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Protests demand Aristide's ouster

©Associated Press
December 4, 2002

PETIT-GOAVE, Haiti -- Police fired tear gas to break up demonstrations Tuesday by thousands of antigovernment demonstrators, as President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's supporters wielded whips and hurled rocks to drive away government opponents. At least 14 people were reported injured.

Two men were shot by Aristide backers in the town of Petit-Goave, where police lobbed tear gas canisters into about 2,000 marchers, witnesses said.

Thousands more protested in several cities, clamoring for immediate elections and better living conditions. But police and crowds of Aristide supporters broke up the protests.

The demonstrators paraded through the streets demanding an end to Aristide's government and justice in the death of journalist Brignol Lindor, who was hacked to death a year ago by Aristide supporters.

"I came to shout 'Down with Aristide!' " said 12-year-old David Merisier, a student in Petit-Goave, about 45 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the capital. "We can't eat. We can't go to school. We're tired of Aristide."

Meanwhile, about 2,000 Aristide supporters broke up a demonstration in Port-au-Prince, wielding whips and throwing stones to drive away protesters. Witnesses said at least a dozen people were injured.

Police also fired tear gas as they disrupted a march by about 2,000 people in northern Cap-Haitien and wielded batons to break up a 500-person protest in northwestern Gonaives, witnesses said. At least two protesters were reported arrested in Gonaives.

Pressure has been mounting on Aristide's government, which has been stymied by a lack of international aid and investment and growing poverty in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Although parliamentary elections are planned for next year, presidential elections aren't planned until 2005.

Classes were canceled and businesses closed for protests marking the one-year anniversary of Lindor's killing outside Petit-Goave.

Lindor was slain after he allowed opposition politicians on his talk-show program. On Tuesday, many of the same opposition leaders spoke on the air, demanding justice.

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