July 14, 2018 / 10:22 PM / 4 months ago

Haiti's prime minister quits amid backlash over fuel price protests

Haitian Prime minister Jack Guy Lafontant gestures during a meeting with members of the Parliament in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 14, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haitian Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant resigned on Saturday as he faced a non-confidence vote after a move to lower fuel subsidies prompted days of violent protests in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

In a speech to the Lower Chamber that was broadcast live on television, Lafontant defended his tenure but said that Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise had accepted his resignation.

“As I told you, I am at service to the Republic,” Lafontant said.

Earlier this month, the Haitian government announced a reduction of fuel subsidies as part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The move translated to a 38 percent rise in gasoline prices and 47 percent hike for diesel, triggering protests during which demonstrators barricaded roads, looted stores and set cars ablaze in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The unrest caused embassies to close and airlines to suspend flights to Haiti for days.

Lafontant announced a temporary reversal of the policy in a bid to quell the demonstrations, but the protests continued. A no-confidence vote in his leadership had been scheduled for Saturday, according to the Miami Herald.

The IMF said on Thursday that it expects Haiti to create a revised reform plan that will include a gradual lowering of fuel subsidies.

A medical doctor and political novice, Lafontant became prime minister in March 2017 with ambitious plans to boost agricultural production, improve infrastructure and expand access to clean water.

Reporting by Robenson Sanon in Port-Au-Prince and Stefanie Eschenbacher in Mexico City; Editing by Anthony Esposito and Daniel Wallis

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