U.S. citizens in Haiti warned to shelter in place during protests

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti warned U.S. citizens Saturday to stay inside while violent demonstrations were ongoing in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince following a fuel price hike.

Demonstrators tried to set fire to a Port-au-Prince hotel where about 120 Americans and 100 Haitians are staying. The protesters also tried to penetrate security and enter the hotel, which among the guests include children and missionaries.

“Do not attempt to travel at this time. Avoid protests and any large gathering of people. Do not attempt to drive through roadblocks,” an alert by the U.S. Embassy said.

American Airlines, JetBlue and Spirit Airlines canceled flights to Haiti on Saturday as Lafontant called for Haitians to stop blocking roads and burning tires amid the civil unrest.

At least three people have died because of the protests that erupted Friday, including a police officer and security guard for a former legislative candidate and opposition leader.

Fires were set to police stations in Gonaives and Carrefour on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince and gunshots were fired during demonstrations in the capital city and town of Cavaillon.

Haiti’s Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant on Saturday appealed for calm and announced a temporary stop to the price increases, which were rise by 38 percent. Diesel prices were to go up 47 percent and kerosene by 51 percent.

The fuel hikes were part of an agreement between the Haitian government and the International Monetary Fund as part of an assistance package. The country could lose up to $96 million in budgetary support from international donors if if fails to meet the agreement.

By Susan McFarland