Haiti senator opens fire outside parliament, wounds photographer

Port-au-Prince (AFP) - A Haitian senator trying to disperse protesters opened fire with a pistol outside parliament on Monday, a photojournalist who was wounded in the shooting said.

Senator Jean-Marie Ralph Fethiere, a member of Haiti's ruling party, said he acted in self-defense after opposition protesters burst into the parliament building in the capital Port-au-Prince to disrupt a session of the Senate.

"I defended myself. Legitimate defense is a sacred right," Fethiere told local media, adding he was unaware a journalist had been injured.

The photographer working for The Associated Press suffered a minor injury to his jaw from a bullet shard, according to an AFP journalist who met with him.

The photographer, who asked not to be named, appeared lucid but in shock and was hospitalized.

Prime Minister Fritz-William Michel, who was appointed at the end of July, was to appear together with his ministers in the Senate for the ratification of his general policy, an essential step to installing his government.

The Senate session was postponed indefinitely after the Monday morning incident.

Haitian President Jovenel Moise canceled his trip to New York, where he was to participate in the United Nations General Assembly, according to a statement released Monday evening.

He was supposed to leave Sunday but had previously said his departure was postponed pending the installation of the government.

Earlier Monday, several hundred protesters flooded the streets of the capital to express their frustration with Moise, setting up barricades along their path.

"We don't want to hear about ratifying the prime minister. We don't have a government problem but a president problem: Jovenel Moise is incompetent," said Didier Benel as he stood among a crowd made up primarily of young men, many of whom wore masks.

"He can't lead and, because of that, our misery is that much greater."

The protesters smashed storefronts and car windows as they crossed the capital's commercial neighborhoods. At least two vehicles were set on fire, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

At one point, demonstrators clashed with authorities outside a hotel where members of parliament were falsely rumored to have been meeting. A nearby store was sacked and set ablaze.