Originally: Haitian environment minister resigns

Haiti?s environment minister resigned Thursday in the third defection from the Cabinet of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as a series of protests have unleashed increasing violence.

Environment Minister Webster Pierre said in a letter read on independent Radio Metropole that he was stepping down “to regain my freedom of speech.” He also said he hopes “to reveal the mechanism of a system that entraps politicians and to propose a solution to the crisis.”

Meanwhile, his sister Mimerose Beaubrun called radio stations saying a group of gunmen occupied the yard of her house. Beaubrun?s family said she and her husband Theodore, who are well-known musicians, were warned by neighbors as they approached the house and then fled.

The Beaubruns are lead singers of the Haitian roots music group Boukman Eksperyans, which has been critical of Aristide?s government.

Theodore Beaubrun has joined protests demanding Aristide?s ouster and said he went into hiding after receiving threats this week.

“The situation is extremely serious,” he told Radio Metropole. “There is no government. It?s anarchy. Street thugs rule.”

Tensions between supporters and opponents of Aristide are on the rise in Haiti, with at least 22 killed and scores wounded during protests since mid-September.

Several prominent officials have resigned this month amid the violence, including the ministers of education and tourism.

Pierre?s resignation came after witnesses said police stormed a pro-opposition radio station, Radio Maxima, in northern Cap-Haitien on Wednesday, smashing equipment and shutting down the station in what they said was a search for weapons.

State-run television showed three guns, grenades and camouflage fatigues that police said they found on the roof of Radio Maxima. Eleven people were reportedly arrested, including station employees and others.

Police had a search warrant to enter Radio Maxima, which has encouraged people to join street protests against Aristide?s government.

Police also shot and killed a teenage boy Wednesday during clashes with anti-government protesters in the northern town of Trou du Nord, witnesses said. Demonstrators in Trou du Nord went on to torch several government buildings, including the telephone company and city hall, according to radio reports.

The government accuses protesters of trying to spoil state-sponsored celebrations Jan. 1 on the 200th anniversary of Haiti?s independence from France.