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
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
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
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
burned by protesters. The merchants were charged with throwing rocks at passing
vehicles and demanding reparation after a Tuesday demonstration in front of the
The incoherent demands of street activists have included the resignation
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
possible," Premier Jacques-Edouard Alexis told reporters Tuesday.
But Alexis refused to say that a new Parliament would be seated in June,
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
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
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
Neptune endorsed peaceful popular demonstrations and said the violent protesters
were "infiltrators" trying to smear Aristide's reputation.
Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.