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Haitian Protesters Plan to Return to Streets Sunday  

People gather while waiting to buy gas in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 16, 2019.
People gather while waiting to buy gas in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 16, 2019.

Life in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, and its suburbs slowly began to return to normal Saturday after days of demonstrations against the country's president and economic problems.

Public transportation was up and running, too, after protest leaders announced a reprieve. But some neighborhoods remained blocked because of leftover makeshift barricades.

Banks, supermarkets and stores were open for business, and residents were out on the streets, according to VOA Creole's reporters. People lined up to buy water in a Port-au-Prince neighborhood Saturday morning.

Protest leaders, however, said they would be back in the streets on Sunday to continue pressuring the president to resign.

A schedule sent to journalists listed plans for another week of demonstrations, and indicated protesters would march Sunday to Petionville, and then toward Pelerin, a wealthy suburb where President Jovenel Moise's private residence is located. They also planned to walk to Peguyville, another wealthy suburb, where former President Michel Martelly has a home.

Ten days of protests under the theme "Operation Lockdown" resulted in several deaths and property damage. Protesters are demanding the president resign because of what they said was his administration's lack of transparency, its corruption and its ineffective governance. They also decried skyrocketing prices and inflation.

There were reports that a protester set fire to a U.S. flag on Friday, in an expression of anger toward American policies seen as propping up the president and keeping him from resigning.

The opposition "Democratic Sector" issued a statement condemning the action. "The Democratic Sector reiterates its faith in Haitian-American cooperation and thanks the United States for welcoming hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters with open arms," the statement said.

People line up outside a bank at a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 16, 2019.
People line up outside a bank at a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 16, 2019.

Address to the nation

On Thursday, Moise sought to reassure and calm the public and ask for its support during a nationally televised address. His pleas were largely ignored as protesters on Friday were back in the streets to demand he resign.

"My fellow Haitians, I'm asking you to continue supporting me. I want you to understand our destinies are linked. I know you have been victimized by the system," Moise acknowledged. "But I'm asking you to open your eyes — I have the determination and courage to continue working to make life better for you, your children and your grandchildren."

Moise said he had asked Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant to make an announcement on the economic measures he was prepared to take immediately to improve living conditions.

But the announcement never materialized Friday, after the prime minister told a local radio station the president had pressured him to resign. Ceant said he had refused.

On Saturday. Ceant tweeted that he planned to make an announcement at 8 p.m. on the national television station TNH. He did not give further details.

White House meeting

In Washington, White House national security adviser John Bolton tweeted that he had met with Haitian Foreign Minister Bocchit Edmond at the White House "to express the United States' enduring support for and friendship with Haiti." Bolton said the U.S. urged "all of Haiti's political actors to respect and protect their democracy, engage in dialogue and put an end to the political violence."

The tweet made no mention of humanitarian assistance for Haiti, which the Miami Herald reported President Donald Trump was considering.

"While we cannot comment on internal planning processes, the U.S. government remains committed to the people of Haiti and to addressing the food security needs of the most affected people," a U.S. Agency for International Development spokesperson told the Herald. "USAID-delivered emergency food assistance is intended to help alleviate severe food insecurity among the most vulnerable segments of the population."

Prior to his meeting with Bolton, Edmond tweeted a photo of himself at the White House, but he has not publicly commented on what was discussed.

The State Department was advising against travel to Haiti, putting the warning at Level 4, the most severe, citing crime and violent protests.

Matiado Vilme, Renan Toussaint and Florence Lisene in Port-au-Prince contributed to this report.