PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Sept 10 (Reuters) – Haitian police fired teargas to disperse several hundred angry demonstrators protesting insecurity and a lack of basic services outside the National Palace in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, witnesses said.

The protesters, who said they were from the capital’s impoverished Cite Soleil shantytown, said President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had reneged on promises to alleviate their suffering and failed to act against armed gangs in the neighborhood.

“People are attacking us, they are burning down our houses,” said one man, who spoke in Creole. “We have no work, no food for our children, the schools don’t open! We say enough!”

?We can’t sleep because we are always so afraid!,” shouted another woman.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Protesters threatened passing vehicles with clubs and metal pipes. Fistfights broke out between protesters and motorists.

Police fired tear-gas into the crowd and chased and beat the protesters with batons. No arrests were reported.

Cite Soleil, one of the most deprived areas in the poor Caribbean nation of 8 million, is home to some 200,000 people and has served as a breeding ground for street gangs and pro-government militants.
A gang war in Cite Soleil has killed 20 people and left 100 wounded in past weeks and resulted in the burning of hundreds of houses.

The gangs have often been used by Aristide’s government as well as the opposition Democratic Convergence coalition to demonstrate and burn tires in the nation’s streets in times of political tension.

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

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

On Dec. 17, 2001, gunmen stormed the National Palace after which thousands of armed Aristide supporters took to the streets burning down offices and homes affiliated with the Convergence.
In a resolution passed last week, the Organization of American States called for a restoration of aid to the country, as well as calling for disarmament of political militants, the arrest of those responsible for violence and compensation for people who lost property.