(VOA) – At least two people were wounded when shots were fired in the yard of the Haitian Senate Monday. Eyewitnesses say a senator wielded the gun that shot the victims, as the Senate was readying a vote to confirm the prime minister-designate, Fritz William Michel.
Witnesses said that shooter was Senator Ralph Fethiere.
Among those wounded is an AP photojournalist who spoke to VOA Creole.
“I was shot in the jaw,” Chery Dieu Nalio said, holding a cloth to stop the bleeding as he walked toward the exit. “I’m going to the hospital now.”
The journalist told VOA that he saw another person shot in the stomach. That victim is the inspector of police for the parliament, VOA Creole reporters were told.
Senate leader Carl Murat Cantave left the parliament after the shooting surrounded by security detail.
Senator Patrice Dumont told reporters there is no way the confirmation hearing can happen now. However there has been no word from the Senate leader on the matter.
After the shooting, crowds took to the streets chanting “lock them up! Lock them up!” They are now camped out in front of the National Palace.
Opposition Senators Antonio Cheramy, Ricard Pierre and Nenel Cassy accompanied them from the parliament to Place Toussaint Louverture, a park named after Haiti’s first president.
“Toussaint Louverture used diplomacy and it’s thanks to diplomacy this morning that we were able to come out alive, because the (Senate) President Cantave was aiming to massacre us today,” Senator Pierre told VOA.”Instead of killing us, we were the ones to open the way for him so he could leave the parliament (after the shooting) because our battle does not aim to kill people, it is rather a battle with vision. A vision for freedom for our country, rather than letting a small minority keep us hostage.”
Senator Pierre told VOA Creole he did not see Senator Fethiere fire his gun, but witnesses identified him as the person behind the shooting. Senator Cheramy told VOA Creole Fethiere was unloading his gun when it fired.
Earlier Monday morning, ahead of the planned Senate confirmation vote, opposition Senator Saurel Jacinthe told reporters that the Defense Minister-designate, Ronald Gerard Demazard and several other ministers were allegedly seen at the Karibe hotel distributing cash and guns to individuals so they could “to go to the parliament to kill the opposition senators”. He said they were specifically targeting “Senator Saurel and Senator Kato because they are the hot ones, supposedly.”
“(National Police) Director Normil (Rameau), watch it, you are going down a slippery slope,” the senator warned. Shortly afterward, shots were fired at the Senate.
It is unclear when the confirmation vote will happen. Opposition senator Pierre said they will be watching.
“If president Jovenel (Moise) bypasses us to install his prime minister, the people will never recognize him and we will fight it (tooth and nail),” Senator Pierre said.
VOA Creole saw protesters place a box truck across a main road near the palace then paint it with red graffiti that reads: “Jovenel we’re waiting for the key”.
President Moise is supposed to travel to New York Tuesday where he is due to speak before the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday. He has not yet commented on the violence at the Senate.