CSMS Magazine StaffThousands of demonstrators descended to the streets of Port-au-Prince on Saturday, demanding the return of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide while marching toward Haiti’s National Palace, pushing past riot police in a dramatic show of force. According to Associated Press, some 3,000 protesters filled the street outside the palace, accusing Préval as a liar for reneging on his own promises, including the promise to bring former president Jean Bertrand Aristide back to Haiti. Haitian police were out in full force to prevent things from getting out of hands. Helmeted police wielding batons and riot shields formed a human chain to keep protesters from approaching the whitewashed National Palace, Préval’s official residence, which was guarded by dozens of U.N. peacekeepers in armored cars. A standoff took place when police pushed back several protesters, but the confrontation did not turn to violence. Still, the show of force prompted many to turn back, fearful of a clash, according to AP. “If there’s blood it will be on your hands!” a man yelled at police before they yielded. “We voted for Préval on the condition that he bring back Aristide. That’s the will of the people,” said Bruce Pierre Richard, 21. Préval, who has said that Haiti’s constitution allows Aristide to return, has not moved on that direction since he took office; nor did he say whether he would welcome him home. Préval was prime minister under Aristide but the two grew apart and Préval has said little since his election about his former political mentor. That has frustrated Aristide supporters. Many observers believe that the Haitian president does not have much leverage in getting Aristide back into the country—something he himself fears. An Aristide return would have the potential to destabilize his government. The United States has warned Aristide’s return could destabilize the Caribbean country. “The international community doesn’t want Aristide to come back, so they’re pressuring Préval to keep him out,” said demonstrator Harold Lafaliese, 40. There has been a surge in the violence in Port-au-Prince; something that U.N. officials say is aimed at undermining Préval’s new government. CSMS Magazine has learned that most of the violence has been blamed on warring street gangs, including last week’s massacre of 22 civilians in Port-au-Prince’s Martissant slum. Last week, rumors spread that Préval had died. Telephone lines were cut at Port-au-Prince’s international airport and the downtown district was off limit to civilians. We, in CSMS Magazine, believe that the violence in Haiti will continue until the hellish conditions in which the Haitian masses are subjected to disappear. Many are using Aristide as a front to get to Préval, and only a dramatic change of the current social and economic conditions will change things around.
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