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Haitian protesters demand end to President Martelly presidency

Thousands of Haitians have marched to vent their anger against President Michel Martelly. Demonstrators converged on the US embassy to denounce perceived interference by Washington in the Caribbean nation's politics.

Several thousand people were reported to have marched in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Friday, calling for Martelly to stand down.

The protest numbers were said to have shrunk to around 1,000 by the time participants converged on the US embassy. Demonstrators - who approached the compound from the rear after police blockaded the area with barricades - were repelled by police firing tear gas. UN peacekeeping troops also guarded the building.

Protesters voiced dissatisfaction with Martelly's government, which they claim has been propped up by the US.

"We ask the ambassador to rid the country of the president that the Americans installed in power," one participant, Jean Max Edouard, told the AFP news agency.

Another protester, Jude Saint-Ame, said he was protesting against "occupation." "Haitians must be able to demonstrate where they want, without restriction," he said, denouncing "the stranglehold of America" on Haiti.

As well as calling for the president to resign, protesters carried placards demanding Prime Minister Laurent Salvador Lamothe leave office. The demonstrators made appeals for better living standards in the country, which is the poorest in the Americas.

Dissatisfaction over corruption, late elections

Almost 170,000 people in Haiti remain homeless after the devastating 2010 earthquake that claimed 250,000 lives.

Opponents of the government claim that corruption is rife. They also highlight the fact that legislative and local elections are now two years overdue.

A second group, of some 600 people led by opposition leader Maryse Narcisse, also gathered on Friday morning in a school yard, where they laid a flower to mark the anniversary of an election day massacre 26 years ago.

US and Haitian politics have long been intertwined, with the US having occupied Haiti between 1915 and 1934, ostensibly to safeguard the interests of US corporations.

A former musician, Martelly came to power in May 2011 after winning an runoff election against his opponent, Mirlande Manigat.

rc / jm (AFP, AP)