Haitian President Jovenel Moise on Thursday broke his silence after a week of violent protests demanding his resignation that have left at least seven people dead.
"I will not leave the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers," he said in a pre-recorded address broadcast on state television, speaking in Creole in the aftermath of clashes between authorities and demonstrators in the capital Port-au-Prince.
The US State Department meanwhile announced it was recalling all "non-emergency personnel" from Haiti and warned Americans against travelling to the unrest-plagued nation.
"There are currently widespread, violent, and unpredictable demonstrations in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti. Due to these demonstrations, on February 14, 2019, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency US personnel and their family members," it said in a statement.
Demonstrators are demanding Moise quit over a scandal centring on the Petrocaribe fund, under which Venezuela supplied Haiti and the other Caribbean and Central American countries with oil at cut-rate prices and on easy credit terms for years.
A report released in January on the misuse of the money named a company that was then headed by Moise as a beneficiary of funds from a road construction project that never had a signed contract.
During his election campaign, Moise promised "food on every plate and money in every pocket," yet most Haitians still struggle to make ends meet and face inflation that has risen 15 per cent since his election.
'I will not leave the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers,' Jovenel Moise said in a pre-recorded address broadcast on state television.