Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Opposition Rallies in Haiti

Police firing tear gas canisters met a crowd of more than 1,000 people demanding the resignation of Haiti’s President Rene Preval on Tuesday, according to the BBC. Opposition politicians, who are claiming that Preval is using the earthquake last January that killed more than 200,000 people as an excuse to remain in power once his term in office ends next February, led the protest. Haiti’s parliament just extended Preval’s term in office by three more months because, they say, it would be impossible to hold elections as scheduled because many government electoral records were lost and many civil servants were killed in the quake; opposition politicians though counter by saying that Haiti’s constitution makes no provisions for suspending elections due to a national crisis.

In the aftermath of the quake, many Haitians were upset by Preval’s seeming lack of leadership; some also felt that the Haitian government was allowing foreign militaries - particularly the United States’ – too free a hand in operating within their country while providing relief efforts. During Tuesday’s protest, some protestors called for the return of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was driven from power and into exile in Africa six years ago. For his part, Aristide claims that he was actually deposed by the United States in a coup d’etat for his refusal to sell off state-owned enterprises; at the time, officials from the Bush Administration countered by saying that the US military actually helped Aristide and his family escape the country ahead of an armed uprising by Haitians opposed to his rule, the US hoped, as a way to avoid a full-blown revolution in Haiti. Aristide was flown into exile first in the Central African Republic and later in South Africa. Preval was later elected to the presidency in 2006.
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