Aristide supporter says marches planned for March

AP News
Posted: Mar 01, 2012 6:09 PM
Aristide supporter says marches planned for March

Supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide are planning rallies this month to demonstrate the power of his Lavalas party and protest Haiti's current government, a longtime Aristide ally said Thursday.

Rene Civil said the marches, including one next week, aim to mark special occasions such as the day Aristide returned last year from seven years in exile.

"We know that we are still the majority and we are going to keep showing that we are the majority," Civil said by phone. "Lavalas is the only party able to do that."

The planned street marches come one day after several thousand Aristide supporters surprised Haitians by showing the level of support he still has in the shanty strongholds where he built his following as a young priest.

Aristide has kept out of the public spotlight since he came back last year and his absence has fueled speculation over what he may be up to.

His supporters had previously held a few rallies on his behalf but turnout usually drew no more than a couple hundred people.

But Wednesday's rally marked the largest demonstration against President Michel Martelly since he took office in May. It signaled that Aristide and his political party still have influence.

"Lavalas is always on the street," said opposition legislator Arnel Belizaire. "We lost our power by our mistakes. Today we prove we're no longer divided."

Civil, Aristide's ally, said further demonstrations are planned for March 8, a day to honor women worldwide; the 18th, the anniversary of Aristide's return; and the 29th, the day Haiti signed its constitution in 1987.

Aristide's name surfaced earlier this week after a lawyer named Newton Saint-Juste told a local radio station that he had heard, without offering evidence, that Martelly's government planned to pursue a criminal investigation against the former president. The justice minister denied the claim and Aristide's longtime attorney in Miami said he didn't know Saint-Juste.

While trouble grew on the Aristide front, Martelly sought on Thursday to deal with a headache elsewhere. Senate President Simon Dieuseul Desras told The Associated Press that Martelly's office had nominated Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Lamothe to be Haiti's new prime minister.

The move came almost a week after outgoing Prime Minister Garry Conille suddenly resigned because of infighting with Martelly, throwing Haiti into political paralysis and threatening to derail efforts to rebuild from the 2010 earthquake.

The 39-year-old Lamothe is a close friend of Martelly and ran a telecommunications business before helping the former entertainer on his election campaign and then joining his administration. Lamothe is also co-chairman of the government's economic advisory board.

Parliament must still ratify Lamothe, which could prove difficult because Martelly has few allies in the legislature.

Martelly wasn't able to form a government until October because his first two nominees for prime minister were rejected by lawmakers.