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#2403: Protesters block Haitian election office, roadway (fwd)


WIRE:02/17/2000 18:32:00 ET
Protesters block Haitian election office,
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Dozens of Haitian protesters  burned        
tires and shut down a voter registration office in the  capital Thursday
to protest a lack of registration offices in poor neighborhoods, local
radio reported.   The latest in a series of protests came amid efforts
to make  voter registration cards with picture identification available 
to some 4 million voters ahead of March 19 and April 30  legislative and
municipal elections.  Delays in the registration program, caused by a
lack of equipment and trained personnel at the offices, has         
cast doubt  on the government's ability to hold the election as
scheduled.  It would be Haiti's first in nearly three years.           
"The point of this protest is to get voter cards. We demand  more (voter
registration) bureaus because in Cite Soleil there  are only seven
offices for a population of 200,000," one  protester told reporters.   
The seaside Cite Soleil is Haiti's largest slum. Protesters shut down
the voter registration office on  Rue  Pavee, a central road in the
capital, for several hours and said they would keep it closed unless
electoral officials open more voter registration offices in Cite Soleil
and other poor  neighborhoods of the capital.  Firefighters and two
police cars were turned back by protesters who shouted "Aristide,
Aristide."   Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ousted in a      
military coup and then restored to office by a U.S.-led invasion  force
in 1994, is widely expected to win December presidential  elections.   
Aristide's party, Family Lavalas, released a statement on  Thursday
praising popular demand for voter registration cards.  The more people
mobilize for voter cards, the more they  will prevent an electoral coup
d'etat. The more people vote, the  greater the people's victory will
be,"the statement said.  As of Feb. 4, 11 days after registration began,
more than  900,000 people had registered to vote in the long-delayed 
election. International elections advisors said the process was 
proceeding well despite scattered attacks on registration  offices and
problems distributing materials to make the cards.