PORT-AU-PRINCE, April 4 (Reuters) - Four people were killed
in southern Haiti when demonstrators protesting the high cost
of living clashed with security forces, a local official said
The United Nations said protesters rioted in the town of
Les Cayes on Thursday, burning shops, shooting at peacekeepers
and looting containers at a U.N. compound.
"At least four people have been killed and about 20 others
wounded," said Gabriel Fortune, a senator from the southern
region, who condemned the violent behavior of the
"The movement started well, but it was spoiled by the
intrusion of a number of criminals that have nothing to do with
the legitimate demands of the population," said Fortune.
Food prices in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas,
have soared in recent months, stoking anger against the
government of President Rene Preval.
Preval's election in 2006 raised expectations that the
country would finally start on the path to stability after
decades of turbulence, culminating in the February 2004 ouster
of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Les Cayes was tense after the riots and the U.N. force
trying to maintain peace in the volatile Caribbean country sent
100 peacekeepers as reinforcements, the U.N. statement said.
A small group of protesters broke into the U.N. compound in
Les Cayes, damaging the main gate and ignoring warning shots
from peacekeepers, the statement said.
"The protesters also burned shops in Les Cayes and threw
rocks and fired weapons at some of the blue helmets during the
At least two U.N. vehicles were burned, demonstrators threw
rocks at cars and at least one woman was raped, according to
local officials and radio reports.
"This hunger is unbearable and the government has to act
now, otherwise we will burn down and destroy everything," a
demonstrator shouted into a local reporter's microphone.
At a news conference, Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis
denounced what he called manipulation of the protests.
"We know that these demonstrations have been infiltrated by
individuals linked to drug dealers and other smugglers," he
said, calling on the protesters to stop the demonstrations.
Alexis said the government had immediately made available
about $10 million to help fight the high cost of living. He
announced job creation and credit programs and said food would
be distributed and fertilizer prices cut in half.
Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the more
prosperous Dominican Republic, has been relatively tranquil
recently, although a resurgence in kidnappings and crime has
alarmed the United Nations.
Just under 9,000 Brazilian-led U.N. peacekeepers and
civilian police are stationed in Haiti.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week called on the
international community and Haiti's leaders to keep up their
efforts to bring stability to the country. "The potential for
regression remains," he said in a report.