By PAISLEY DODDS
Angry civilians protested Monday’s rebel handover of two police stations to officers accused of abuses, underscoring difficulties facing a new government that has praised the rebels as liberators but also ordered them to disarm.
CAP-HAITIEN, March 29 (AP) —
The handovers came as rebel commander Louis-Jodel Chamblain discussed surrendering power to police in Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second city of 500,000 people, and other northern strongholds.
“If the police try to get rid of the rebels, we will attack the police and take back the stations,” threatened Joabilien Saint-Fidor, one of about 100 people shouting “Down with the police!”
Chamblain, whose fighters still control much of northern Haiti, also vowed to kill ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide if he returns from exile. Rebels outnumber and are better armed than police.
A small contingent of Haitian police officers who fled before the popular rebellion that erupted Feb. 5 have returned, but they lack weapons looted during the fighting, the trust of the people, and a clear mandate
from the interim government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue.
“I don’t want to see the police anymore. They are all thieves,” said Renel Descipux, 38.
Saint-Fidor said people feared police who helped militant Aristide supporters terrorize the population before the Haitian leader fled Feb. 29.
At one police station, which seven rebels turned over Monday to five officers armed only with three handguns, one officer admitted they were afraid of reprisals. “Psychologically the fear is still here, but we have a job to do,” he said.
Chamblain told The Associated Press that “There’s still a trust problem, so the people will have to identify the police that they don’t want.”
Some of the 250 French peacekeepers who have deployed in northern Haiti patrolled Cap-Haitien in vehicles on Monday, but took no part in the talks between rebels and police.
Meanwhile, authorities detained a senior police officer suspected in an armed attack on protesters that killed seven people, including television correspondent Ricardo Ortega of Spain’s Antena 3 network, a human rights group said Monday.
Police Inspector Jean Michel Gaspard was held on Sunday in Port-au-Prince but no charges have been filed pending an investigation, Pierre Esperance, director of the Coalition for Haitian Rights, told The Associated Press.