New Haitian leader arrives as violence continues

Gerard Latortue, the man chosen to lead Haiti out of political and social turmoil, arrived in Port-au-Prince to begin the arduous task of building a transitional government and eventually organising elections.

Gerard Latortue, the man chosen to lead Haiti out of political and social turmoil, arrived in Port-au-Prince to begin the arduous task of building a transitional government and eventually organising elections.

After walking off the plane last night, Latortue shook hands with police officers and embraced relatives and friends. He was also greeted by members of the council who chose him to be the new prime minister.

Once critical of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, he has said his first priority will be to unite a population divided between those who oppose the former leader and supporters who want to see him returned to power.

Aristide fled on February 29 amid international pressure to step down and a bloody rebellion that left more than 300 dead.

The once-popular slum priest, elected on promises to champion the poor, lost support as Haitians accused his government of corruption and attacks against his political opponents.

United States marines killed two Haitians who allegedly opened fire near the outgoing prime minister’s private residence, a spokesman said today.

It was the third fatal shooting by peacekeepers fighting to regain control of the lawless Caribbean nation.

Since Sunday, Marines have killed at least four Haitians, including a driver who sped up while approaching a checkpoint and a gunman who opened fire on an anti-Aristide demonstration.

The latest fatalities, which occurred late on Tuesday in an Aristide stronghold, show the difficulties peacekeepers face as they try to disarm rebel groups and Aristide militants.

US marines had planned to begin helping Haitian police collect weapons today, but the disarmament programme had not begun for reasons that were unclear.

Instead, Marines said they spent much of Tuesday evening exchanging fire with militants in Aristide strongholds.

Staff Sergeantt Timothy Edwards said Marines were patrolling near the private residence of outgoing Prime Minister Yvon Neptune when they came under “hostile fire”.

He said they then shot and killed at least two gunmen. No peacekeepers were wounded.

The bodies of the gunmen were not recovered, which has become common. Peacekeepers must call health authorities to collect the remains, but family members sometimes take bodies away before they can be reported.

Hundreds of dead fill Port-au-Prince’s morgue, many unidentified and unclaimed.

Later, Neptune’s home came under fire, but no one was injured.

In a separate shooting, US Major Richard Crusan said several people got out of a car late on Tuesday and opened fire on marines, who shot back. Three people then fled on foot, Crusan said.

A body was still on the pavement early yesterday near where the shooting occurred. But Crusan and others refused to say whether the person, who had been shot in the head, could have been involved.

Many Aristide supporters were angry over the decision on Tuesday to name Latortue as the country’s new prime minister.

“He doesn’t understand the reality of the country,” said Jacques Pierre, a 49-year-old Aristide supporter. “He doesn’t understand our hunger.”

Latortue, a former United Nations official and foreign minister, has spent the past 18 years in exile in Florida, where he has been critical of Aristide. He said the former leader’s police were politicised and the courts were corrupt.

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