new budget comes into effect.

Meanwhile, if providing an income tax certificate is needed for administrative tasks such as renewing a license, a 10,000-gourde payment will only be required from those earning more than 60,000 gourdes a year.

Officials hope the move will encourage more Haitians to declare their income.

Beyond the violent street protests, judges and magistrates are also set to strike as they say funds allocated to the sector are not enough to even cover officials’ salaries.

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