Haitian President Jovenel Moïse walks with wife Martine Moïse

As Haiti commemorated the 215th anniversary of its decisive battle against the French with nationwide protests Sunday, the country continued its downward tumble under President Jovenel Moïse as the embattled leader broke with tradition to commemorate the historic victory leading to Haitian independence.

Confronted with increasing calls for his resignation and his second major protest in a month, Moïse opted not to travel to the northern city of Cap-Haïtien where Haitian leaders have long celebrated the Nov. 18, 1803 Battle of Vertières. Instead he decided to pay homage to Haiti’s independence heroes in Port-au-Prince.

Joined by members of his administration, Moïse laid a wreath inside the museum of Haitian history, the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien (MUPANAH), in the Champ de Mars public square across from the from the National Palace. The brief ceremony, which lasted less than 10 minutes, was followed by a 9 a.m. prerecorded address to the nation.

Recalling the Haitian Revolution battle where founding father Jean-Jacques Dessalines and others defeated Napoleon’s forces, Moïse called on Haitians to “wake up.” Underdevelopment and instability, he said during the seven-minute address, are twins, and Haitians should not allow “amateur acts” to veer them off the course of democracy.

“The time for fighting is over,” Moïse said. “Today, it’s time for us to come together to break the chain of underdevelopment, the chain of blackouts [and] chains of misery that make a lot of us forget who we are. It’s time for us to work together to construct a Haiti that will make our forefathers proud.”

Moïse’s words, however, did little to dissuade Haitians across the country from taking to the streets. Billed as an anti-corruption march to demand accountability from Haiti’s political class, accused of squandering billions of dollars in proceeds from Venezuela’s discounted PetroCaribe oil program, the demonstrations also turned into a referendum on the inexperienced president and his ability to lead Haiti out of its current political and economic morass.

At least five people were killed, including a security agent in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti National Police said. There were at least five individuals injured and 23 arrested as police sought to deal with protesters and armed gangs exchanging gunfire with police in some parts of the capital. Police also thwarted a prison break in the town of Anse-à-Veau in the Nippes region. Continue reading

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