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17770: '(Chamberlain) Haiti-Student Protests (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By PAISLEY DODDS
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 8 (AP) -- University students marched against
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, sparking deadly clashes amid a swelling
opposition movement against the leader.
At least two people were killed and more than two dozen injured in
Wednesday's protests, the latest in a series aimed at forcing Aristide to
Protests by university students carry great weight in the country of 8
million, where about 40 percent of the people are under 18.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Michael Bloomberg said the New York mayor
still plans to visit Haiti's capital despite the violence.
"At this point, the trip is a go," Bloomberg spokesman Ed Skyler said
Wednesday. Bloomberg plans to arrive in Port-au-Prince on Sunday and stay
for about five hours before traveling to Jamaica. About 118,000 New Yorkers
are of Haitian descent, according to the 2000 census.
In Haiti, Aristide partisans armed with clubs, bottles and pistols,
blocked the marchers, who were joined by thousands of anti-government
demonstrators shouting "Freedom!" and "Down with Aristide!" as riot police
fired shots to keep the two sides apart.
At the beginning of the protest, Aristide partisans attacked
demonstrators, hitting one with a rock and shooting another. Later, police
shot and killed an Aristide supporter after he opened fire on the crowd.
One anti-government protester also was shot and killed.
At another leg of the march, government partisans opened fire, wounding
two demonstrators. The Aristide supporters then surrounded a group of
students, stabbing one and beating six others. Students beat two Aristide
News reports said that 30 people were injured and being treated at
"We have no future," student Rodeny Williams said Wednesday as he
marched to shouts of support by shopkeepers and street vendors. "We are not
Gunfire crackled throughout the day as smoke billowed from burning tire
barricades and demonstrators regrouped when Aristide supporters attacked
with bullets and rocks. Organizers stopped the march when police warned
they could no longer guarantee security.
The anti-government demonstrators and students accuse Aristide of
hoarding power and failing to help the poor.
Student protests and strikes helped oust President Elie Lescot in 1946,
followed by Paul Magloire in 1956. Their opposition also led to the
weakening of the Duvalier family dictatorship, which imprisoned many
students during its 29-year regime until 1986.
The marchers join a swelling youth protest movement as many face a bleak
future. Most Haitians are jobless or without regular work, foreign
investment is at a standstill and foreign visas to countries such as the
United States and France are increasingly hard to obtain.
"Under Aristide there will be no progress," said protester Leopold
Willeens, a 26-year-old student. "I'm the first student in my family to go
to university, and I want a better life."
Last month, at least two dozen were injured in violence that broke out
after police separated dozens of Aristide backers from about 100 students.
Student demonstrations have surged along with protests by others.
Members of civic groups, clergy, business leaders and artists who oppose
Aristide joined Wednesday's march.
Tensions have been rising in the Caribbean country since Aristide's
party swept disputed 2000 legislative elections.
The opposition refuses to participate in new elections unless Aristide
steps down, but he says he plans to serve out his elected term until 2006.