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9706: Haiti senators held in protest over prime minister (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Trenton Daniel
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Protesters in Haiti held two ruling
party senators for several hours on Thursday to highlight their demand
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's prime minister and government be
replaced, the lawmakers and a fellow party members said.
The protesters support Aristide but want the prime minister, who is
chosen by the president, and the Caribbean nation's government under him to
be fired or resign.
Senators Gerard Gilles and Clones Lans of Aristide's Lavalas Family
party said they were detained by a group of pro-Aristide protesters in St.
Marc, a western seaside town 60 miles (100 km) north of the capital,
Port-au-Prince, after attending a funeral there.
The senators told private radio Signal FM their vehicle was blocked by
a barricade of burning tires. They said the protesters belonging to a
grass-roots organization detained them to draw attention to their call for
the departure of Prime Minister Jean-Marie Cherestal and his government in
the Americas' poorest nation.
The legislators could not be reached for comment.
Asked why the lawmakers were held up and why they were released,
Lavalas spokesman Jonas Petit told Reuters: "I imagine the people don't
have anything against them, but they detained them to call attention to
their (the protesters') actions and then released them."
Aristide sent a helicopter to pick up the senators, Signal FM
In recent weeks, grass-roots organizations have erected barricades of
burning tires in Port-au-Prince suburbs and provincial towns on an almost
daily basis. They have decried their living standards and demanded the
replacement of the government, which they claim is corrupt and ineffective.
The groups have also denounced the political opposition coalition
Democratic Convergence, complaining it contributes to Haiti's political and
Cherestal, whose virtual absence from public has helped fuel rumors
that his departure is imminent, declined a second invitation on Monday to
present his political and economic program before the Senate.
In Haiti, two thirds of the population is undernourished, according to
the World Bank.
The government has blamed the sinking economy on the international
community and on Convergence. Foreign donors have withheld some $500
million in aid until the government and the political opposition hammer out
an agreement over a disputed May 2000 parliamentary election.