- Associated Press - Monday, November 15, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI (AP) - Protesters who hold U.N. soldiers from Nepal responsible for a deadly outbreak of cholera that has killed nearly 1,000 people barricaded Haiti’s second-largest city on Monday, burning cars and stoning a peacekeeping base.

The protesters also blame the Nepalese unit there for the death of a Haitian youth at the base in August.

Demonstrations began in Cap-Haitien about 6 a.m. local time and within hours paralyzed much of the northern port city, national television reporter Johnny Joseph told The Associated Press by phone. An AP television cameraman trying to reach the area was repelled late Monday by protesters throwing rocks and bottles from a barricade.

Protesters have also targeted other U.N. bases and Haitian national police stations in the city. Haitian radio reported a police substation was burned.

U.N. soldiers and Haitian police fired tear gas and projectiles to disperse at least 1,000 protesters at the Nepalese base, Haitian radio reported. Joseph said a Haitian was killed in the melee, but had no details and the report could not be immediately confirmed.

At least 12 Haitians have been injured, Radio Metropole reported. There have been no reports of injuries to U.N. personnel or other foreigners.

“We remain very concerned about the volatile situation in Cap-Haitien,” U.N. mission spokesman Vincenzo Pugliese said.

He blamed political actors for stoking the unrest. “It looks like the demonstration began in three or four parts in the city in a simultaneous way that means it was planned ahead or organized,” he said.

Radio Kiskeya reported an anti-U.N. protest in the central town of Hinche. The station reported six Nepalese peacekeepers were injured by rocks, but the U.N. mission said it had no reports of injuries to its personnel on Monday.

A small protest was also reported in the northwestern city of Gonaives, about halfway between Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince. U.N. police said it ended peacefully on Monday afternoon.

The protest comes as Haiti approaches national elections on Nov. 28. The cholera backlash is rooted both in fear of a disease previously unknown to Haiti and internationally shared suspicion that the U.N. base could have been a source of the infection.

A case of cholera had never before been documented in Haiti before it broke out about three weeks ago. Transmitted by feces, the disease can be all but prevented if people have access to safe drinking water and regularly wash their hands.

President Rene Preval addressed the nation on Sunday to dispel myths and educate people on good sanitation and hygiene.

But sanitary conditions don’t exist in much of Haiti, and more than 14,600 people have hospitalized as the disease has spread across the countryside and to nearly all the country’s major population centers, including the capital, Port-au-Prince. Doctors Without Borders and other medical aid groups have expressed concern that the outbreak could eventually sicken hundreds of thousands of people.

The suspicions surround a Nepalese base located several hours south of Cap-Haitien on the Artibonite River system, where the outbreak started. The soldiers arrived there in October following outbreaks in their home country and about a week before Haiti’s epidemic was discovered.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the strain now ravaging the country matched a strain specific to South Asia, but said they had not pinpointed its origin or how it arrived in Haiti.

Following an Associated Press investigation, the U.N. acknowledged that there were sanitation problems at the base, but says its soldiers were not responsible for the outbreak. No formal or independent investigation has taken place despite calls from Haitian human-rights groups and U.S. health care experts.

In the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, health officials banned used clothing from being sold in outdoor markets along the shared border as a precautionary measure to stop the disease’s spread.

Last week, Dominican health authorities set up hand-washing stations, makeshift clinics, and latrines near vendor stalls on the border between the two countries. On Monday, Health Minister Bautista Rojas added to the safety measures by prohibiting market vendors from selling used clothing and shoes.

(This version CORRECTS day of week in paragraph 3)

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