Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise struck a combative note on Thursday in his first address since violent protests flared in the capital, defying calls for his ouster but urging dialogue to address soaring inflation and alleged misuse of funds.

Thousands of demonstrators have been calling for days for Moise to resign and for an independent probe into the whereabouts of funds from the PetroCaribe agreement, an alliance between Caribbean countries and Venezuela.

The agreement’s preferential terms for energy purchases were meant to help free up funds to aid development in the impoverished country hammered by natural disasters and ranked as the poorest in the Americas, according to the World Bank.

The protests, which have reportedly killed several people and injured many others, have highlighted widespread anxieties about the state of the economy, amid ballooning inflation and people’s struggle to pay for basic necessities.

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