November 15, 2001

Haiti beset by strikes and barricades

                 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- A general strike organised by the political
                 opposition has shut down Haiti's second-largest city on Thursday.

                 While slum dwellers in the capital have set up barricades to protest at the lack of
                 government services.

                 In the north coast city of Cap-Haitien, home to more than 100,000 people, the
                 one-day general strike closed banks, schools, businesses and public transportation.

                 No violence was reported during the strike, which the 15-party opposition alliance
                 Convergence organised to protest at the policies of President Jean

                 "The country is dying. We're fed up with this government," said Rev. Milton Chery,
                 Convergence spokesman, speaking by telephone from Cap-Haitien, about 130
                 kilometres (81 miles) west of the capital.

                 The independent radio station Venus reported that about 80 percent of the
                 businesses in Cap-Haitien were closed.

                 Cap-Haitien is plagued with rubbish-filled streets and lack of running water.
                 Electricity is only available for a few hours on some days.

                 In the past week, there have also been small Convergence-led demonstrations in
                 Petit-Goave and Gonaives, coastal towns west of the capital.

                 Convergence is one of two protest movements that have sprung up in Haiti's
                 provincial cities.

                 The other is led by grass-roots activists of the governing Lavalas Family party, who
                 have demanded the resignation of the premier, Jean-Marie Cherestal.

                 Both accuse the government of corruption and ineffectiveness.

                 The government's inability to provide basic services in the face of extreme poverty
                 has also caused unrest in the slums of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

                 On Thursday morning, the road connecting the capital to suburban Carrefour was
                 blocked by slum dwellers protesting the lack of electricity, water and telephone

                 Flaming tyre barricades were also set up on the road to the suburb of Delmas.

                 The government blames the economic difficulties on the international community
                 and the opposition.

                 Foreign donors have blocked about $ 500 million in aid to Haiti because of the
                 government's standoff with the opposition over flawed local and legislative elections
                 last year.

                 Aristide's Lavalas Family won 80 percent of the contests in what the opposition
                 says was rigged balloting.

                 Foreign donors have said they will not release the aid until results are revised, but
                 the opposition and the government have not be en able to reach an agreement on
                 new elections.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.