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5910: Fear and violence grips Haiti, four days ahead of , presidential vote (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Thursday, November 23 7:21 PM SGT 
Fear and violence grips Haiti, four days ahead of presidential vote

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov 22 (AFP) -A climate of fear and violence grows in
Haiti four days ahead of presidential elections, after seven bomb
attacks in and around the capital left a 14-year-old dead and 14 others
injured.Police said no one has claimed responsibility for any of the
seven attacks, and both the opposition and the Lavalas
Family Party of former president and current presidential candidate Jean
Bertrand Aristide have denied responsibility.Police said the teenage boy
was killed Wednesday when three men threw a home-made bomb into the
city's commercial center.Bombs also exploded in other areas of Haiti's
capital, including near the international airport, and storefronts in
the city center were shuttered following the attacks.Shortly after the
bomb attack in the commercial center, young Lavalas followers took to
the streets accusing the opposition of instigating the violence to
instill fear in voters ahead of Sunday's election, and demanding prompt
police action.Dozens of people have been killed or wounded here in
recent weeks in violent incidents, although it is unknown
whether the violence is related to the looming Sunday elections.
The opposition Democratic Convergence, meanwhile, blamed the attacks on
the Lavalas Family Party.Despite calls to postpone the presidential
election, the Provisional Electoral Council Wednesday said polls would
open on time Sunday to elect a successor to President Rene Preval, whose
five-year mandate expires February 7.Meanwhile, business and religious
groups late Wednesday joined forces in calling on all political parties
and the government to get together and negotiate a way out of the
current crisis.In a joint statement, the groups, which included the
Bishop's Conference and the Protestant Federation, said that
holding presidential and legislative elections under such a stressful
climate would "deepen internal divisions and lead the country to
isolation."Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis urged Haitians to
organize volunteer security units to help the national police restore
order.Little suspense surrounds Sunday's elections, which are almost
certain to return Aristide to power. His Lavalas Family Party, in power
since 1991, has ample financial resources and enjoys solid support
across the country.Of his six opponents, three have already dropped out
of the race, and none is well-known to the public.The opposition is
boycotting the November 26 vote, after three failed attempts by the
Organization of American States to stage a reconciliation, though its
seasoned diplomat, Luigi Enaudi.
The current stand off with the opposition dates to legislative elections
of May 21 and July 9, in which vote tabulation methods used by the
provisional electoral council were questioned both at home and abroad.
Those elections brought a landslide victory for Lavalas.
The United States Wednesday expressed concern about the security
situation in Haiti."Haitian authorities have been unable to contain many
violent and dangerous situations," US State Department spokesman Richard
Boucher said in Washington.He said that some candidates and political
organizations in Haiti "have falsely blamed the international community
for the security situation."We think this kind of rhetoric is dangerous,
it's fueled protests and violence targeting foreign missions and
residents," Boucher said, citing the November 16 shooting of "a clearly
marked United Nations vehicle."The United Nations international civilian
mission to Haiti (Micah) on Tuesday denounced the drive-by shooting of
a UN jeep in the northwestern suburb of Gonaives, calling it a
"deliberate act" -- no one was injured.Micah also denounced the "acts of
violence as well as the climate of intolerance and tension that is
intensifying as the presidential elections draw near."