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Aristide supporters berate Martelly

Several thousand supporters of two-time president Jean-Bertrand Aristide have filled the streets of Haiti's capital on the eighth anniversary of his ousting, accusing the country's current leader of not doing enough to improve their lives.

It was the largest demonstration against President Michel Martelly since he took office in May, and pointed to mounting political strife between the president and his critics as the country struggles to rebuild from the 2010 earthquake.

The size of the crowd also hinted at the level of support for Mr Aristide, a former slum priest turned politician who still wields influence since returning to Haiti last year after seven years of exile in South Africa.

"Martelly said he would bring change; instead he's bringing division," protester Rene Augustin said with Haiti's red-and-blue flag wrapped around his head.

The demonstrators also called for the departure of Haiti's United Nations peacekeeping mission.

The protest came at a time when the mood in the country feels precarious and abounds with tension.

Last Friday, prime minister Garry Conille suddenly resigned from his post after just four months because of infighting with Mr Martelly. Mr Conille is staying on until parliament ratifies a successor, a process that could take weeks.

Mr Conille's resignation led Western diplomats to press for a nominated successor but more political agitation ensued.

Two days ago, a lawyer who claimed to represent Mr Aristide told a local radio station that the government was preparing to investigate the former president on criminal charges. Haiti's justice minister denied that and Mr Aristide's lawyer in Miami said he did not know the man who made the announcement. But the claim was enough to put Aristide supporters on edge.

"We're telling Martelly to be careful," said protester Jean-Claude Jeanty. "If the government plans to arrest him, we're going to burn the country down."


From Belfast Telegraph