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Rioting over Haiti cholera outbreak spreads

Associated Press / November 17, 2010

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Anti-UN riots spread to several Haitian cities and towns, as protesters blaming a contingent of Nepalese peacekeepers for a deadly outbreak of cholera exchanged gunfire with UN soldiers. Protesters continued to barricade some roads yesterday.

The protests left at least two people dead. A demonstrator was shot dead by a UN peacekeeper during an exchange of gunfire in Quartier Morin, near Haiti’s second-largest city of Cap-Haitien, the United Nations mission said. It said it was investigating the shooting but asserted the soldier acted in self-defense.

Health officials say cholera has now killed more than 1,000 people in Haiti.

The country’s health ministry made the announcement yesterday, setting the official death toll at 1,034.

The figures are dated Sunday and were presented after two days of review.

Aid workers say official figures may understate the epidemic. Although the ministry of health says more than 16,700 people have been hospitalized nationwide, Doctors Without Borders reports that its clinics alone have treated more than 12,000.

Haiti’s Senate president, Kelly Bastien, told Radio Vision 2000 that a second demonstrator was shot and killed in Cap-Haitien. He did not know who shot him.

The 12,000-member force reported that at least six UN personnel were wounded in protests at Hinche in the central plateau, while local Radio Metropole reported that at least 12 Haitians were injured in Cap-Haitien.

The protests apparently began in Cap-Haitien early Monday and within hours had paralyzed much of the northern port city. A television cameraman trying to reach the area was repelled by protesters throwing rocks and bottles from a barricade.

As the day went on, other protests broke out in surrounding towns and the central plateau. Local reporters said a police station was burned in Cap-Haitien and rocks thrown at peacekeeping bases.

A small protest was also reported in the northwestern city of Gonaives, but UN police said it ended peacefully.

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti dismissed the protests as politically motivated, linking them to the fast-approaching Nov. 28 presidential elections.

Officials said investigations to determine whether the protesters’ suspicions are correct will have to wait.

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