News from Haiti

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Peace Promised During Haiti's Elections By STEVENSON JACOBS

Peace Promised During Haiti's Elections
The Associated Press
Thursday, February 2, 2006; 8:48 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- U.N. and Haitian authorities pledged Thursday to prevent violence from disrupting next week's elections, as an aid agency warned that fighting inside gang-controlled slums threatens to scare people away from the polls.Lt. Gen. Jose Elito Carvalho de Siqueira, the commander of U.N. peacekeepers, said international troops and police will work with Haitian authorities to make sure people can vote in the first election since a rebellion forced the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide nearly two years ago."All the voting points around the country will be safe for the vote," Elito told reporters.About 85 percent of Haiti's 4.5 million eligible voters have registered to choose a new president and legislature in Tuesday's vote to replace the interim government imposed after Aristide's ouster.Fears of violence have been stoked by clashes between peacekeepers and heavily armed gangs _ especially around Cite Soleil, a slum that is home to some 200,000 people at the northern edge of the capital.Elito said a rapid reaction force of soldiers and police would respond to disturbances."In five to 10 minutes, we'll be there in any case (of violence)," the general said.Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue promised a tough response to anyone trying to disrupt voting."We will be very firm with those who might come to disturb the good behavior of the polls," Latortue said.The British aid group Oxfam said violence in Cite Soleil and other areas was discouraging Haitians from voting next week, and called on the international community to work toward reducing the estimated 210,000 of guns in circulation in Haiti."Many residents of Port-au-Prince have told us they are too scared to make the journey to vote on Tuesday," said Yolette Etienne, an Oxfam representative in Haiti.
© 2006 The Associated Press