Haitians storm election offices

Supporters of Haitian candidate Rene Preval erected flaming roadblocks and stormed a hotel to demand Preval be declared president, and witnesses said UN peacekeepers opened fire on one of the crowds, killing at least one person.

    Burning blockades brought Port-au-Prince to a halt

    Across Port-au-Prince on Monday, barricades made of old tires were set ablaze, sending plumes of acrid black smoke into the sky. Protesters let only journalists and Red Cross vehicles pass.

    "If they don't give us the final results, we're going to burn this country down!" a man screamed at one of the roadblocks.

    In the Tabarre neighborhood, Associated Press journalists saw the body of a man on a street, his blood-soaked T-shirt bearing Preval's image.

    Dozens of witnesses said Jordanian UN peacekeepers in a jeep opened fire - a charge the UN denied - killing two people and wounding four. The body of the second victim was not seen.

    "We were peacefully protesting when the UN started shooting. There were a lot of shots. Everybody ran," said Walrick Michel, 22.

    UN denial

    David Wimhurst, spokesman for the UN mission known here by its French acronym MINUSTAH, denied in a telephone interview that peacekeepers opened fire.

    Supporters of Preval say the
    election count is being rigged 

    "We fired two warning shots into the air and we didn't injure anyone. Some time later, shots were fired by unknown persons in the same area," he said. As for the witnesses' account that peacekeepers shot protesters, he said: "It's absolutely false."

    Shortly after the incident, people scattered in fear as a peacekeepers' convoy passed by. They then loaded the body of the shooting victim - identified by the crowd as 19-year-old Junior Cherry - into a pickup.

    Hotel stormed

    In the Petionville neighborhood above Port-au-Prince, thousands of screaming protesters converged on the upscale Montana Hotel where election officials have announced results of Tuesday's elections. UN peacekeepers kept close watch from a driveway and rooftops, but no
    violence was reported.

    South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, who had appealed for calm at church services Sunday, was seen on a balcony surveying the crowd as helicopters landed on the roof to evacuate people. At one point, the cleric went down to the lobby to urge the protesters to stay peaceful.

    "For now, the security situation is peaceful," said a German UN peacekeeper who declined to give his name.

    Not long afterward, the crowd began to file out of the hotel.

    "We were peacefully protesting when the UN started shooting. There were a lot of shots. Everybody ran"

    Walrick Michel

    The leaders of Haiti's interim government met with the ambassadors from the United States, France, Canada and Brazil and UN special ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdes to discuss the situation, said Michel Brunache, chief of staff of interim President Boniface Alexandre.

    They planned to meet with Preval later to urge him to appeal to his supporters for patience and calm, Brunache said.

    But as Preval arrived in the capital aboard a UN Helicopter, he declined to make any statement. Asked if he had a message for his supporters, he said "Not now," and kept walking.

    With about 90 percent of the vote counted, Preval was leading with 48.7 percent of the vote, Haiti's electoral council said on its website. His nearest opponent was Leslie Manigat, another former president, who had 11.8 percent.

    The elections will replace an interim government installed after former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a bloody rebellion two years ago.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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