Originally: Student demonstrations against Haitian government increase as police fire tear gas to disperse crowd
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Police fired tear gas and warning shots as thousands of university students spilled into the streets Thursday in the latest protest aimed at ousting President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Chanting anti-Aristide slogans, students approached the National Palace but were rebuffed by police who fired tear gas and warning shots.
“Aristide has mismanaged the country,” said Pierre Joseph, a 22-year-old student from the University of Haiti. “Every sector of the country is suffering and saying we’ve had enough!”
The demonstration came a day after Haiti‘s education minister resigned, saying she was “horrified” over Aristide partisans attacking students at a demonstration last week.
The government, however, said Marie-Carmel Paule Austin was about to get fired. Austin could not be reached immediately for comment Thursday.
“She took advantage of the situation,” said Mario Dupuy, a government spokesman. “She knew she was going to be replaced because she is under investigation for misappropriation of funds.”
Student demonstrations have played an important role in Haitian history, helping end the regimes of President Elie Lescot in 1946, dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986 and dictator Prosper Avril in 1990.
As tensions rise in the impoverished nation, anti-government demonstrations have intensified with the opposition blaming Aristide’s for Haiti‘s deteriorating political and economic situation.
More than 24 people were injured in violence that broke out at the university’s Human Sciences College last Friday, when dozens of government supporters attacked about 100 students calling for Aristide’s resignation.
Aristide supporters ransacked both the Human Sciences College and the nearby Public Administration Institute, which belong to the State University of Haiti, and set fire to a nearby house.
University Rector Pierre-Marie Pacquiot was hospitalized after Aristide partisans allegedly severed the tendons of both knees when they beat his legs with iron bars.
At least six people were shot, including one Aristide supporter and five students. About 15,000 students are enrolled at the university.
Government critics accuse the police of complicity in the violence because they didn’t disperse the Aristide partisans.
France, the Organization of American States and the United States on Monday denounced the recent violence.
Aristide’s administration has been locked in a stalemate with the opposition since flawed 2000 legislative elections that the opposition charged were rigged.
Since mid-September, clashes during anti-government protests across the nation have left at least 16 dead and scores wounded.
The opposition refuses to participate in new elections unless Aristide steps down. The embattled leader, however, says he will serve out his term, which ends in 2006.