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17520: (Chamberlain) Haiti-Protest (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By MICHAEL NORTON
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 5 (AP) -- University students and government
supporters hurled rocks at each other Friday in clashes that left at least
four injured as tensions grew in the impoverished country.
The students, who were demonstrating to demand President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide step down, were met by groups of government supporters in downtown
Port-au-Prince. Police fired warning shots to disperse the crowds.
One Aristide supporter was shot in the leg, although it was not clear
who shot him. Aristide partisans, meanwhile, attacked journalist Rodson
Joffelin of the Haiti Press Network, hitting him in the arm with sticks. At
least two others received minor injuries in the hail of rocks.
"This is the last day that we'll let them demonstrate against our
president," said Robens Bellefleur, 20. "We voted him into office."
Tensions have grown in Haiti since flawed 2000 legislative elections
that the opposition charged were rigged. The opposition refuses to
participate in fresh elections unless Aristide steps down, but the
embattled leader says he will serve out his term until 2006.
"No one in civil society is spared by the generalized disorder spawned
by Aristide's bloody regime," said Herve Saintilus, president of the
Federation of Haitian University Students.
As gunshots, chanting and the sound of falling rocks rang out on Friday,
church hymns from nearby churches reverberated in a surreal symphony in
Anti-government demonstrations have increased recently, drawing student
groups, the opposition and civic organizations.
About 200 students marched through the capital on Wednesday, waving
placards and painting walls with anti-Aristide slogans. A small group of
Aristide supporters pelted the students with rocks.
Last week, at least four anti-government protesters were injured when
Aristide supporters blocked their march near the downtown National Palace.
The president's backers threw rocks and splashed the protesters with a
stinging potion of poison ivy steeped in water.