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Haiti: A Hungry and Bolder Populace

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“Down with misery and hunger!” the crowd shouted as it stormed through the northern coastal city of Cap-Haïtien last week, demanding an end to police brutality and clamoring for more food. Hundreds of people blocked the town’s entrance with boulders and then marched on the police and army headquarters. Government forces responded by firing into the crowd. The toll: three dead and more than a dozen wounded. It was only the latest clash in the most serious outbreak of social unrest in 27 years.

The violence coincides with efforts by President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier, 32, to respond to U.S. pressure to liberalize a regime that still vividly recalls the repression fostered under the rule of his late father, Francis (“Papa Doc”) Duvalier. In recent weeks Duvalier has sent letters to police and military officials, demanding that they respect due process of law and stop using torture. Ironically, the liberalization seems to have emboldened rather than placated the populace. At week’s end Duvalier announced that five ministers had been fired in a major Cabinet reshuffle.

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