Haitian businesses call for campaign against Aristide



PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – Six leading Haitian industry groups called for a campaign of civil disobedience against President Jean Bertrand Aristide amidst mounting international concern over unrest in the impoverished nation.


Haitian opposition also called for a “peaceful mobilisation” against Aristide who was to go to Jamaica on Saturday to meet the head of the Caribbean group of nations for talks on the crisis in his country.

The industry groups, which included the influential Chamber of Commerce (newsweb sites) and Industry, criticized the government’s “violent” clampdown on opposition demonstrations and recommended the non-payment of electricity bills to the state power company.

The Association of Haitian Industries, the Franco-Haiti Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Haiti Tourist Association, the Haiti Association of Insurers and the Center for Free Enterprise and Democracy also came out in support of civil disobedience.

The associations recommended “the non-payment of residential and business bills from Electricity of the State of Haiti.”

Months of demonstrations against Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest now accused of mismanagement and corruption, have left more than 40 dead and scores of injured.

On Wednesday a 29-year-old law student was killed when police fired shots in the air and tear gas to break up a anti-Aristide demonstration in the capital.

On Tuesday, 11 people were shot and wounded by pro-government militants in the southwestern city of Petit-Goaves, a day after one person was killed during clashes between police and an opposition militia in the town of Gonaives.

A group of union leaders gathered in front of a United Nations (newsweb sites) office in Port-au-Prince on Friday demanding the release of 12 union members arrested by police last Saturday.

Aristide was to have talks on Saturday with Jamaican Prime Minister Percival Patterson, the head of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) group, in the Jamaican capital.

The Haitian opposition has so far rejected Caricom’s mediation efforts, insisting that Aristide must stand down.

The president is in the middle of a five year term, he has rejected calls to leave office early.

Aristide met the widow of the student killed on Wednesday and said that his enemies were using “false police” to cause trouble. He said the authorities would have to be “very severe to make the law respected.”

The United States meanwhile moved Friday to reduce its diplomatic presence in Haiti by allowing some US diplomats and their families to leave the country.

“This Travel Warning is being issued to inform American citizens that, due to continued political demonstrations and ongoing civil unrest, the Department of State has authorized the departure of family members and non-emergency employees of the US Embassy on a voluntary basis,” the statement said.

It also warned US citizens against travelling to Haiti and noted the government has “in some instances” assisted in violently repressing demonstrations.

Aristide served one five-year term in the 1990s and was re-elected in 2000 in a vote deemed flawed by observers. Opposition parties claim Aristide’s Lavalas party rigged the vote.



Washington has accused Aristide’s government of formenting violence against opposition protestors and has implored both sides to enter into a dialogue under the auspices of the Organization of American States.