February 1, 2010
Politics of unrest return to quake-stricken Haiti as criticism of Preval government grows
TITANYEN, Haiti - The mourning is far from over, but the politicking has resumed.
Hundreds gathered Monday at a gravel pit where countless earthquake victims have been dumped, turning a remembrance ceremony for the dead into one of the first organized political rallies since the disaster, with followers denouncing President Rene Preval.
Many called for ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's return — a familiar political refrain when things swing between bad and worse in Haiti.
"Preval has done nothing for this country, nothing for the victims," said Jean Delcius, 54, who was bused to the memorial service by Aristide's development foundation. "We need someone new to take charge here. If it's not Aristide, then someone competent."
Critics were already blaming Preval for rising unemployment, corruption and greed. Then the Jan. 12 earthquake struck, killing at least 150,000 people, flattening most government buildings and turning the capital into an apocalyptic vision of broken concrete and twisted steel.
Preval has rarely been seen in public since, leaving his ministers to defend his performance — a job they are growing increasingly weary of.
Asked Monday about the criticism of Preval, Communications Minister Marie-Laurence Jocelin Lassegue batted back the questions, frowning and looking irritable.
"Those questions are for the president or the prime minister," he told The Associated Press....
Meanwhile, discontent with Preval appears to be growing, three weeks after the disaster.
"He came Saturday and then just left," said Jude John Peter, 23, in a camp across from Haiti's demolished National Palace, where some 2,000 people are crammed into tents made of bedsheets and sticks, fighting for clean water and one portable toilet. "He's nowhere to be seen at first and then leaves when things get hot."...
Before legislative elections scheduled for Feb. 28 were postponed, Haiti's presidentially appointed electoral council had excluded more than a dozen political parties from the next round of elections in 2011. Opposition groups accused the council of trying to help Preval's Unity party win majorities in parliament so he could push through constitutional reforms and expand executive power.
The most prominent excluded party is Aristide's former Lavalas party, which now plans more demonstrations. That will force thousands of American soldiers and U.N. peacekeepers to worry about containing political violence as well as providing relief....
Across the capital, Haitians have voiced anger over the hasty burials of earthquake victims.
Many Haitians believe that bodies must be properly buried and remembered by relatives and family so their spirits can pass on to heaven. In Voodoo, some believe that improper burials can trap spirits between two worlds.
The mourners on Monday gathered near a white metal cross erected on a mound of gravel that covered nameless bodies dropped into a pit by dump trucks. The corpse of a woman lay uncovered at the base of a nearby gravel pile.
One by one, people tied black pieces of cloth to the cross as a Catholic priest sprinkled the ground with holy water. A choir sang traditional Haitian hymns as religious leaders prayed for the dead.
"We've come here to bless these people, to bless this spot," said the Rev. Patrick Joseph Neptune.
Meanwhile, others in the crowd planned another political rally for Tuesday.
"If Preval comes, we will kill him!" they shouted.
Associated Press Writer Michelle Faul contributed to this report from Port-au-Prince.
Prices soar while struggling millions do without
Squalid tent city faces restaurant serving beer, beef
By RENE BRUEMMER
|Residents of the city of Béinet, about 150 kilometres and four hours over torturous road by car from Port-au-Prince, staged a protest this week, bearing cardboard signs lettered with the source of their outrage: In the Jan. 12 earthquake's aftermath, the prices of staples like rice, flour and cooking oil have nearly doubled, an inflationary rate that could prove fatal for many in the dirt-poor rural villages also hit by the quake. Vendors were blaming the rise in prices on shortages of supplies and the condition of the roads - many of which were scarred by wide cracks when the earth heaved apart|
Haiti wants Baptists to face prosecution
By Ben Fox and Frank Bajak
• In Haiti's first organized political demonstration since the quake, hundreds of people demanded that President Rene Preval resign. Participants called for the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former priest who was ousted in a 2004 rebellion.
February 1, 2010