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Posted Friday, April 4, 2008
Haitians riot, loot over high food costs, call for Preval, Alexis resignation
By Johnathan Katz, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Demonstrators angry over the rising cost of living attacked a U.N. peacekeeping base Thursday and looted food stores in southern Haiti, U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian radio said.

About 5,000 people demonstrated in the southern peninsula city of Les Cayes, where protesters chanting slogans against President Rene Preval attempted to set the U.N. police base on fire and stole rice from trucks as Haitian police helplessly stood by.

Hundreds more demonstrated in the northwestern port city of Gonaives. U.N. workers were evacuated to a police base there, though protests in the coastal city remained peaceful.

At least one demonstrator was shot in the foot in Les Cayes, but there were no reports of serious injuries. Crowds were under control by late in the day, said U.N. police spokesman Fred Blaise.

Though food prices are rising worldwide, they're a particular problem in Haiti, where 80 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. Rice cost 60 cents at a Port-au-Prince market in January, up 50 percent from a year before. Beans, condensed milk and fruit went up at a similar rate, while spaghetti has doubled.

The food unrest threatens the country's fragile security, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report this week on the 9,000-member peacekeeping mission there.

Graffiti declaring "Down with the expensive life!" has proliferated throughout Port-au-Prince. Some of the most desperate Haitians depend on a traditional hunger palliative of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening to get through the day.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press

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