Anti-corruption protests throughout Haiti resulted in at least two deaths as police and protesters clashed in Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haitïen, and Gonaïves on Wednesday, October 17. Police reportedly used live munitions and tear gas to disperse crowds after protesters threw rocks at security forces, erected barricades, and set fire to buildings. Protesters also attacked the Swiss Embassy in Port-au-Prince but caused limited damage.
Haitian President Jovenel Moïse had been visiting a memorial for the nation's founder Jean Jacques Dessalines in the capital when protesters descended on his location forcing the military to evacuate the head of state to Marchand Dessalines. Protesters subsequently erected makeshift barricades on a highway near Saint-Marc, which connects Port-au-Prince and Marchand Dessalines, preventing government ministers from joining Moïse. Heightened security measures and localized traffic disruptions may persist in the coming days as sporadic unrest may occur.
The October 17 demonstrations coincided with the 212th anniversary of the death of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a military leader during the Haitian Revolution, and the country's first ruler following independence.
On September 10, the UN warned of the significant risk of significant unrest in Haiti, caused mainly by public frustration over the alleged benefits allotted to public servants and the alleged misuse of PetroCaribe funds, as well as gang violence in Port-au-Prince. Numerous demonstrations have been held in recent months to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, the liberation of people arrested during violent unrest that broke out July 6-8, and the arrest of individuals implicated in the PetroCaribe corruption scandal. Although Moïse pledged on October 17 to conduct an investigation to hold corrupt officials responsible, additional demonstrations in the near-term are possible due to entrenched public distrust in the government.
Individuals in Haiti, especially Port-au-Prince, are advised to monitor the situation, stock up on supplies as early as possible, limit movements in the near-term, strictly avoid all protests and associated roadblocks due to the likelihood of violence, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.