Protesters in Haiti’s capital have taken the day to gather food, water and fuel, pressing pause on deadly demonstrations that have been calling for President Jovenel Moise’s resignation.
Moise, whose administration was tied to soaring inflation and accusations of corruption, has declined to step down. An announcement from the prime minister was set to come later Saturday.
In one of Port-au-Prince’s main business districts, usually bustling with shoppers on a Saturday, civilians were scrambling for food and water.
The city was resting in a tense calm, bearing the scars of the past nine days of violence – and Haitians were lying low in anticipation of the prime minister’s announcement.
Remnants of burning tires are scattered across the city. Rocks that once blocked roads have been pushed outside.
Activist Daphne Valmond Bourgoin said the protesters’ frustration is “extremely high.” Saturday was just a “pause,” she said, until civilians can gather their basic needs.
Throngs of civilians were waiting to grab jugs of water from the municipal trucks that have visited many neighborhoods, while others were getting their water from generous private residents, passing along what they have through hoses.
Some grocery stores are still open – but food is too expensive to buy.
Haitians mutter words of anger and defiance as they wait in line.
Most are demanding a do-over in the country’s system, constitution and leadership.
Activist: People have had enough
The island has seen a number of protests since July, following a government-imposed fuel hike. Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant then resigned before an expected parliamentary vote of no confidence and was replaced by Jean-Henry Céant.
Several people have been killed in this week’s clashes, according to local media reports. CNN has not been able independently to confirm the exact number of those killed.
“I’m tired, everyone is tired,” said Emmanuela Douyon, an anti-corruption activist. “It’s been years, what’s going on. It’s like a vicious circle and it needs to stop now.
“Traditionally, people like me do not do things like this,” she said. “We just have a job and keep living our life. Complain on social media. But this is the first time that people who have a job, people who don’t suffer from poverty, are on the street and saying, ‘It’s enough!’”
For more than a week, thousands of protesters have torched cars and clashed with police, demanding Moise and Céant step down. But the President said he’s staying.
“I will not leave the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers,” he said in a speech broadcast on national television and livestreamed on Facebook. “I will never betray you.”
The US Embassy in Haiti urged political parties, elected officials and citizens on the island to engage in a national dialogue.
Meanwhile, foreign aid workers and visitors have been stranded, trapped by makeshift roadblocks or the fear of moving within the city.
Travelers trapped on the island
The United States issued a “do not travel” advisory to the island citing “crime and civil unrest” and “widespread, violent, and unpredictable demonstrations in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti.”
The State Department earlier ordered all non-emergency US personnel and their families to leave Haiti.
Canada warned residents to avoid all travel to Haiti. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canadians who require emergency consular assistance in Haiti may contact the emergency watch and response center, as the Canadian Embassy was closed.
The Canadian low-cost airline Air Transat said Saturday it was flying 113 travelers back to Canada, along with flyers from other airlines and Canadians wishing to return home.
“Our clients, as well as their loved ones, have experienced a trying week, under a lot of uncertainty,” Transat Chief Operating Officer Annick Guérard said. “Since the rise of tensions in Haiti about a week ago, our teams have been mobilized and working hard to return out clients home safely, as quickly as possible.”
Twenty-four Canadian missionaries and a group of nurses were stranded on the island Saturday, confined to a compound outside Port-au-Prince. Eight Canadian nurses on the island started a GoFundMe page earlier this week asking the public to help them escape.
“The director of the compound has instructed us not to go outside,” Tracy Hotta, one of the trapped nurses, told CNN, adding that the nurses are safe inside.
“They’re very destitute down here,” she said, explaining why some Haitians are protesting. “They have zero health care. … They’re taking desperate measures to try and make a change for themselves.”
CNN’s Miguel Marquez reported from Port-au-Prince and Christina Maxouris wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Shelby Rose, Devon Sayer, Hira Humayun, Ray Sanchez, Radina Gigova, Daniel Silva Fernandez and Claudia Dominguez contributed to this report.