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17592: (Hermantin) Sun-Sentinel-Demonstrations against Aristide gaining momentum (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Demonstrations against Aristide gaining momentum in Haiti

By Michael Deibert
Special Correspondent
Posted December 31 2003

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti  Waving palm fronds and chanting "Aristide get out!,"
around 15,000 anti-government protesters paralyzed several major arteries in
the Haitian capital on Tuesday, in the latest in a series of marches against
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Sponsored by the Group of 184, a coalition of private sector, civic, peasant
and labor organizations and students from the nation's state university
system, the march began in Port-au-Prince's Canape Vert neighborhood and
gained momentum and numbers as passerby joined it along its route. Broken up
at one point by tear gas fired by riot police, the marchers regrouped,
joined by cheering pedestrians and motorists, before being stopped by police
barricades as marchers approached the National Palace.

Aristide, who was re-elected to a second term as president in 2000, has been
the object of a groundswell of popular discontent in recent months as the
nation approaches its 200th anniversary of independence in January.

Critics charge that his government has become increasingly corrupt and
dictatorial while Aristide accuses his political enemies and the nation's
tiny economic elite are attempting to sabotage the country's bicentennial
celebrations, which South African President Thabo Mbeki, among others, are
set to attend.

"It's important to protest every day because the country is a shambles and
we have a government that is terrorizing the people of Haiti," said Charles
Baker, vice president of the Association of Haitian Industries, who spent 17
days in jail following his arrest at a political rally in the capital in
November. "We have to send an message that he has to go."

"We are fed up," university and high school students chanted as they
marched, throwing flyers readings "Our victims demand justice" and blowing
whistles. Antipathy against Aristide has been running high at country's
state university since the summer of 2002, when students charge Aristide's
Lavalas Family political party attempted to impose an unpopular
administrator on them.

Meanwhile, around the National Palace and Champs Mars plaza, hundreds of
young men waving Aristide posters, cruised the streets, hanging to the back
of new SUVs. On Monday, several thousand young, mostly male Aristide
partisans staged a raucous protest in support of the president throughout
the capital.

"Aristide for five years!" the partisans chanted to motorists.

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Copyright  2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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