Haitians closed down Port-au-Prince with a general strike on Monday in a bid to pressure UN peacekeepers to crack down on gang-related kidnappings and other violence.
But many of the peacekeepers were preoccupied with a memorial service for Lt. Gen. Urano Teixeira Da Matta Bacellar, who was their senior commander until he was found dead on the weekend.
- FROM JAN. 7, 2006: UN commander in Haiti found dead
The Haitian Chamber of Commerce called the one-day strike in the capital city. It shut down the bus service as well as banks, gas stations, supermarkets and other businesses.
The Haitians demanded more action from the force of about 9,000 UN peacekeepers â including about 125 active and retired RCMP officers â who have been struggling for months to make the country secure enough for a presidential election.
Many of the abductions are being carried out by gangs thought to be loyal to Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former president who was ousted in a bloody rebellion in February 2004.
'The security situation ... has never been worse'
Reporter Claude Adams, who is based in Port-au-Prince, said the protest stemmed from Haitians' growing sense of frustration with the UN force and its inability to curb violence in the country.
"The security situation, at least in parts of the capital city, has never been worse. Kidnappings continue daily, killings, drive-by shootings, other acts of criminality," Adams told CBC Radio.
"And there's nothing significant that the peacekeepers seem to be able to do, especially in and around the area of CitÃ© Soleil. This seaside slum which is a hotbed for gangs, very, very well-armed gangs, who bring their victims in there on a daily basis."
He said a lot of ransom money has been changing hands in the slum, which was the site of an ambush that killed a UN peacekeeper from Canada only a few weeks earlier.
- FROM DEC. 28, 2005: Former RCMP officer killed in Haiti remembered, mourned
Meanwhile, the lack of security and other problems have forced officials to postpone the election four times. It was recently rescheduled for Feb. 7.
"People are saying, 'Hey, with all the guns, with all the weapons, with all the ATCs [Armoured Troop Carriers] and everything else around on the side of the UN, how come we don't have a secure capital city?'" Adams said.UN commander remembered as compassionate soldier
Meanwhile, the UN force was still reeling after the death of Bacellar, a Brazilian who was found dead on the balcony of his hotel room on Saturday in what some officials said was a suicide.
Hundreds of Brazilian peacekeepers stood outside a military hospital in Port-au-Prince on Monday and saluted Bacellar's coffin, which was draped in Brazilian and UN flags.
Military officials and diplomats praised Bacellar as a compassionate man who was dedicated to stabilizing Haiti.
They vowed to ensure his death didn't derail UN attempts to restore order there.
"Be certain, Gen. Bacellar, that we continue to accomplish the mission and our best proof of loyalty to you will be to ensure that peace and security reach every corner of this country," said Chilean Gen. Eduardo Aldunate Herman, who has taken over as interim commander of the UN force.