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9606: Haitian City Paralyzed After Night of Thursday- Thursday November 15 4:01 PM ET (fwd)
From: Stanley Lucas <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thursday November 15 4:01 PM ET
Haitian City Paralyzed After Night of Rioting
By Trenton Daniel
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - Most businesses in Haiti's second largest city were closed on Thursday after a night of rioting, local radio reported. The disturbances in Cap-Haitien, a seaside town 140 miles north of the Caribbean nation's capital, followed a call by the main opposition coalition last week for a two-day general strike from Thursday to push for the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his governing Lavalas Family party.
The strike call was the latest salvo in a long-running political dispute between the ruling party and the opposition and it appeared the unrest on Wednesday night was linked to the planned shutdown. Private Radio Metropole said schools, public administrative offices, and most commercial businesses in Cap-Haitien were closed. Banks remained open, though with few visitors, and markets were less busy than usual.
Police, who broke up Wednesday night's rioting, maintained a heavy presence throughout the city on Thursday, the radio station reported.
``There is a mobilization in the four corners of the country to stop Lavalas from wrecking the country,'' Micha Gaillard, a spokesman for the opposition alliance Democratic Convergence, told Reuters. Lavalas officials were unavailable for comment.
Tension was already running high in Cap-Haitien before Wednesday's violence. A student group called the Citizens Initiative on Tuesday distributed a signed petition of 200 names to local radio stations in the area, pushing for Aristide's exit and the creation of a ``new class of political leaders.''
Aristide and Convergence have been locked in a bitter stalemate since a dispute over the results from parliamentary elections in May 2000 after local and foreign critics said the way the votes were calculated gave Lavalas more Senate seats than it was due.
Despite domestic and overseas pressure, the two sides have failed to forge an agreement, which would free up more than $500 million in sorely needed aid to Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas. Haiti is struggling to build its democratic institutions after decades of dictatorship and military rule. The majority of the population of almost 8 million lives in abject poverty and two-thirds do not have enough food to eat.