Clashes as Haiti president marks three years in power

Clashes between protesters and police marked Haitian President Michel Martelly's three years in power Wednesday, with at least one person shot in the confrontations.

While Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe appealed for calm, a gas station went up in flames as demonstrators denounced perceived abuse and corruption in the poverty-stricken Caribbean country.

Calling for Martelly's resignation, opponents gathered near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, where supporters of the head of state, himself a former singer, had assembled for a concert.

The president, whose accomplishments were lauded in banners across the capital, was due to speak there in the afternoon.

At least one person suffered gunshot wounds during clashes between protesters and police.

Clashes also took place in Haiti's second city, Cap-Haitien, where thousands of opposition supporters flooded the streets.

Young protesters broke car windows, saying they were "unsatisfied with the politics of a government that benefits those close to power," according to local radio.

Haiti's Patriotic Movement for Democratic Opposition coalition denounced Martelly's "three years of being adrift and corrupt."

Lamothe urged restraint.

"We can't go back to the politics of the past. We need to create jobs and change the living conditions for the population," he said.

But some people who came to watch Martelly's speech said they were happy with his rule.

"I am completely satisfied," said Gabrielle Retemise, a 34-year-old mother of five.

"I benefit from social programs that Martelly put in place. Thanks to him, I receive 400 gourdes (less than $10) each month and my children go to school."

At the official podium set up near the presidential palace, ministers took turns lauding Martelly's merits.

"This president has brought women to power. We now account for more than 36 percent of the government," said Women's Affairs Minister Yanick Mezile, as she urged voters to cast their ballots for the president's party in upcoming elections.

Amid pressure from the international community, the Haitian government has committed to holding long overdue legislative and municipal elections in late October.

The date was set after an agreement brokered by the country's Catholic church. While welcomed by the international community, Haiti's main opposition parties have rejected the deal.

The poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere has long suffered from political deadlock.

Bitter disagreements between politicians have threatened already painfully slow reconstruction following a devastating earthquake in January 2010 that killed around a quarter of a million people.

Four years on, hundreds of thousands are still living in squalid makeshift camps.

Martelly has faced protests over the slow pace of rebuilding.