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Posted Saturday, December 29, 2007
A reduced number of deposed totalitarian dictator Aristide, tainted by serious charges of grand corruption, supporters demand economic relief and apparent deranged leader return
By The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide marched through the heart of Port-au-Prince on Friday, protesting high food prices and demanding their former leader be allowed to return.

About 300 people followed drummers through the hilly streets of the Haitian capital, weaving through traffic, blowing horns and chanting, "Aristide will come back, hallelujah!"

Members of Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas Party led the march and said their support was waning for current President Rene Preval, a former protege of their ousted leader.

Protesters also decried the impoverished country's high cost of living, as food prices soar on rising fuel costs and weakened agricultural output after a devastating hurricane season.

"The country is crying. There is no food, and our leader is gone," said Jean Roland, an unemployed 40-year-old who said he can not afford to feed his two daughters.

Escorted by Haitian police and a jeep packed with U.N. peacekeeping troops, the protesters marched from Aristide's former church through the impoverished Bel Air neighborhood and on to the capital's center.

"We said to Preval, 'We'll vote for you, but you have to bring back Aristide,'" said Frantz Legros, a 27-year-old supporter. "After two years we expect something to happen."

The march is the first by Aristide supporters in six months, and it drew fewer participants than similar protests earlier this year. It follows comments last week by Aristide, who criticized Haiti's 2006 general election and hinted at returning in a widely broadcast speech recorded in South Africa, where he is in exile.

Aristide fled Haiti amid a 2004 uprising after years of turmoil and violence. He has since accused the U.S. of kidnapping him in a coup, which U.S. officials deny.

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