Haitian Senator Opens Fire During Parliament Protests

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Haitian Senator Opens Fire During Parliament Protests

(Photo: Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters)

(Photo: Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters)

(Photo: Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters)

(Photo: Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters)

Safa Hameed

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On September 23, Haitian Senator Jean Marie Ralph Féthière open fired outside the country’s parliament building injuring two people. This comes during a time of political turmoil in the country as the government works to appoint a new prime minister amidst vehement protests from its people.

Chaos broke out when Féthière was leaving the parliament building with protesters attacking his car, as well as yelling and gesturing at him. The lawmaker shot into the crowd, resulting in two injured individuals, an Associated Press photojournalist, Chery Dieu-Nalio who was shot in the face, and a security guard Leon Lablanc. According to Chery’s Facebook, doctors are removing the bullet fragments found in his jaw and thanks everyone who has supported him since his injury. 

Senator Féthière has since spoken out about the incident, standing firm that his actions were justified. “I was attacked by groups of violent militants. They tried to get me out of my vehicle. And so I defended myself. Self-defense is a sacred right. Armed individuals threatened me. It was proportional. Equal force, equal response.” He also later affirmed that he did not know a journalist was at the scene; however, Chery was wearing a press jacket at that time.

This all occurred as senators were meeting in the parliament to discuss implementation of a new prime minister after several failed attempts by different nominees chosen by President Jovenel Moïse. This is part of the reason why violent protests broke out across Haiti.

Protesters are furious at the state of the country and have been demanding changes through violent demonstrations. The average annual household income is 350 dollars, while inflation is 20 percent. At the same time, the country’s currency, the gourde, has dropped in value drastically. There have been shortages of fuel and food, and things took a turn for the worse when the President ended fuel subsidies in 2018. The government has also been accused of corruption on multiple occasions.

Protesters, like Francois Pericot, have continually called for action. When interviewed by the Associated Press, Pericot said, “We are telling the people who live in the Cité Soleil area and the Haitian population to rise up to overthrow this government.” Even the country’s own significant politicians, like former adviser and presidential candidate Leslie Voltaire, have acknowledged the worsening conditions found in Haiti, “I can’t remember a situation this bad.”