The Associated Press

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Following the ways of past student movements that helped topple two presidents, hundreds of university students marched against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Wednesday, provoking clashes that left at least nine injured.

One protester was shot, one was stabbed and others were hit by hurled stones or beaten by Aristide supporters who stormed the area in trucks, clutching rocks and sticks.

The government supporters scattered as police fired warning shots and then fired directly toward them, but none appeared to have been wounded.

Shouting “Down with Aristide,” the protesters wore surgical masks to guard against tear gas. They were blocked by barricades of wrecked cars and burning tires set up by Aristide partisans.

The students accused Aristide of trying to increase his own power and failing to help the poor. In a country where an estimated 40 percent of the 8 million people are under 18, such activism carries weight.

Student protests and strikes helped oust President Elie Lescot in 1946, followed by Paul Magloire in 1956. Their opposition also led to the weakening of the Duvalier family dictatorship, which imprisoned dozens of students during its 29-year regime until 1986.

“We have no future,” student Rodeny Williams said Wednesday. “We are not afraid.”

The marchers join a swelling youth protest movement as many face a bleak future. Most Haitians are jobless or without regular work, foreign investment is at a standstill and foreign visas to countries such as the United States and France are increasingly hard to obtain.