Haiti Crowds Call For President’s Ouster

.c The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – More than a thousand anti-government protesters poured into provincial streets on Monday, clamoring for the resignation of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Six demonstrators – three anti-government and three pro-Aristide supporters – were shot Monday during protests in west-coast Gonaives and in the capital, where thousands more marched in a pro-government rally.

In Petit-Goave, about 45 miles west of Port-au-Prince, students shook anti-Aristide placards and clashed with Aristide supporters who tried to disrupt the protest by throwing rocks.

“We’re demonstrating against our unendurable living conditions. Aristide should go, to give Haitian youth a chance to have a future in their country,” student leader Roland Laguerre said.

Aristide is coming under increasing pressure to speed government reforms and alleviate worsening poverty in the western hemisphere’s poorest country, where most people survive on less than $1 per day.

The government and opposition have been in a stalemate since Aristide’s Lavalas Family party swept flawed May 2000 elections. The disputed elections triggered the suspension of millions of dollars in foreign aid and raised questions of the government’s legitimacy.

In Gonaives, demonstrators called for Aristide to step down. Three people, including one high-school student, were shot and injured, officials said. No other details were immediately available.

In the capital, more than 2,000 Aristide supporters marched through the streets. Some demonstrated outside the National Palace and, on the way, stoned an African studies center where anti-government students were meeting. Three pro-Aristide demonstrators were shot outside the center and were in critical condition, government spokesman Mario Dupuy said.

Fresh elections are slated for next year, but groups worry whether Haiti’s current conditions will allow for a safe balloting.