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17 novembre 2002

- Michael Deibert

CAP HAITIEN (Reuters) - Des milliers de personnes sont descendues dimanche dans les rues de la seconde ville de Haïti pour réclamer la démission du président Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

La manifestation était parrainée par l’Initiative des Citoyens, qui regroupe plusieurs mouvements. Des sources proches de la police ont estimé la foule à 8.000 personnes.

A mesure que le cortège progressait, avec à sa tête des hommes politiques de l’opposition, des milliers de personnes venues des bidonvilles s’y sont jointes aux cris de « A bas Aristide » ; « A bas les criminels de Lavalas », allusion à la Famille Lavalas, le parti d’Aristide.

« Aristide est un voleur, mettez le en prison », criaient certains.

« Nous voulons le départ d’Aristide parce qu’il ne nous a rien donné, pas de travail pas de riz, seulement la faim », expliquait un paysan en soulevant sa chemise pour montrer sa maigreur.

Les manifestants ont défilé sous la protection de la police, applaudie par les protestataires.

Aristide a entamé un second mandat en février 2001 et il est depuis deux ans en conflit avec la Convergence qui affirme que les élections législatives de mai 2000 ont été truquées pour favoriser la Famille Lavalas.

Dans l’attente du règlement de ce différend, 500 millions de dollars d’aide internationale sont bloqués.

L’inflation a atteint 16% et la monnaie haïtienne, la gourde, s’est dépréciée de 40% au cours de l’année écoulée.


Thousands Protest for Haiti President’s Resignation

Thousands took the streets of Haiti’s second-largest city on Sunday to demand the resignation of the country’s embattled president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The march, sponsored by a local umbrella-organization known as the Citizens Initiative, began at the city’s center and continued on through the historic city gates, increasing manifold as it went along. Police sources estimated the crowd at around 8,000 people.

As the march progressed, with opposition politicians, former members of the Haitian military and civil society figures at its head, thousands of ordinary citizens spilled out of the city’s populous slums to join in chants of « Down with Aristide » and « Down with Lavalas criminals, » a reference to Aristide’s ruling Lavalas Family political party. Others smiled and clapped, pumping their fists from rooftops and balconies.

« Aristide is a thief ! » some shouted. « Send him to prison ! »

« We want Aristide to leave because he has given us nothing, no work, no rice, only hunger, » said a frail peasant man from the nearby hamlet of San Raphael, lifting up his shirt to show his emaciated rib cage.

The marchers then scaled a monument commemorating an historic battle in the city where rebellious Haitians defeated colonial French forces in 1803, raising the Haitian flag as march organizers addressed the cheering throng.

SECOND PROTEST IN THREE DAYS

The march proceeded under police protection, and the heavily outfitted riot officers were cheered by the crowd at the march’s end.

The protest comes on the heels of a large march in the capital Friday by university students protesting against what they said was the government’s interference in the country’s state university system.

The students stormed and occupied the university’s rectory, then marched to the gates of the National Palace, demanding Aristide’s resignation and new elections.

Aristide began his second term as Haiti’s president in February 2001 and has since been locked in a two-year dispute with the Convergence coalition over May 2000 legislative elections that his opponents contend were biased to favor Aristide’s Lavalas party.

The deadlock has stalled over $500 million in international aid.

Inflation in Haiti has risen 16%, and the Haitian currency, the gourde, has lost 40% of value in the past year.

A pyramid investment scheme collapsed last summer, wiping out the life savings of tens of thousands of Haitians and a rumor that the cash-strapped government was planning to convert dollar bank accounts to the Haitian currency at a low rate recently resulted in a run on banks that saw depositors withdraw $20 million in three days.

The country has also seen a marked increase in political violence over the past year, including an attack by unidentified commandos on the National Palace, anti-government riots in the capital and elsewhere, and increased threats to press freedom by government supporters.


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