Haiti needs more police for elections-minister

By Robert Melnbardis

MONTREAL, June 17 (Reuters) - Haiti needs thousands more police to boost security ahead of elections that are just some three months away, the violence-torn Caribbean country's foreign minister said on Friday.

"The ideal for us, as to security for the October and November elections, would be 18,000 police," Herard Abraham, Haiti's minister of foreign affairs, told reporters.

"Actually, we have about 5,000. We are pressing ahead to train 2,000 police so we will have 7,000 available for the elections," he added.

Abraham made his comments after a two-day conference on international assistance for Haiti as it prepares to hold presidential, legislative and municipal elections in October and November.

Elections Canada, which runs federal and provincial elections in Canada, has been chosen to oversee an election observer mission to the impoverished Caribbean country of 8 million.

Haitian authorities say political and criminal violence has killed at least 770 people in the country since September, many in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The violence, which includes a rash of kidnappings of middle-class workers for ransom, has escalated since the ouster in a bloody rebellion of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.

"People are really being killed in Haiti," said Juan Gabriel Valdes, special representative of the UN for Haiti.

"They are working people who are going to their factories to try to maintain the economic effort."

A protester disrupted the Montreal news conference when he splattered Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew with what appeared to be red paint.

"You have the blood of Haitians on your hands," the protester shouted.

Pettigrew's hands and clothes were covered with paint, forcing him to leave the conference as security guards wrestled the young male protester out of the room.

Pettigrew returned minutes later to resume his address and field questions from reporters.

While the conference was going on at a downtown hotel, protesters chanted anti-Canadian slogans outside, accusing Canada of condoning violence through its support of the government of Haiti's interim prime minister, Gerard Latortue.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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