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Alexandre Assumes Office While Aristide Criticizes ‘Occupation’

By Susan Milligan

The Boston Globe

PORT-AU-PRINCE

President Boniface Alexandre officially assumed office in this still-unsettled nation Monday, while demonstrators outside his new office vowed they would die to restore exiled leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.

A day after a bloody shoot-out that killed seven people in an otherwise peaceful, anti-Aristide march, U.S. Marines acknowledged that they shot and killed one alleged gunman and wounded another. The shootings mark the first time U.S. troops have hurt or killed someone during their 10-day presence as peace-enforcers in Haiti.

Aristide, who fled the country in late February under immense political pressure from the United States and a looming security threat from armed rebels making their way to the capital from the north, Monday denounced what he called his “abduction” from his troubled nation.

“I am the elected president and I remain the elected president,” Aristide told reporters in his first public appearance since his exile to the Central African Republic. He appealed to his supporters to counter what he called the “occupation” of Haiti by foreign troops.

The State Department warned Aristide not to try to return. “If Mr. Aristide really wants to serve his country, he really has to, we think, let his nation get on with the future and not try to stir up the past again,” said spokesman Richard Boucher.

Haitians still expressed fear Monday after a Sunday demonstration turned from a celebratory march to a violent attack from gunmen witnesses said were perched alongside the route of the massive rally. Locals believe the shooters -- who killed six people, including a foreign journalist, and wounded more than 30 -- were members of the “chimeres,” an armed gang sympathetic to Aristide.

The downtown streets Monday were unusually quiet, and locals who did venture outside questioned the ability of the US and French troops who comprise the bulk of the multinational forces here to maintain security in post-Aristide Haiti.

Some residents said they wanted to bring back insurgency leader Guy Philippe, who pledged to US forces he would lay down his arms now that Aristide was gone. And many believe that both the foreign troops and domestic police on Sunday failed a test of their will and ability to control political or gang violence here.