Former soldiers clash with protesters in Haiti; 1 dead
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A band of former Haitian soldiers clashed Friday with a far larger gathering of anti-government demonstrators in the troubled country’s capital, resulting in the killing of an ex-member of the abolished military amid an ongoing political crisis.
About 100 veterans of Haiti’s disbanded military and some younger supporters paraded through downtown streets of Port-au-Prince on Friday. A number wore faded green uniforms and carried rifles and pistols.
When the ragtag group of ex-soldiers in pickup trucks passed near an anti-government protest with a couple thousand participants the two sides shouted insults. Some protesters hurled rocks at them, prompting a few former soldiers to fire their weapons. It was not clear if any protesters were wounded.
A group of young men rushed the ex-soldiers, who sped off. But one veteran, identified as former army captain Neroce Ciceron, was caught and battered repeatedly with rocks. As he lay dying on the street, Associated Press journalists saw a couple of anti-government protesters remove his boots, lace them together and throw them up on a utility line. They also took his rusty .38 caliber pistol.
The deadly protest comes as President Michel Martelly is scheduled to leave office Sunday. He has no successor since elections were postponed indefinitely amid violent opposition protests and suspicions of electoral fraud. Politicians have been trying to negotiate an interim government to replace him, but nothing has been agreed upon so far.
Groups of excited young men lingered around the blood-stained pavement for up to an hour after an ambulance took the ex-soldier’s body away.
“This soldier got what he deserved. They used to kill the people. Today, it was him,” said Wilsen Bell, a protester who had a card with a photo of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide stuck to his forehead.
Haiti’s military was abolished in 1995 under Aristide because of its history of toppling governments and crushing dissent. Small groups of veterans have long complained that they’re owed money in pensions and lost wages and have occasionally taken to the streets in protest in recent years.
Martelly repeatedly pledged to revive Haiti’s military to protect the border, coastlines and the country’s few remaining forests. It would require a vote by Parliament to officially reconstitute an army.
On the street where the ex-soldier was killed, a passerby said the former army members were foolish for ramping up tensions during the unresolved political crisis.
“It’s really not necessary for them to be out here. We have enough going on as it is,” said Wilsone Derival, a security guard who was walking home from work.
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