- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 3, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti | Twenty armed men blocked a road and tried to hijack a convoy of food for earthquake victims, but were driven off by police gunfire, U.N. officials said Tuesday as they warned of security problems in a still-desperate nation.

The attack on the convoy as it carried supplies from an airport in the southern town of Jeremie underscored the shaky safety in the streets that has added to Haitians’ frustration at the slow pace of aid since the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Most quake victims are still living outside in squalid tents of sheets and sticks, and aid officials acknowledge they have not yet gotten food to the majority of those in need. Mobs have stolen food and looted goods from their neighbors in the camps, prompting many to band together or stay awake at night to prevent raids.

About 20 armed men blockaded a street Saturday and attacked a convoy carrying food from the airport in Jeremie, according to U.N. spokesman Vicenzo Pugliese. U.N. and Haitian officers fired warning gunshots, and the men fled the scene, Mr. Pugliese said. No injuries were reported, and no one was hurt.

Haitian police have increased their own patrols and are accompanying U.N. police guarding aid distribution.

“The overall security situation across the country remains stable, but potentially volatile,” the U.N. mission said in a statement Tuesday.

In Jacmel, also a southern city, 33 escaped prisoners were apprehended Sunday, the U.N. said. Many prisoners escaped when prisons collapsed.

While Haitians are still mourning friends and relatives, many still unburied, anger at the government’s sluggish response to the quake is feeding political resentment.

About 40 protesters gathered outside the Haitian government’s temporary headquarters, holding placards to demand pay for state workers. Many who had jobs before the earthquake can’t return to work because buildings have collapsed.

Hundreds gathered Monday at a gravel pit in Titanyen, where countless earthquake victims have been dumped, turning a remembrance ceremony for the dead into one of the first organized political rallies since the disaster.

Many denounced President Rene Preval and called for the return of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

“Preval has done nothing for this country, nothing for the victims,” said Jean Delcius, 54, who was bused to the memorial service by Mr. Aristide’s development foundation. “We need someone new to take charge here. If it’s not Aristide, then someone competent.”

Mr. Preval has rarely been seen in public since, leaving Prime Minister Max Bellerive to defend the government’s performance Tuesday as Haiti’s Senate met in a prefabricated room at the police academy because its own building collapsed in the quake.

Haiti’s government also has had to deal with the 10 Americans who tried to take a busload of undocumented Haitian children out of the country. The Idaho-based church group was being held without charges at a police station as officials debated what to do with them.

Mr. Bellerive has said they could be prosecuted in the United States because Haiti’s shattered court system may not be able to cope with a trial. U.S. Embassy officials would not say if a U.S. court process is possible.

Across the capital, Haitians have voiced anger over the hasty burials of earthquake victims.

Many Haitians believe that bodies must be properly buried and remembered by relatives and family so their spirits can pass on to heaven. In voodoo, some believe that improper burials can trap spirits between two worlds.

The mourners on Monday gathered near a white metal cross erected on a mound of gravel that covered nameless bodies dropped into a pit by dump trucks. The corpse of a woman lay uncovered at the base of a nearby gravel pile.

One by one, people tied black pieces of cloth to the cross as a Catholic priest sprinkled the ground with holy water. A choir sang traditional Haitian hymns as religious leaders prayed for the dead.

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