Haitians continue anti-Aristide demos

Political crisis has continued in Haiti's capital following new protests against the government of President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

    The capital's protesters distanced themselves from northern rebels

    Opposition supporters held a protest on Sunday in Port-au-Prince, demanding Aristide's resignation.

    About 1000 people attended the mainly peaceful demonstration, though police did fire tear gas at one group of protesters.
    Some 200 protesters who put up roadblocks were also dispersed by police and four youths were arrested.
    But the leading anti-Aristide figures distanced their movement from a former police chief and a paramilitary leader who have joined an armed rebellion against the government. 
    Northern rebellion

    Former police commissioner Guy Philippe, fired after a 2000 coup attempt against Aristide, and paramilitary leader Louis Jodel Chamberlain, accused of human rights violations under military dictator Raoul Cedras, have joined rebels in Haiti's north.
    Andre Apaid, a prominent opposition leader, told journalists the civilian opposition did not want to be associated with the two men.
    "We want to avoid being affiliated with Guy Philippe and Louis Jodel Chamblain, who represent a past that the Haitian people are not interested in anymore," said Apaid.
    "We support the people in Haiti's north who are asking for Jean Bertrand Aristide's resignation, but not the armed conflict."  

    Gonaives, north of Port-au-Prince,
    is not under government control

    Philippe and Chamberlain said they had contributed truckloads of armed men to rebels who control Gonaives, Haiti's fourth-largest city located in the north. 
    Significant numbers

    The two men announced their alliance on Saturday over Radio Signal FM after meeting with Butteur Metayer, president of the Revolutionary Artibonite Resistance Front.
    "No one can stop 500 well-armed men," said Jonas Petit, spokesman for Aristide's Lavalas movement, who added that the country's 5000 policemen are not enough to fight the rebels.
    About 50 people have been killed in the past week while Caribbean leaders failed to persuade Aristide to cede power.
    Rebels have torched the homes of dozens of Aristide supporters in the north and cut off a key highway.
    The country has been without a functioning parliament since last year and Aristide has been running the country by decree.

    Aristide was elected in 1990 and ousted in a coup a few months later. The United States sent 20,000 soldiers in 1994 to restore him to power, allowing the former Roman Catholic priest to serve a five-year-term.
    Aristide was then elected again in 2000, but in flawed elections.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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