Haiti, UN condemn disruption at parliament

AP News
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Posted: Apr 18, 2012 7:41 PM
Haiti, UN condemn disruption at parliament

Haitian officials and the United Nations envoy to the Caribbean nation condemned an episode in which about 50 men in uniform claiming to be former members of Haiti's disbanded army disrupted a legislative session, both said in statements Wednesday.

The statements come a day after about 50 men in military uniforms entered the premises of Parliament and demanded to speak to deputies about what they said were the government and police department plans to expel them from the old military camps they've occupied in the capital and countryside in recent months.

Some of the men were armed but they all left without incident. A contingent of Brazilian peacekeepers showed up to patrol the grounds outside Parliament and provide security.

Still, the armed men's presence was disruptive enough to prompt some deputies to leave hastily and end the session. A few of the lawmakers later spoke on local radio about how the remnants of the former army acted as if they were an official security force.

Samson Chery, a former sergeant and spokesman for the group, denied the men were disruptive. They were only responding, he said, to a formal invitation from deputies to meet with them. He conceded that they had carried guns but they didn't have heavy weapons.

"We didn't go down there to cause any problems," Chery said by telephone. "What people are saying on the radio has nothing to do with us."

As many as 3,500 former soldiers and their young recruits have occupied the bases in hope that President Michel Martelly will honor his campaign goal of restoring the army that was abolished in 1995 because of its bloody past. Foreign diplomats have called the men paramilitary elements as they parade around the capital and countryside with guns.

In addition to a brief statement from Martelly, the U.N. envoy to Haiti, Mariano Fernandez called the incident a "new provocation" and "an attack on the integrity of democratic institutions of sovereign countries."

Outgoing Prime Minister Garry Conille also issued a statement condemning the episode.