Page last updated at 20:46 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 21:46 UK

Calm returns to Haiti after riots

UN Brazilian peacekeepers in Port-au-Prince, 10 April, 2008
UN peacekeepers have fired rubber bullets to disperse angry crowds

A tentative calm has returned to the streets of Haiti, after a week of riots over food-price increases that left at least five people dead.

But the government has been criticised by opposition politicians for not doing enough to prevent the unrest.

UN peacekeepers fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters in the capital Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.

AFP reported that three peacekeepers had been injured when they came under fire from unknown gunmen in the city.

Haiti's President Rene Preval had called for Haitian police and around 9,000 UN peacekeepers stationed on the island to put an end to the rioting, which had started in the south and quickly spread to the capital.

By Thursday, crowds around the city's presidential palace had dispersed and barricades of burning tyres that had paralysed the capital were dismantled.

Too little, too late

But although the president floated the possibility of increased production of rice, beans and other staple foods to reduce the half-island state's dependence on imports, the opposition politicians said they wanted more action.

Sixteen of the Caribbean country's 27 senators demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis.

"The proposals of the president, as good as they may be for the future of the country, do not solve the immediate problems of the population," they wrote.

Haitians run through the streets during protests against the rising cost of living in Port-au-Prince on 8 April, 2008
Haitians ran through the streets protesting against high food prices

"Too little, too late. That's the feeling that your proposals have provoked.

"It is obvious that the majority of the people don't believe any more in the capacity of your government to take courageous measures to ease the misery that the population is facing daily."

Mr Preval made a national address on television and radio on Wednesday, saying that violence "is not going to solve the problem" in Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries.

In recent months, it has become common among Haiti's poor to use the expression "grangou klowox" or "eating bleach", to describe the daily hunger pains people face, because of the burning feeling in their stomachs.

Global food prices have on average nearly doubled since mid-2007, with rice costs rising even more. Energy costs have also risen.

Haitians - most of whom earn no more than $2 (1) a day - now say they are struggling to feed themselves.

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The protests in Haiti

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