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10/18/04 - VIOLENCE IN HAITI - 2004-10-20


Armed gangs who support former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide are trying to destabilize Haiti's interim government and disrupt efforts to assist the Haitian people. Mr. Aristide is in exile in South Africa.

The attacks come after a hurricane struck Haiti in September, killing more than three-thousand people. The most damage occurred at the Haitian city of Gonaives, where flooding left more than two-hundred-thousand people homeless. A statement released by the U.S. State Department says, "It is all the more reprehensible that the pro-Aristide forces have launched their campaign of violence at a moment when the people of Haiti are still suffering."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says thugs have "murder[ed] policemen, looted businesses and public installations, and started to terrorize civilians":

"On October 11th, gunmen associated with these groups killed three people in random attacks, and there were reports that one parent was killed while walking his child to school. So we call on the leaders of Fanmi Lavalas, that's the party that supported President Aristide, to break with the party's legacy of violence and criminality, and to cooperate with the interim government."

Mr. Boucher says that the interim government led by President Boniface Alexandre and Prime Minister Gerard Latortue represents "the best hope for progress in Haiti":

"The United States will continue to work with them and to work with the United Nations in rebuilding and reform of the Haitian national police to provide order and security for the people of Haiti. And we also have confidence that the U-N stabilization force will be able to protect the Haitian people, and that their capacity to do that will increase in the days and weeks to come."

State Department spokesman Boucher says former Haitian President Aristide should make clear "to his supporters...or former supporters, that they need to abandon violence and that they need to cooperate with the [new] government."

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