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Haitians rally around cries the UN 'here to kill us'

UN makes new plea for end to Haiti unrest
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Nov 19, 2010 - The top UN envoy in Haiti on Friday called for an end to cholera protests across the country that he said were costing lives. "Every second that passes can save or break thousands of lives," Edmond Mulet, head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, said in a statement. Demonstrators must stop blocking roads, bridges and airports so that vital humanitarian assistance can reach the thousands of people affected by the epidemic, which has killed at least 1,186 people, he said. Humanitarian workers said the protests had eased a little Friday but that aid agencies were still not working in the northern city of Cap Haitien, where the major violence erupted this week.

"Oxfam was still unable to reach the area where we would like to start work in Cap Haitien," said Louis Bellanger, a New York spokesman for the aid group. "There are still some road blocks and local authorities advised us not to go in." The UN has said that the demonstrations, some of which accused the UN peacekeepers of introducing the disease to Haiti, are being "orchestrated" ahead of elections. "If this situation continues, more and more patients in desperate need of care are likely to die and more and more Haitians awaiting access to preventive care may be overtaken by the epidemic," warned Mulet, who is also the UN secretary general's special representative in Haiti. UN agencies have made several pleas for an end to the violence which they have said is threatening lives as the epidemic spreads. "If violence continues, it is the most vulnerable who will pay the price," said Myrta Kaulard, the World Food Programme (WFP) Representative in Haiti.

Four Cuban doctors sent to aid Chile quake victims defect
Santiago (AFP) Nov 19, 2010 - Four Cuban doctors who came to Chile to provide assistance in the days following a devastating February earthquake have decided not to return home with their delegation, Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno said Friday. The four health sector workers, Moreno told reporters, "have not requested asylum or protection, but have simply chosen to stay and try to find work in Chile." He said the decision on whether the Cubans will stay or leave "is up to the Interior Ministry." Earlier, when an aid group said only three Cubans had defected, Chile Solidarity with Cuba spokesman Dagoberto Hernandez told Radio Cooperativa that they included an emergency physician, a trauma specialist and an anesthesiologist. Hernandez said one of the doctors had informed him via email, calling it a "painful decision." "We do not agree with how they are going about this, because there are mechanisms for immigrating to Chile, but we understand the personal reasons behind the decision," Hernandez said.

Cuba's Ambassador to Chile Ileana Diaz-Arguelles downplayed the incident. "For those who have decided not to return to their homeland, it is a personal decision, but what is important is that most people return," she said. "What's really important, is the accomplishment of most of the (Cuban) delegation that came here to lend a hand," the ambassador added. The four physicians were part of a 1,600-strong contingent of doctors that former Cuban president Fidel Castro assembled in 2005 to aid US flood victims after Hurricane Katrina. Washington declined the aid. Twenty-seven Cuban doctors were sent to Chile following the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck on February 27, triggering a huge tsunami that swept away entire coastal villages. The twin disasters killed more than 500 people and caused some 30 billion dollars in damage. The rest of the Cuban doctors were expected to return to their country on Friday.
by Staff Writers
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Nov 19, 2010
Rioting has spread to the Haitian capital where hundreds of people clashed with UN troops they blamed for a worsening cholera epidemic.

Stone-throwing youths raced Thursday through the rubble-strewn streets of fetid camps built for earthquake survivors as UN peacekeepers in armored trucks fired tear gas on the crowds in running clashes that lasted several hours.

Sporadic gunfire echoed through the quake-ravaged streets of the capital as demonstrators blocked roads with burning tires and dumpsters overflowing with rotting garbage.

"The UN came here to kill us, to poison us," shouted Alexis Clerius, a 40-year-old farmer, as he erected a barricade in the main Champ de Mars square.

Organizers had urged people to vent their anger at the United Nations and Haitian authorities over the cholera outbreak, which has killed more than 1,100 people since it began in late October.

The powder keg situation stems from claims the cholera emanated from septic tanks at a base for Nepalese UN peacekeepers in central Haiti, leaking into the Artibonite River, where locals drink, wash clothes and bathe.

The UN says it tested some of the Nepalese and found no trace of cholera, while health officials say it is impossible to know and the focus must be on containing the epidemic and not divining its source.

President Rene Preval has pleaded for calm and denounced unnamed groups for taking advantage of the cholera to stir tension ahead of November 28 national elections to choose his successor.

But anger, fueled by rumor, was running high in Port-au-Prince and in northern Haiti, the epicenter of the cholera outbreak and where deadly riots first broke out earlier this week, leaving three people dead.

"It's all [the United Nation's] fault. We know the Nepalese were sloppy and that's why we're sick, and now they are being bullies," said Seraphine Macoult, 36, a teacher whose daughter was a cholera patient at a medical center in northwest Haiti.

The UN peacekeeping force MINUSTAH has warned people not to be manipulated by "enemies of stability and democracy."

But in the poorest country in the Americas -- even before the January earthquake shook the capital to rubble and killed 250,000 people -- MINUSTAH is a highly visible presence and a target of widespread frustration.

"There is no infrastructure, no education. Cholera is ravaging the people and the president says nothing," said Ladiou Novembre, a 38-year-old secondary school teacher who joined the scattered demonstrations in Port-au-Prince.

"MINUSTAH should be keeping peace in the country, but instead they make things worse. MINUSTAH is killing Haitians."

Hundreds of rock-throwing youths attacked one open-top truck carrying members of the UN force.

The international peacekeepers pointed guns at the youths and one briefly fell out of the vehicle under a volley of stones before managing to climb back in.

Protesters shouted slogans like: "Cholera: It's MINUSTAH who gave it to us!" and "MINUSTAH, Go home!" One placard read: "MINUSTAH is spreading shit in the street."

The unrest is especially worrying as the UN peacekeepers are scheduled to help organize and preside over the elections.

Aid workers say the violence in the north is hampering efforts to treat cholera victims and stop the spread of the disease, which officials warn could kill 10,000 people over the next 12 months if it continues unabated.

US health experts warned on Thursday that the epidemic was unpredictable and repeated outbreaks could wreak havoc for years to come.

"The Haitian population has no preexisting immunity to cholera, and environmental conditions in Haiti are favorable for its continued spread," the the US-based Centers for Disease Control said in a progress report.

More than 18,000 people have been infected by the diarrhea-causing illness since the outbreak began last month.

One isolated case has been found in the neighboring Dominican Republic and a second in the US state of Florida -- both from people who traveled from Haiti. Dominican authorities are investigating a possible second case.

Health officials fear cholera could spread like wildfire if it infiltrates squalid relocation camps around the capital where hundreds of thousands of quake refugees live in cramped and unsanitary conditions.

Most deaths have been in central and northern Haiti, with the disease not yet widespread in the capital.

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