ABC NEWS Haiti: President Fails to Restore Order

Claudy - April 9 2008, 8:50 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti Apr 9, 2008 Haitian President's Calls for Tax Cuts Fails to Halt Violence and Looting Over Food Prices.ORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- A desperate appeal from the president Wednesday failed to restore order to Haiti's shattered capital, and bands of looters sacked stores, warehouses and government offices.

Police officers disperse demonstrators in Port-au-Prince, Wednesday, April 09, 2008. Haiti's...

Police officers disperse demonstrators in Port-au-Prince, Wednesday, April 09, 2008. Haiti's President Rene Preval is calling on Haitians to quit riots over high food prices, telling them "I'm giving you orders to stop." In his first public remarks since the unrest began last week, Preval told Haitians that the soaring food prices are a global phenomenon.

Gunfire rang out from the wealthy suburbs in the hills to the starving slums below as 9,000 U.N. peacekeepers were unable to halt a frenzy of looting and violence that has grown out of protests over rising food prices.

Many of the protesters are demanding the resignation of the U.S.-backed president, Rene Preval, and on Tuesday U.N. peacekeepers had to fire rubber bullets and tear gas to drive away a mob that tried to storm his palace.

He delivered his first public comments Wednesday, nearly a week into the protests.

With his job on the line, Preval urged Congress to cut taxes on imported food and appealed to the rioters to go home.
"The solution is not to go around destroying stores," he said. "I'm giving you orders to stop."
But gunfire rang out around the palace after the speech, as peacekeepers tried to drive away people looting surrounding stores.

The streets remained in the control of bands of young men carrying sticks and rocks, who set up roadblocks of burning tires and stopped passing cars. Businesses were closed and most people locked themselves indoors, as mobs looted stores, warehouses and government offices.

Black smoke billowed over the city as protesters set tires ablaze.

Sustained gunfire was heard throughout Petionville, where many diplomats and foreigners live, and in Martissant, a lawless slum west of downtown.

On the road to the airport, groups of protesters surrounded makeshift barricades and threw rocks at passing cars.

Looters could be seen sacking a supermarket and several gas-station mini-marts.

Radio stations reported looters also sacked a government rice warehouse outside Port-au-Prince and the office of Petionville's mayor.

Protests were reported Wednesday throughout Haiti.

In the northern city of Cap-Haitien, bandits tried to steal food from the warehouse of the U.N. World Food Program, peacekeepers' spokeswoman Sophie Boutaud de la Combe said. Protesters also burned tires in Ouanaminthe, on the border with the Dominican Republic, and hundreds marched peacefully in the western port of St. Marc


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