By David McFadden
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti _ Several thousand supporters of Haitian opposition factions marched through the capital’s congested streets Friday chanting calls for the president’s removal amid political uncertainty accompanying the dissolution of parliament.
Blowing horns made of sheet metal and banging drums, protesters passed through a cluster of poor neighbourhoods around downtown Port-au-Prince as they built up their numbers on their way toward the former National Palace, which crumbled in Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.
Many carried photos of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and declared allegiance to the Fanmi Lavalas party founded by the popular but also polarizing figure.
“If Aristide were in power we Haitians could get things accomplished. But Haiti is not united now and the international community is trying to control what happens here,” said Isme Dessaline, an unemployed tailor who fastened a dozen small pictures of the twice-elected, twice-deposed Aristide to his dreadlocks.
The march was the latest in a series of demonstrations demanding President Michel Martelly leave office before his term expires next year. Like most other recent anti-government protests, this one was dispersed by riot police with tear gas and water sprayed from armoured vehicles near barricades set up to prevent marchers from reaching the palace site’s gates.
After the protesters scattered, Martelly gave a speech on the grounds of the former palace saying a consensus government would be announced in the next 48 hours. He said a new electoral council would be in place before the end of next week and would immediately start organizing long-delayed legislative and municipal elections.
“I reaffirm my commitment to make every effort for the realization of honest, credible and participatory elections,” he said.
Haiti is operating without a parliament in large part because a group of six opposition lawmakers blocked legislation authorizing parliamentary elections before the terms of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies expired Monday.
Earlier Friday, Martelly spoke by phone with U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden about elections, quake reconstruction and development. The White House said Biden offered U.S. support for Martelly, saying he made important concessions in his attempt to reach a consensus among Haiti’s political parties before parliament dissolved.
During the protest, many marchers expressed anger at Washington and other governments that are supporting Martelly. One protester stopped a car carrying a group of non-Haitians and spray-painted “Down Pamela White” on the hood, referring to the U.S. ambassador to Haiti.
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