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#233: Former Aristide proteges in Haiti fear backlash (fwd)


Former Aristide proteges in Haiti fear backlash 
02:41 p.m Aug 09, 1999 Eastern 

By Jennifer Bauduy 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Fifty Haitian graduates of former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's centre for street youth said on
Monday they feared for their lives after the leader of a protest against
the centre was murdered last week. John Wens Celestin was shot dead five
days ago in central Port-au-Prince in broad daylight. The youths on
Monday said they feared the killing was part of a calculated plan to
eliminate those who protested against the Lafanmi Selavi (''the Family
is Life'') centre.  ``There is a crime wave washing over us, the
children who were  once in Lafanmi Selavi. They have finished with us
and now they are taking us down one by one,'' said Louis-Marie Floreal,
20, who read a statement to reporters in Port-au-Prince's main       
square.  The group called themselves the Association of Outgoing Youth
 from Lafanmi Selavi and said they wanted to raise money for          
Celestin's funeral. Celestin led some 40 youths armed with sticks,
machetes and  rocks in a June 24 protest against Lafanmi Selavi. The
protesters,demanding jobs and better conditions for the children
inside,occupied the centre for several hours. At least four people were
hurt by rocks, including a police officer. Seventeen of the protesters
were arrested. `We were kicked out because we were asking for a better
situation for the kids, and for the jobs they promised us,'' said      
Floreal, who left Lafanmi Selavi in 1995. Following the June protest
some of the youth had given a press conference to apologise.           
``They forced us to have a press conference to say we were criminals,
but it was not true,'' Paul Buteau, 20, said. Some 300 of the children
were expelled after the protest, and the centre has been closed, Floreal
said. But a technician who answered the phone at Lafanmi Selavi said the
centre was temporarily closed because the directors were on vacation.  
Aristide, a popular former priest, founded Lafanmi Selavi in the       
1980s. In 1990 he became president of Haiti winning 67 percent
of the vote. He was overthrown by the military eight months later.    
In 1994 the U.S.-led 20,000 foreign troops to restore Aristide and    
put down a three-year military regime. Aristide could not be re-elected
to consecutive terms but plans to run for president again in 2000. He
remains widely popular and is largely expected to win.``Aristide has not
spoken to us,'' Floreal said. ``But if the people in charge called us
criminals he must think we are criminals too.''  The phones at
Aristide's office and at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy rang
without response.