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7438: Haiti violence spreads to provinces (fwd)
Haiti Violence Spreads To Provinces
The Associated Press, Wed 21 Mar 2001
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Political violence that has left three
dead and 16 injured spread to Haiti's provinces Wednesday as the
government threatened to arrest opposition leaders, repeating the very
warnings that sparked the latest attacks.
Armed supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide marched through the
streets of the southern coastal town of Les Cayes, demanding the
arrest of a leading opposition figure, Radio Vision 2000 reported. The
marchers paralyzed commerce, but there was none of the violence that has
wracked Port-au-Prince for a week. In the capital on Wednesday, there
were only a couple of barricades of flaming tires manned by militants
yelling ``Aristide or death!'' The government accused the opposition
of fomenting the unrest, calling them ``enemies of the Republic'' and
threatening to arrest opposition leaders if they ``don't stop their
provocation.'' Opposition leaders blamed the government. ``The
government is turning Haiti into a jungle,'' Gerard Gourgue, leader of
the 15-party opposition alliance Convergence, said Wednesday. Aristide,
in his first public statement on the issue, did not condemn the attacks
but said he was ``asking all citizens to promote peace.'' In an
address on national radio, Aristide said Wednesday that he was ``asking
all political parties to keep on expressing political opinions without
``The road to peace may seem very long but we will never stop (seeking
it),'' he said.
He spoke hours after his government repeated threats to arrest Gourgue,
accusing him of illegally ``usurping'' the title of president. The
alliance named Gourgue president of an ``alternative government,''
charging that last year's elections were fraudulent.
But ``you cannot have two governments in place,'' Aristide warned on
the radio. ``To have peace, you have to live by the laws.'' On
Tuesday, some 200 Aristide supporters pushing for Gourgue's arrest fired
guns, threw rocks and lobbed fire bombs at Convergence headquarters in
Port-au-Prince, wounding one opposition leader.
Security guards opened fire when a mob tried to storm the building.
Three Aristide supporters were wounded. One died during the night,
private Radio Metropole reported Wednesday. In another incident,
militants fatally shot a man after he shouted ``Down with Aristide!''
His brother was severely beaten while trying to carry him to the
hospital, a witness told The Associated Press. Also Tuesday, an
opposition supporter died of a bullet wound received Saturday when
Aristide partisans attacked a peaceful opposition protest in the west
coast port of St. Marc, opposition leader Evans Paul said.
And in central Hinche, two mayors from Aristide's party led an attack on
Convergence offices. Two government opponents were shot and wounded,
said Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, a one-time Aristide ally who leads
Haiti's biggest peasant movement.
On Wednesday, the movement canceled plans for a protest, fearing for
marchers' safety after police ordered people to go home. The violence
comes even as Aristide has extended an olive branch to opponents who
accuse him of returning Haiti to dictatorship. Aristide hopes a
compromise will lead the international community to release millions of
dollars in aid frozen after tainted elections last year. France,
Haiti's former colonizer, blamed Aristide for the unrest and urged him
to ``exercise his sense ofresponsibility.'' Haiti's government and
police should ``respect and protect the democratic and
constitutional rights of all citizens,'' the French Embassy said
The United States also expressed disappointment in the police's
failure to act quickly.
``The police response has been erratic and slow. So we urge the
Aristide government to respond quickly and professionally to protect
all of the people of Haiti,'' State Department spokesman Richard Boucher
said. Aristide, in the radio address, said only that ``the role of
the police is to serve all the people.''