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#693: Top Haitian police official resigns amid criticism (fwd)


Top Haitian police official resigns amid criticism 
Copyright © 1999 Nando Media Copyright © 1999 Associated Press


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (October 8, 1999 1:02 p.m. EDT  - Haiti's top
police official has stepped down after months of criticism from
activists loyal to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, private
Radio Metropole reported Friday. Robert Manuel had been national
security undersecretary since 1996. The government had no immediate
comment on his resignation or successor. Foreign governments had praised
Manuel for supervising a fledgling police force that replaced Haiti's
army,which was disbanded after a U.S.-led intervention restored civilian
rule in 1994. But human rights groups denounced brutality by the
6,200-member force, charged with enforcing the law for Haiti's 8 million
people. Other critics have called the U.N.-trained police ineffective in
fighting crime. Militant Aristide supporters had staged a series of
sometimes violent street protests to demand Manuel's resignation. They
accused him of incompetence, but Manuel said the demonstrators were
trying to destabilize the country before elections could be held. 
Local and legislative elections are set for March 19 and April 30. 
Most political parties said they would participate in the elections only
if their security is ensured and the neutrality of the police and
judicial system is guaranteed. Many charge that legislative elections in
1997 were fixed to favor Aristide candidates. "Manuel was a guarantee
that the rules of the game would be respected during elections. Now that
guarantee is gone," Socialist Party spokesman Mischa Gaillard said. 
Gaillard, who met with Manuel on Wednesday, said President Rene Preval
had demanded Manuel's resignation.