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Stabroek News

HAITI: Preval tackles woes in slum
published: Monday | May 22, 2006


PREVAL

The United States has warned Preval not to allow Aristide back - accusing him of despotism and reliance on armed thugs to silence opponents.

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters):

THE VOLATILE situation in Haiti's largest and most violent slum could prove a major obstacle for President René Preval as he seeks to stabilise his country and put it on a democratic path.

Preval appealed for peace in the troubled Caribbean nation last Sunday as he was inaugurated as Haiti's first democratically-elected leader since Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled an armed revolt more than two years ago.

NO PEACE WITHOUT JUSTICE

But leaders of gangs in Cite-Soleil, a shanty town home to at least 300,000 people and a potent symbol of misery in the poorest country in the Americas, say there can be no peace without justice and a speedy response to their demands.

No ultimatums have been set, according to several gang leaders who voiced cautious support for Preval when interviewed by Reuters last week.

But chief among their demands is one for the return of Aristide, who went into exile in February 2004 in the face of a bloody rebellion and pressure from Washington and Paris to step down. Preval has said there is nothing to prevent Aristide's return.

US AGAINST RETURN

The United States has warned Preval not to allow Aristide back - accusing him of despotism and reliance on armed thugs to silence opponents. But that could reignite violence in Cite-Soleil, which has seen an orgy of bloodshed over the past two years.

A United Nations peacekeeping mission, now numbering about 9,000 troops and civilian police, has been in Haiti since June 2004 to support a U.S.-backed interim government.

Preval has asked the mission, widely despised in the slums, to stay on for now but that too could backfire on him.

Cite-Soleil's gang leaders are demanding the withdrawal of the U.N. troops, saying they have killed women, children and other defenseless people since rolling into the shantytown in menacing armoured personnel carriers.

Resentment runs high among many residents, whose cinder-block homes are pockmarked by bullets fired during pitched battles between U.N. troops and Cite-Soleil's gangs.

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