PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — U.S. Marines shot and killed the driver of a vehicle speeding toward a military checkpoint, a spokesman told The Associated Press on Tuesday, the second reported fatality at the hands of the peacekeepers.
A passenger in the car also was wounded in the Monday night shooting, said the spokesman, Sgt. Timothy Edwards, in a telephone interview.
“When you see a vehicle approaching at high speed it is seen as a threat, so the Marines opened fire,” Edwards said. “The driver was killed. … A second man was injured and turned over to the Haitian police.”
Marines said they shot and killed a gunman who fired at them during a demonstration Sunday in which seven people died, including a foreign journalist, and more than 30 were wounded.
Also Tuesday, militants demanding the return of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide threw rocks and set barricades of tires ablaze, blocking a main road in the capital and threatening renewed turmoil as officials gathered to pick a new prime minister.
Edwards said the body of the driver killed Monday night was turned over to the Red Cross.
But a body remained near the checkpoint area on Port-au-Prince’s main road Tuesday morning, and a man who said his cousin had been shot and killed by Marines identified it as that of Mutial Telusma.
The cousin, Jean-Claude Batiste, said Telusma had picked up his brother, Sedelin Telusma, from his work at the international airport around 8 p.m. and was driving home at high speed, which is normal in Haiti.
“The road was blocked and he didn’t know, just kept going and he was shot,” Batiste told the AP, recounting the story from Sedelin Telusma, who was treated for two gunshot wounds.
Marine spokesman Col. Charles Gurganus said Monday they could not identify the man who was shot in self-defense Sunday, did not know where his body was, and did not have his weapon, which he said had been taken by someone.
“He had a gun and he was shooting at Marines,” Gurganus said at a news conference.
Sunday’s violence was the worst bloodshed since Aristide fled a monthlong rebellion Feb. 29. It prompted the first armed action by the Marines and led both opponents and supporters of Aristide to threaten their own armed action, damaging efforts to reach a frail peace.
The toll from a monthlong rebellion and reprisal killings rose to more than 300, with the Pan-American Health Organization reporting an estimated 200 corpses at the state morgue as being victims of the violence.
A seven-member council of newly appointed officials was expected Tuesday to pick a new prime minister from three top candidates – ignoring Aristide’s claim from exile in the Central African Republic that he remains Haiti’s democratically elected leader.
At his first public appearance since his departure, Aristide on Monday renewed allegations that he was abducted and forced from power by the United States – claims strongly denied by U.S. officials who say they saved his life. He also urged “peaceful resistance” by his supporters.
They answered him by gathering outside the National Palace’s gates during Monday’s ceremony to install an interim president, shouting “Aristide or death!”
Military helicopters circled overhead and U.S. Marines in armored cars patrolled outside the palace.
Aristide repeated his assertion that he had been kidnapped by the U.S. government – a charge American officials deny.
Boniface Alexandre was installed as interim president Monday, although he had been serving in that post since shortly after Aristide fled amid pressure from home and abroad.
Alexandre appealed for calm.
“We are all brothers and sisters,” he said. “We are all in the same boat, and if it sinks, it sinks with all of us.”
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher insisted that Aristide had voluntarily resigned.
“If Mr. Aristide really wants to serve his country, he really has to, we think, let his nation get on with the future and not try to stir up the past again,” Boucher said.
The “Council of Sages” was interviewing three top candidates for prime minister, to replace Aristide appointee Yvon Neptune.
The new premier would form a transitional government from Aristide’s Lavalas party and a disparate opposition coalition. Under a U.S.-backed plan, that government would call new elections.
The candidates were:
– Businessman Smarck Michel, Aristide’s prime minister in 1994-95 who resigned over differences in economic policy.
– Retired Lt. Gen. Herard Abraham, who is probably the only Haitian army officer to voluntarily surrender power to a civilian, in 1990. He allowed the transition that led to Haiti’s first free elections, which Aristide won.
– Gerard Latortue, a former U.N. official and an international business consultant who was foreign minister in 1988 to former President Leslie Manigat.
Manigat was toppled in one of the 32 coups fomented by Haiti’s army. That same army ousted Aristide in 1991 and was disbanded after 20,000 troops came to Haiti in 1994 to halt an exodus of boat people to Florida and restore democracy.
The U.S. Marines and French Legionnaires are the vanguard of a U.N. force to restore peace. On Monday, there were 1,600 Marines, 800 French soldiers and police and 130 Chilean troops in Haiti.
A frenzy of looting that erupted Feb. 28 and waned with the arrival of peacekeepers resurged Monday. Hundreds of people ransacked Port-au-Prince’s industrial park, less than a mile from the airport, where U.S. Marines are based.
Aristide, a popular slum priest, was elected on promises to help the poor who make up the vast majority of Haiti’s 8 million people. But Haitians say he failed to improve their lives, condoned corruption and used police and armed supporters to attack his political opponents.