Thursday, July 29, 2004

Hti: The cult of Aristide

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Hundreds of supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide marched through the slums of Haiti's capital Wednesday to demand his return.

Even as the crowd rallied against Haiti's new U.S.-backed interim government, a group of Caribbean nations announced that it would make a decision in about two weeks on whether to recognize the new leadership.

About 2,000 people, many waving posters, marched through the narrow streets of several Port-au-Prince slums before filing past the U.S. Embassy, where they burned small coffins bearing the names of interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and other officials. One coffin simply said, "U.S.A."

A U.S.-led multinational force of 3,600 troops arrived in Haiti after a three-week rebellion that culminated in Aristide's Feb. 29 ouster. Aristide, in exile in South Africa, has accused the United States of being behind his overthrow, a claim Washington has denied.

The U.S.-led force was replaced by a Brazil-led U.N. peacekeeping mission at the end of June.

"We cannot live without Aristide," said 70-year-old demonstrator Solange Michel, who said her son was killed by soldiers during a 1991 coup that ousted Aristide for three years.

"We think he will return if we keep protesting," said Bob Fonfon, 34, a former port worker who said past protests brought Aristide back to power.

Meanwhile, leaders in the 15-member Caribbean Community met in Grenada Wednesday, saying they would announce their decision on whether to recognize Haiti's U.S.-backed government on Aug. 16.

Relations between the 15-member bloc and Haiti collapsed after rebels ousted Aristide.
They cannot live without Aristide? Give the people what they want, I say. Let them find out how many of them will wind up living under Aristide.

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