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#500: Protesters, police clash over Haiti phone company (fwd)


Wednesday September 15, 7:11 pm Eastern Time
Protesters, police clash over Haiti phone company By Jennifer Bauduy

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Sept 15 (Reuters) - One protester was wounded by
police gunfire and two officers injured by rocks and bottles on
Wednesday in the second day of violent demonstrations over who will head
Haiti's state-owned telephone company.Nearly 100 demonstrators gathered
outside the eight-story telephone company building burning tires and
throwing rocks at police to protest reports that President Rene Preval
planned to replace telephone company director Julio Cadet.The
protesters, which included telephone company employees and people
belonging to popular groups linked to former President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide's Lavalas Family party, said they supported Cadet because he
gave them jobs in the phone company.``Long live Julio Cadet, defender of
the unemployed,'' read graffiti scrawled in red outside the building.
Teleco is one of seven state-owned companies set to be privatized.
Critics say the telephone company is overstaffed and plagued by
nepotism. It is not unusual that broken phones sit idle for one or two
years before repairs are made.There are only about 65,000 telephone
lines in Haiti for a population of 7.5 million people.The protest
emptied several streets around the phone company for several hours,
trapping hundreds of company employees who watched through the windows.
After clashing with police, the protesters scattered and many ran inside
the telephone building.Anti-riot police threw tear gas into the
telephone company courtyard, and climbed a locked gate to get into the
building.Police arrested nearly two dozen protesters, and questioned
Rene Civil, leader of Youth Popular Power, a popular organization
that has been involved in the protests.Civil, who works as a consultant
with the Interior Ministry, shook hands and smiled with anti-riot
police, while nearly a dozen of his followers lay on their stomachs on
the ground.One youth, who was beaten in the head by police, was covered
in blood. Port-au-Prince Police Commissioner Renan Etienne was injured
by a rock in the leg.