PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) -- Protesters set tires on fire on a national
highway near the west coast town of Saint Marc on Tuesday, while calling
for the mayor and other officials to leave office, police said.
The protest was the latest in a series of demonstrations across Haiti that
have shut down local municipal offices since a Jan. 11 speech by Haitian
President Rene Preval in which he said the terms of most legislative and
municipal officials had expired.
"These are individuals who want to create a climate of insecurity, people
who claim the mayor and the elected officials must leave," Saint Marc police
commissioner Gourdet Fritz said of the protesters.
Groups of residents set up barricades of rocks and burning tires, blocking
the highway leading to Saint Marc, and said they would mass later at the
mayor's office, Saint Marc radio journalist Alexandre Pradel said.
Attacks have been reported on at least eight other mayoralties in the past
week across Haiti.
On Monday, Saint Marc Mayor Leon Saieh decided to open the municipal
office, which had been closed since Jan. 11. But a crowd quickly gathered
to close the building, residents said.
"The crowd was getting loud and threatening the mayor yesterday, but then
someone said 'He is Lavalas Family' and the group quieted down," Pradel
Lavalas Family is the party founded by Haiti's popular former president,
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the party to which Preval belongs.
In his nationally televised speech, Preval said he would uphold an electoral
law that said the terms of officials who were elected in 1995 legislative and
municipal elections expired on Jan. 11.
Elections to replace legislative and municipal officials have been delayed
because of a long-standing political crisis that has left Haiti without a prime
minister since June 1997.
Legislators last November passed a resolution to stay in office until new
elections were held rather than allow Preval to rule the country without a
parliament. But Preval said he no longer recognizes the parliament.
Copyright 1999 Reuters.