Haiti private sector decries ”climate of terror”

By Michael Deibert


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 24 ? In another blow to

embattled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s

largest private sector association blamed ”high

authorities” on Sunday for allowing a ”climate of

terror” to roil the poor nation.

”In unison, we raise our voices in indignation,” an

association of 18 businesses and chambers of commerce

from around the Caribbean country said in a statement

after a week of protests and shootings. ”The private

sector cannot accept … orchestrated criminal

actions, planned and implemented with the taxes of

taxpayers and the equipment of the state.”


”People acting under the protection of high

authorities … have set up a climate of terror,” the

statement said.


The business leaders’ message follows a week of

large-scale protests against Aristide’s government and

tire-burning counter-demonstrations by armed

supporters of the president that paralyzed the capital

on Friday.

The business group called for the arrests of some

government supporters suspected of leading

disturbances, including Amiot Metayer, who had briefly

been at odds with Aristide over his imprisonment for

gang-related activity. Metayer, a fugitive who staged

a spectacular jailbreak in August, led a

pro-government rally in the central city of Gonaives

on Friday.

Friday’s demonstrations blocked roads in the capital

with flaming barricades, and many businesses and

schools were closed. Armed Aristide supporters also

fired into the air from the backs of pick-up trucks,

witnesses said.


Residents in Port-au-Prince on Sunday stocked up on

foodstuffs and supplies because of rumors an equally

chaotic pro-government demonstration was planned for



Discontent with Aristide, who began a second term as

president last year but has been mired in a dispute

over elections with the main political opposition, has

recently flared into a series of large demonstrations.


Last week, thousands of high school students and their

supporters rallied in the provincial city of Petit

Goave, southwest of the capital. Displaying a bloody

school uniform, they protested the shootings a day

earlier of seven high school students by police.


Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, has been

locked in a dispute with the opposition Democratic

Convergence coalition over the results of contested

May 2000 elections, which his opponents contend were

biased in his party’s favor.


The deadlock has stalled up to $500 million in

international aid, adding to the woes of the 8 million

inhabitants of the poorest country in the Americas.