Haiti police open fire on demonstrators, one journalist killed

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Port-au-prince (Reuters) – Haitian police on Wednesday opened fire on demonstrators demanding higher wages and killed a reporter, according to witnesses and a hospital official in the impoverished Caribbean island nation.

Two other journalists were shot and wounded at the scene in Port-au-Prince, where hundreds of Haitians gathered to call for a higher minimum wage than the one approved this week by the government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

A passing police vehicle fired at protesters, according to a Reuters witness and a union leader present. Dominique St Eloi, a union leader who was at the demonstration, said it was calm when police began shooting from the vehicle.

Haiti on Monday hiked the minimum wage by as much as 54% following weeks of demonstrations by garment workers who said their wages did not keep up with the rising cost of living.

The protesters on Wednesday were mostly from the garment sector, which exports finished products to U.S. retailers. Those workers received a 37% increase that took their wages to just under $7.50 a day – half what union leaders had demanded.

Lazzare Maxihen, who worked for Haitian media group Roi des Infos, succumbed to his wounds at a hospital on Wednesday, according to a hospital official who asked not to be identified.

The prime minister later condemned the “brutal acts” and pledged to protect peaceful demonstrations. “The government reiterates the responsibility of public authorities to ensure order and security,” Henry wrote on Twitter.

It was not immediately evident why police fired. A spokesman for Haiti’s National Police did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The Association of Industries of Haiti (ADIH), the country’s main manufacturing trade group, announced the closure on Thursday of clothing factories at an industrial park near where shooting took place.

The group condemned the shooting and said the closure was intended “to protect their workers and their equipment.”