After a week of plunder and violence, the president of this poor Caribbean country, Rene Preval, Wednesday ordered his countrymen to stop the destruction or face a severe police crackdown. ( dpa )
"I'm giving you orders to stop," Preval said in an address broadcast nationwide on radio and television. "The national police will no longer tolerate acts of violence and plunder."
Haiti's public transport, offices, businesses, schools and embassies remained closed Wednesday in the wake of nearly a week of violent protests against rising food prices. The day began quietly, but by afternoon, there were break-ins and destruction in the wealthier quarters of time.
At least five people have died and dozens were injured in clashes with police, but on Wednesday, the Haitian police as well as the UN's stabilization troops held back from steps against the renewed demonstrations.
Preval rejected calls for his resignation but hinted at a restructuring of his cabinet and promised to seek a long-term solution to the problematic of climbing food prices.
Worst hit by the soaring prices have been the staple crops of beans, rice and maize.
In New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon deplored the wave of violence against the UN mission in Haiti and against government and private facilities.
Ban expressed concern at the situation and loss of life, and appealed for calm and restraint from the demonstrators.
"The secretary general expresses his sympathy for the suffering that the Haitian people are enduring as a result of rising food and fuel prices," he said in a statement read by spokeswoman Marie Okabe.
"The secretary emphasizes that the UN mission and system in Haiti will continue to support the Haitian authorities to bring emergency relief assistance to the Haitian people and to maintain public order," the statement said.
The UN mission in Haiti, with more than 1,000 peacekeeping troops, has been assisting the government to restore order and security since 2004, and to build democratic institutions.
The UN Security Council on Tuesday gave support to Haiti's proposed international conference aimed at improving its political, social and economic conditions, which are described as improving under difficult conditions.
The international conference on April 25 in Port-au-Prince is sought by the government to tackle the challenges of development. Ban was also preparing a plan to assist Haiti with benchmarks to measures progress.
On Tuesday, the protestors had built street barricades, forced their way into banks and stores, broke windows, plundered supermarkets and set fire to hundreds of autos.
The unrest began last Thursday in Les Cayes in southern Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries. The government has blamed organize drug gangs for provoking the unrest.
Haiti has suffered decades of coups, counter-coups and dictatorships which have pushed the country into political and economic ruin.