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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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Bloody Haitian uprising kills about 50 people

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Defying government loyalists, hundreds of activists demonstrated against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Sunday as exiled paramilitary forces joined rebels in a bloody uprising that has killed some 50 people.
Shouting ”Down with Aristide!” members of a broad opposition alliance known as the Democratic Platform massed for the demonstration in Port-au-Prince, saying they didn’t support violence but shared the same goal as the rebels – ousting the embattled president.
Militants loyal to Aristide crushed a similar anti-government demonstration on Thursday, stoning opponents and blocking the protest route. There has been a steady string of protests since mid-September.
”We’re still dealing with pacific, nonviolent means, but let me tell you we have one goal,” said Gilbert Leger, a lawyer and opposition member. ”We do support (rebel) efforts.”
The rebels launched a rebellion nine days ago from Gonaives, 70 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince and Haiti’s fourth-largest city, seeking to oust Aristide. The rebels have fortified Gonaives with flaming barricades, rusted cars and discarded refrigerators.
Although the rebels are still thought to number less than Haiti’s 5,000-member police force, paramilitary leaders and police living in exile in the Dominican Republic have reportedly joined them.
Two Dominican soldiers were killed on the Dominican border at Dajabon on Saturday and their weapons were taken from them. It was unclear who was responsible for the killings, but in recent days a force of 20 men led by exiled paramilitary leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain crossed the border.
Dominican President Hipolito Mejia said Sunday that authorities would arrest any Haitian suspected of taking part in the uprising who tries to enter the Dominican Republic.
Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former Haitian soldier who headed army death squads in 1987 and a militia known as the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, or FRAPH, which killed and maimed hundreds of people between 1991 and 1994, was seen in Gonaives by several witnesses.
Chamblain fled to the Dominican Republic after U.S. troops were sent to restore Aristide to power and end a bloody dictatorship in 1994.
Also spotted was Guy Philippe, a former police chief who fled to the Dominican Republic after being accused by the Haitian government of trying to organize a coup in 2002.
Witnesses reached by telephone said the men were working with rebels in Gonaives but were massing in Saint-Michel de l’Atalaye, about 28 miles to the east.
Dominican Gen. Fernando Cruz Mendez said Philippe would be arrested if he tried to re-enter the Dominican Republic.
In May, Haiti’s foreign minister visited the Dominican Republic requesting that authorities turn over Philippe. Dominican officials had detained him earlier that month but released him after finding no evidence to support claims he was plotting against Haiti’s government. No extradition treaty exists between the neighboring countries.

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