April 27, 2008 / 7:08 PM / 11 years ago

New prime minister nominated in Haiti after riots

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By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE, April 27 (Reuters) - Haitian President Rene Preval named a new prime minister on Sunday after lawmakers fired his predecessor to quell violent protests ignited by rising food prices in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Preval named Ericq Pierre, a senior adviser with the Inter-American Development Bank, to replace former Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, lawmakers said.

Alexis was dismissed on April 12 in a vote by opposition senators who blamed him for failing to boost food production and reduce the cost of living. His departure followed a week of riots and looting over food prices in the poorest nation in the Americas.

The violence claimed at least six people, including a Nigerian with the 9,000-member U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti.

Pierre's appointment was first confirmed to Reuters by Kelly Bastien, head of the country's Senate. It still must be ratified by Haiti's parliament.

Preval huddled with Pierre in the presidential residence on Sunday to discuss various issues, including ways of speeding the ratification process, according to a source close to the presidential palace.

The source did not elaborate but, as part of the process, Pierre must provide parliament with copies of the birth certificate of his grandmother or grandfather to establish their Haitian nationality.

Pierre failed to provide either document in 1997 when Preval made his first effort to name him prime minister while serving in his own first term as president.

Public unrest has struck several countries as bad weather, competition with biofuels, market speculation and rising demand in Asia send the price of many staples soaring.

The president of Haiti's lower house of parliament, Pierre Eric Jean-Jacques, told Reuters Preval's decision to designate the new prime minister was welcome.

"The country has been waiting so eagerly for this moment since the fall of the previous government," Jean-Jacques told Reuters. "We are ready to play our part and make sure the country has a new prime minister as soon as possible."

Preval, who took office in 2006, also served as president from 1996 to 2001, and is the only elected Haitian leader to serve a full term and successfully hand over power to a democratically elected successor.

In his first term, it took Preval 21 months to put a new government in place after then-Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigned in June 1997.

Haiti, where most people subsist on less than $2 per day, has been ravaged by political upheaval and dictatorship since it overthrew French rule with a slave revolt 200 years ago. It has struggled to install stable democratic institutions since the end of the corrupt and notoriously repressive reign of the Duvalier family in 1986. (Editing by Tom Brown and Bill Trott) (For more stories on global food price rises, please see here)




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