Haiti: anti-Préval protests continue

Several thousand people marched in Port-au-Prince on May 10 in the latest and largest in a series of demonstrations against the government of Haitian President René Garcia Préval. The protesters started from various neighborhoods in the capital, including St. Jean Bosco, Bel Air and Carrefour Feuilles, and converged on the ruins of the National Palace. A confrontation with the police started when the protesters approached the National Palace’s security perimeter; shots were fired, and police agents dispersed the demonstration with tear gas. Some people reportedly took advantage of the confusion to steal cell phones, jewels and money in the Champ-de-Mars park and along Capois Street; the police arrested seven people. Organizers charged that the trouble was caused by infiltrators sent in to disrupt the demonstration.

The protesters demanded the repeal of a law extending a state of emergency and a law conditionally extending Préval’s term past Feb. 7, 2011. Many also called for Préval’s removal, and supporters of the Lavalas Family (FL) party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996 and 2001-2004) demanded their leader’s return to the country from his exile in South Africa. Lavalas supporters were the largest group in the demonstration, which also included members of such political groups as the Fusion party and the Alternative coalition. Critics have charged that the alliance organizing the anti-Préval demonstrations is “unnatural” because it brings together longtime enemies like Aristide supporter René Civil and such Aristide opponents as Hervé Saint-Hilus, Evans Paul and Serge Gilles.

There were smaller demonstrations on May 10 in Miragoâne in the southwestern department of Nippes, in Cap-Haïtien in the North department, and in Jacmel in the Southeast department. Protesters demonstrated in Petit-Goâve, in the southwestern part of the West department, on May 13. (Agence Haïtienne de Presse, May 10; Radio Métropole, May 11; Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, May 13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 16.

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