PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Tens of thousands of government opponents marched peacefully Sunday to demand President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s resignation, a day after the embattled leader rescinded restrictions on street protests and vowed to implement measures aimed at ending the country’s unrest.
The protesters walked nearly 10 miles from a park in suburban Petionville to the capital, protected by a contingent of police.
On Saturday, Aristide rescinded a police order outlawing marches in Port-Au-Prince after a one-day meeting with Caribbean leaders in Jamaica, who put forth measures to end a three-year political impasse in Haiti.
Sunday’s demonstration was organized by the Democratic Platform, a coalition of opposition political parties and civil society groups.
“We’re fed up with Aristide. I’m marching to demand his resignation and to say we have to prepare his succession,” said law student Paul Jean, 23.
At Saturday’s meeting, Aristide also agreed to disarm politically affiliated gangs, reform the nation’s 5,000-member police force and release prisoners who have been detained since a Dec. 5 protest at Haiti’s university.
He also said he would work with the opposition to appoint a new prime minister and expressed support for a new governing council made up of members of his government, the opposition and civil society.
Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said most of the reforms should be carried out within four to six weeks. He declined to outline consequences if Haiti doesn’t comply, but said leaders haven’t ruled out sanctions.
Haiti has been in turmoil since Aristide’s Lavalas Family party swept 2000 legislative elections that observers said were flawed. Since September, at least 50 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in civil strife.
The opposition says it will not hold talks with the government or participate in new elections unless Aristide resigns. Aristide has said he plans to serve out his term which runs to 2006.