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Demonstators, Police Clash in Port-au-Prince Protest - 2003-11-14


Demonstrators and police clashed Friday afternoon in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. Dozens of people are reported injured but there are no reports of fatalities.

Witnesses say the violence broke out after demonstrators supporting Haiti's President Jean Bertrand Aristide clashed with hundreds of demonstrators who organized a meeting of civic groups identified with Haiti's opposition.

Police fired tear gas canisters into the crowd and detained about a dozen individuals who had organized the opposition rally, which took place in front of Haiti's presidential palace in downtown Port-au-Prince.

More than a dozen people have died in recent weeks in a series of violent anti-government demonstrations. Protesters are calling on President Aristide to step down saying he has assumed dictatorial powers and has not improved economic conditions in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Mr. Aristide says he intends to serve out his term which ends in 2006, and that his government has improved security despite a lack of international support and internal opposition.

Haiti's government has been largely paralyzed since 2000 when Mr. Aristide's Lavalas Party swept to power in legislative elections the opposition charged were rigged. International groups like the Organization of American States say there should be a more secure environment before the next round of scheduled legislative elections takes place.

Haiti's government says it has done its best to meet international concerns, by forming an electoral council despite an opposition boycott. Government supporters accuse the opposition of calling for a boycott because it will lose at the ballot box.

The new U.S. ambassador to Haiti, James Foley, recently added his voice to concerns about the upcoming elections, saying security had deteriorated in recent weeks and that safe and secure elections could not be held under current conditions. Mr. Foley warns the international community will not accept the results of unilateral elections organized by the government.

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