Saturday, April 12, 2008


[We had a reader say that food rioting would cause politicians to get out of office. I guess that reader knew his stuff!]

Haitian prime minister ousted over high food prices
Story Highlights
Parliament votes to dismiss Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, senator says

Action comes after days of rioting over high food prices

Haitian president announces deal to reduce cost of rice

Calm returning, more political changes needed, U.N. commander says

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Haiti's Parliament has voted to dismiss Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis after deadly protests over rising food prices.

Senator Gabriel Fortune said that 16 of Haiti's 27 senators voted in favor of the dismissal in Saturday's session.

The vote reflects widespread frustration over the rising cost of living in the impoverished country that sparked deadly clashes between protesters and U.N. peacekeepers earlier this week.

Earlier Saturday, President Rene Preval had pledged to support any decision the lawmakers make on Alexis.

Alexis survived a no-confidence vote over the government's handling of the economy in February. He was nominated to be prime minister in May 2006.

Preval announced a drop in the price of rice Saturday in a bid to defuse anger over rising food prices. Watch how expensive food can destabilize a country »

After meeting with food importers in the national palace, Preval said the price of a 50-pound bag of rice will drop from $51 to $43, a reduction of 15.7 percent.

The Haitian president said that the government will use international aid money to subsidize the price of rice and that the private sector has agreed to knock $3 off the price of each bag.

Preval did not say when the price reduction would go into effect.

He also said he would ask Venezuela for help, especially in providing fertilizer for struggling farmers.

The announcements come in the wake of looting and clashes between hundreds of protesters and U.N. peacekeepers this week.

Protesters blame the government for failing to create jobs and control soaring food prices, and some demonstrators called for Preval's resignation. The violence left at least five people dead.

On Saturday, U.N. military commander Maj. Gen. Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz said that calm was returning across the country, with some transportation resuming and people going back to work.

The U.N. commander said that several social, economic and political changes are still needed in Haiti to maintain the present calm and address the increased cost of living. Cruz did not provide specifics.

"It is important for the people to have a peaceful life in Haiti," he said.

Globally, food prices have risen 40 percent since mid-2007. Haiti, where most people live on less than $2 a day, is particularly affected because it imports nearly all of its food, including more than 80 percent of its rice.

Much of Haiti's once-productive farmland has been abandoned as farmers struggle to grow crops in soil decimated by erosion, deforestation, flooding and tropical storms.

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