Tensions high in Haiti, even after fuel prices rolled back

Tensions ran high in Haiti Monday after a weekend of rioting over high fuel prices — even with the government cutting the cost of gasoline back down.

A two-day strike was called on the island Monday. Police escorted groups of U.S. citizens, many in church groups involved in humanitarian missions, to safer locations. Airlines resumed normal flight schedules, but many embassies were closed.

Violence erupted after the government said Friday the price of gasoline, diesel and kerosene would rise. The hike — 38 percent for gasoline, 47 percent for diesel and 51 percent for kerosene — is line with an International Monetary Fund proposal to push Haitian officials to reduce government subsidies.

Protesters called for the removal of President Jovenal Moise, and several other embassies announced they would close Monday. JetBlue and Spirit airlines canceled flights from the United States Sunday, although American Airlines and Delta flew their scheduled routes after earlier cancellations.

Moise announced that fuel prices would revert to their previous prices, but that’s not quelled all the violence.

The rioting has left hundreds of U.S. tourists and church groups stranded in Haiti.

A member of South Carolina’s Chapin United Methodist Church described his organization’s situation as “safe but stranded” in an Instagram post Sunday.

“The team is safe, and are being very well cared,” Chapin UMC Lead Minister Jody Flowers said in a post Monday. “There is the possibility of our team departing from Haiti late today and returning home. We are super excited about this possibility.”

At least seven people died in rioting in Port-au-Prince. Burning roadblocks were constructed and supermarkets, hotels and businesses were looted.

About 220 people, including 120 Americans, stayed inside their hotel rooms when demonstrators attempted to burn the building Saturday. The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince issued a bulletin ordering workers to shelter in place.

Mobile phone service in Haiti, including international service, was also interrupted but is slowly returning to normal.

By Ed Adamczyk