The Miami Herald
Nov. 26, 2002

Rallies prove dangerous as 6 protesters shot in Haiti

Street rallies prove dangerous for supporters, foes of Aristide

  Special to The Herald

  PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Six people, including one high-school student, were shot during street demonstrations as political turmoil continued to rock Haiti on

  Both supporters and foes of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide grew more strident as calls for the president's ouster grew.

  In the northern port town of Gonaives, a pro-Aristide gang called the Cannibal Army broke up an anti-government march with gun shots, and vandals
  torched a radio station.

  In Petit-Goave, southwest of the capital, students burned government fliers. In Port-au-Prince, pro-Aristide march leaders released doves for peace even
  as they shouted violent threats.

  ''If there is a coup d'etat, we are going to imitate our ancestors! Imitate our ancestors!'' said Alfred Micanord, a former actor and Aristide supporter,
  whipping up a crowd in front of the National Palace.

  He referred to the famous statement by Haitian independence hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who told slaves to behead French colonists and burn their

  ''A civil war here is almost unavoidable,'' Belfont Aristide, a former radio correspondent, told Radio Metropole.

  Protests have erupted around the country for nearly two weeks, climaxing Friday when Aristide supporters, in a show of force, paralyzed the capital with
  burning barricades.

  Aristide's government is under increasing pressure, and its grasp on the streets is dwindling.

  Anti-government crowds have grown as the national currency tumbles in value and the government is slow to make reforms.

  The country has been entrenched in a political stalemate since Aristide's Lavalas Party swept the 2000 parliament elections, which observers said were

  Aristide has agreed to new elections but hasn't set a date because of political squabbling.

  The president remained silent Monday, but the Organization of American States, which for two years has tried to broker peace among political parties,
  condemned the government for not stopping protesters who essentially shut down Port-au-Prince last week.

  The government should organize elections, the OAS said in a statement, yet observers and leaders doubted that would happen anytime soon.

  ''Elections are not possible,'' said Pierre Robert Auguste, a business leader from the Artibonite region, which includes the city of Gonaives.

  His business group was one of several that condemned the government for inaction.

  In Gonaives, police broke up an anti-government student march with tear gas.

  Then, the Cannibal Army moved in, witnesses said, injuring at least three. Among the injured was the high-school student.

  ''The Cannibal Army has guns. They don't tolerate any demonstrations against the government,'' said Father Marc Eddy Dessalines, who heads the
  Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission in Artibonite.

  Police didn't intervene when the Cannibal Army attacked, Dessalines said.

  ''We never see the police when these people are in the streets,'' Dessalines said.

  The gang is headed by fugitive Amiot Metayer, who escaped from prison in August after supporters ran a bulldozer through a jail wall.

  Despite pleas from the international community and human-rights activists, Metayer remains free.

  Last week, the gang leader even thanked Aristide's Lavalas Party for his freedom, while talking to reporters just outside the Gonaives police station.

  Nearly 2,000 Aristide supporters also wound through the streets of Port-au-Prince, wearing T-shirts and holding signs with the president's photo.

  State telephone company trucks delivered marchers to the demonstration. State employees and parliament members joined in.

  ''Aristide for life!'' the marchers yelled.

  Government spokesman Mario Dupuy said three Aristide supporters were shot during that protest.