The United States embassy in Haiti asked on Tuesday for further military backup, including Marines, as the capital, Port-au-Prince, remains gripped by violent civil unrest.
According to CNN, the embassy demanded a Marine Security Guard Augmentation Unit that includes 13 marines and other personnel to secure the vicinity. The government has since accepted the request, and the team will now travel to Haiti.
The civil unrest comes as people express anger about rising living costs, with prices for gasoline and diesel rising by 38 and 47 percent, respectively. The move was promoted by the International Monetary Fund, which urged Haitian authorities to reduce government food subsidies.
“Due to the security situation, U.S. government personnel continue to shelter in place and U.S. citizens are advised to do the same. If you attempt to go to the airport, exercise extreme caution and only do so if the route is open,” reads an advisory posted by the State Department. “Violent crime, such as armed robbery, is common. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents or emergencies.”
“The Department of State currently advises U.S. citizens not to travel to Haiti due to the ongoing civil unrest,” it continues. “We are closely monitoring the situation and remain in close contact with Haitian authorities to verify the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. citizens in the area. We encourage you to closely monitor this site for important crisis information.”
The cancellation of flights has left several American church groups and volunteers stranded in the country, while Haitian authorities prevented others from leaving. At least four people have died during the protests, including a police officer and an opposition leader, while incidents of mass looting have broken out across the capital.
“Journalists saw young men stripping shelves bare in some supermarkets that were charred from the protests,” notes the Associated Press. “Several bodies lay among the debris scattered in the streets.”
On Saturday, Haitian Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant made an appeal for calm and announced a temporary end to the price hikes. “You are not happy about the removal of the subsidy for gas? Your president hears you,” he said during a televised address. “I took the decision since this afternoon [to remove the price hikes]. Enter your homes.”