PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov 13 (Reuters) – Beating on traditional

voodoo drums, hundreds of students from the State University of Haiti

marched on parliament on Wednesday, protesting what they called government

interference in the education system.

     “Democracy yes! Dictatorship no!” the students chanted as they waved

signs reading: “Long Live Autonomy.”

     Many students said they were marching because they saw the university

as a bulwark against the ambitions of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the

former Roman Catholic priest who in February 2001 began his second term as

leader of the impoverished Caribbean nation of 8 million people.

     “We are here to protest against the growing threat of dictatorship in

our country as represented by the actions of the Aristide government at the

university,” philosophy student Guimy Telot said.

     Trouble began at the school last July when Education Minister Myrtho

Celestin Saurel dismissed Vice Chancellor Pierre Marie Paquiot and delayed

student and faculty elections after a hunger strike by students loyal to

the government.

     The move was met with outrage by many students, who charged the

government was attempting to take control of the school and that their

education was being controlled by a small number of well-connected

political activists.

     Paquiot, whose term had expired before his dismissal, has been

replaced by an interim vice chancellor, Charles Tadye, in preparation for

new university elections to be held later this month.

     A subsequent sit-in in July in front of the offices of the education

minister was attacked by government activists hurling stones from the

windows of the ministry and then from the street, witnesses said.

     Aristide has been locked in a two-year dispute with the Democratic

Convergence opposition coalition over May 2000 legislative elections his

opponents contend were biased in favor of Aristide’s Lavalas Family party.

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

     The country has also witnessed a marked increase in political violence

over the past year, including an attack by unidentified commandos on the

National Palace, the murder of a local journalist by a pro-government mob

and anti-government riots in the capital and elsewhere.