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7388: Aristide Supporters Spread Protests (fwd)
From: nozier <email@example.com>
Monday March 19 7:53 PM ET
Aristide Supporters Spread Protests
By MICHAEL NORTON, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Backers of President Jean- Bertrand
Aristide demanding the arrest of opposition leaders blocked streets
with flaming tires and rusted cars Monday in protests that spread to
the capital's suburbs.
Opposition leaders said Aristide supporters shot at their party offices
in the capital and stoned opposition members, injuring three of them
with rocks. An independent radio station, Signal FM in the suburb of
Petionville, said it received death threats.
Tree branches, large rocks and other debris littered the streets of
Petionville, as Aristide supporters, shouting ``Aristide or death!''
spray-painted their demands on streets.
One called for the arrest of Gerard Gourgue, the head of the
``alternative'' government set up by the 15-party Convergence
opposition alliance to protest Aristide's May election victory. The
elections gave Aristide the presidency and his party an 80 percent
majority in the parliament. The opposition has rejected offers to join
Aristide's government, saying the elections were fraudulent. The
Organization of American States has also said 10 Senate seats won by
Aristide party members should have gone to a
second-round vote, and millions in international aid have been put on
hold over the results. Police presence was scarce during the rampage.
``Our lives are in jeopardy,'' Gourgue said Monday. ``The government
and the police have abandoned the country to street thugs.'' As
Aristide supporters shouted for the arrest of Gourgue and other leaders
on grounds of subversion, the U.S. Embassy
urged people to remain calm in the impoverished Caribbean country
riddled by years of instability. ``The situation is deteriorating
rapidly. We have entered a cycle of violence and political terror,''
said Edouard Paultre, a member of a civil leaders committee who has
tried to mediate among the political rivals. Aristide's government has
said demonstrators who engage in violence should be arrested, but
Aristide himself has not
spoken out against the latest clashes, involving supporters of his
Lavalas Family party.
Aristide grass-roots leader Rene Civil said ``illegal'' acts were
being encouraged by ``incendiary statements of the opposition,'' said
Civil, referring to Gourgue's support of the reestablishment of the
army, which led a 1991 coup against Aristide during his first term.
U.S. troops restored Aristide to power three years later. Some
protesters reportedly stoned passing cars while others tried to set fire
to a gasoline station in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas, where
two unidentified men were wounded in gunfire between rival political
groups, the private Radio Metropole reported.