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17814: (Chamberlain) US condemns Haiti over clashes with demonstrators (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     WASHINGTON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department on Friday
condemned Haiti for allowing "government-sponsored gangs" to attack
demonstrators demanding the ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand
     At least two people were killed on Wednesday when Aristide supporters
clashed with demonstrators who want him to step down, according to a
Reuters reporter at the scene. It was the second mass protest this year.
     "The United States condemns the actions of the Haitian government in
response to the political demonstration that occurred January 7 in
Port-au-Prince," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a
written statement.
     "Although it is clear some elements of the police worked diligently to
protect the demonstrators, it is also clear that other police officers
collaborated with heavily armed, hired gangs to attack the demonstrators,"
he added.
     "Throughout the day, these same government-sponsored gangs rampaged
through the streets of the capital, stealing cars, attacking radio
stations, vandalizing businesses, and harassing people," Boucher said. "A
government that wishes to be considered democratic cannot continue to use
street gangs as an instrument of terror and intimidation."
     On Jan. 1, anti-government protesters in Port-au-Prince clashed with
police as Aristide marked the country's bicentennial with promises to
improve the lot of his people.
     Boucher called on the Haitian government to stop trying to suppress
peaceful dissent, to punish those responsible for such repression and to
carry out reforms to restore the rule of law.
     Aristide became Haiti's first democratically elected leader but was
deposed in a bloody 1991 coup. He was restored to power in the poorest
country in the Americas by a U.S.-led invasion in 1994.
     He was elected to a second term in 2000 but has been at odds with
opposition parties and international donors over the tainted results of
parliamentary elections that year.