Originally: Haiti’s president blames crisis on aid freeze


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 9 ? Haiti’s embattled

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Thursday blamed a

freeze on foreign aid for the political unrest that

has roiled the impoverished Caribbean nation

”If aid to the country would be unblocked, every

Haitian will benefit,” Aristide told reporters at a

reception for visiting South African Foreign Minister

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. ”The opposition has a

responsibility to help unblock the country and

unfreeze the money.”

Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, was first

elected to lead the nation of 8 million in 1990 but

ousted in a coup months later. U.S. troops helped

restore him to power in 1994.

Since his reelection in November 2000, he has been

locked in a bitter dispute with the opposition

Democratic Convergence coalition over the May 2000

elections that observers said were rigged to favor

Aristide’s Lavalas Family party.

Haiti has seen a wave of anti-government protests in

recent months as students, trade unions and opposition

politicians have taken to the streets accusing

Aristide of corruption and political repression and

calling for his resignation.

Several anti-government rallies have been violently

broken up by Aristide supporters. On Wednesday, a

pedestrian was shot and killed in the provincial city

of Gonaives as riot police clashed with

anti-government demonstrators.

On Tuesday, the streets of many Haitian cities were

virtually empty as motorists and pedestrians observed

a strike called by 11 of Haiti’s largest transport

unions to protest rising fuel prices.

The unions announced that they plan a massive march on

Haiti’s National Palace in the capital on Friday,

where they will be met by an opposition march

originating in another part of the city.

”We will march to show solidarity with the workers of

the entire country who are being affected by this

problem, we will mobilize together,” said Evans Paul,

former Port-au-Prince mayor and leader of the

Convergence-affiliated Democratic Unity Convention

party. ”We may very well be met with violence, but we

cannot let that deter us now.

Asked about the potential for violence at Friday’s

marches, Aristide said ”According to the

constitution, everyone is allowed to demonstrate.”