March 29, 2000
Protests rock Haitian capital for third day

                   PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- The Haitian government pleaded for calm
                   Wednesday as protests shook the capital for a third day, with rock-throwing
                   demonstrators setting piles of tires ablaze and demanding that elections officials

                   "Nobody is preventing people from demonstrating lawfully -- but nobody has the
                   right to hold the population hostage," Justice Minister Camille Leblanc said in an
                   interview with the private Radio Signal F.M.

                   Since Monday, small groups claiming to be partisans of former President
                   Jean-Bertrand Aristide have been blocking traffic and breaking the windows of
                   passing vehicles at downtown intersections. Many fearful store owners have closed
                   their doors.

                   Opposition politicians accuse Aristide supporters of trying to delay parliamentary
                   elections until the presidential election in December. Aristide's parliamentary allies
                   would then be able to ride his coattails into office, they say.

                   On Wednesday, the protesters threw rocks and set up flaming tire barricades in the
                   seaside Cite Soleil shantytown, in the midtown Sans Fil slum, and on the downtown
                   main street Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard.

                   Four people were killed during Monday demonstrations in unclear circumstances.

                   Tuesday, police arrested four male street merchants whose merchandise had been
                   burned by protesters. The merchants were charged with throwing rocks at passing
                   vehicles and demanding reparation after a Tuesday demonstration in front of the
                   National Palace.

                   The incoherent demands of street activists have included the resignation of the
                   electoral council, more time to register for balloting, elections immediately, and general
                   elections at the end of the year. They also protested against the cost of living, which
                   has risen substantially in the past month amid political uncertainty.

                   "The best way to respond (to the protests) is to hold elections as quickly as
                   possible," Premier Jacques-Edouard Alexis told reporters Tuesday.

                   But Alexis refused to say that a new Parliament would be seated in June, as Haitian
                   opposition parties and the international community have insisted.

                   "Our concern is to hold good elections," he said.

                   After an 18-month power struggle, in January 1999 President Rene Preval locked
                   lawmakers out of Parliament, appointed Alexis and the provisional electoral council by
                   decree and called for elections. Those elections have been postponed twice because
                   of organizational problems.

                   The electoral council has rescheduled voting for April 9 and May 21, but Preval is
                   contesting the council's authority, charging the dates were invalid since he had not
                   published them in an executive order. It is unclear when the vote will be held.

                   In an interview with the private Radio Ginen Tuesday, Aristide party spokesman Yvon
                   Neptune endorsed peaceful popular demonstrations and said the violent protesters
                   were "infiltrators" trying to smear Aristide's reputation.

                   Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.