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#3051: Protests Spread in Haiti Capital (fwd)


Wednesday March 29 10:11 AM ET  Protests Spread in Haiti Capital

By MICHAEL NORTON, Associated Press Writer 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Rock-throwing demonstrators spread out
through the streets of Haiti's capital today as the government pleaded
for an end to three days of rioting to protest the island's election
laws.Protesters set up flaming tire barricades in the seaside Cite
Soleil shantytown, in the midtown Sans Fil slum, and on the downtown
main street Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard. ``Nobody is preventing
people from demonstrating lawfully - but nobody has the right to hold
the population hostage,'' Justice Minister Camille Leblanc said in an
 interview with the private Radio Signal F.M. Small groups claiming to
support former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have been blocking
traffic and breaking the windows of passing vehicles at downtown
intersections since Monday. Four people were killed during Monday's
 The demands of street activists have included the resignation of the
council responsible for elections, more time for voter registration,
some elections immediately, and general elections at the end of the
year. They also protested against the cost of living, which has risen
substantially in the past month amid political uncertainty.
 Opposition politicians accuse Aristide supporters of trying to delay
parliamentary elections until the presidential election in December.
Aristide's parliamentary allies would then be able to ride his coattails
into office, they say. In January 1999, President Rene Preval locked
lawmakers out of Parliament, appointed Premier Jacques-Edouard Alexis
and the provisional electoral council by decree and called for
elections. Those elections have been postponed twice because of
organizational problems. The electoral council has rescheduled voting
for April 9 and May 21, but Preval is contesting the council's
authority, charging the dates were invalid. It is unclear when the vote
will be held. ``The best way to respond (to the protests) is to hold
elections as quickly as possible,'' Alexis told reporters Tuesday. But
Alexis refused to say that a new Parliament would be seated in June, as
Haitian opposition parties and the international community have