Haiti rioters set deadline to install PM

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

LES CAYES, Haiti -- Slum leaders in the southern town of Les Cayes who started Haiti’s recent food riots handed lawmakers an ultimatum on Monday to install a new government within a week or face more protests.

Jean Rene Frazil, an organizer of last month’s street demonstrations, told Haitian President Rene Preval and parliament that renewed protests could be more violent than last month’s unrest across the impoverished Caribbean country.

“Preval and parliament have no more than one week to install a new prime minister and a new government,” Frazil, 28, told Reuters. “Otherwise, we’ll take to the streets again and it will be much worse than what happened during the past protests.”

Parliamentary leaders were not immediately available for comment on the threat.

At least six people were killed in April in a week of unrest that spread from Les Cayes to the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other cities. Five of the deaths occurred in Les Cayes, where rock-throwing protesters clashed with U.N. peacekeepers and looted businesses and food warehouses.

Days later, the Senate fired Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, blaming him for failing to increase national food production and lower the cost of living.

Preval nominated a possible successor, Inter-American Development Bank senior adviser Ericq Pierre, on April 27. He must be ratified by parliament.

Haiti was among a number of poor nations struck by food riots as prices for rice, beans, flour and other staples skyrocketed due to rising demand in Asia, diversion of food crops for biofuels, bad weather and market speculation.

The unrest shook Preval’s efforts to establish a stable democracy in Haiti, ravaged by political upheaval and brutal dictatorships since it overthrew French rule in a slave revolt more than 200 years ago.

On April 12 Preval announced a plan to lower the price of rice by about 15 percent. But hungry Haitians, many of whom live on less than US$2 a day, said the move was not enough.

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