Haiti Soldiers Demand Pay After Being Fired in Cutbacks

Associated Press

Hundreds of discharged soldiers rallied in front of army headquarters Friday to demand back pay and other benefits.

The soldiers were dismissed in a restructuring of Haiti's military, which used to have 6,000 soldiers and 1,500 police officers.

The government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide this week announced that about 1,500 soldiers, including 246 officers, would be retained in the revamped army. A civilian police force of 4,500 will replace the former 1,500-man force that operated under the army.

"We want our pay. We want our pension plan. We want unemployment insurance," said former Pvt. Fadeau Joseph, 25. "They let the officers retire with nice pensions and throw us out like garbage."

He said his monthly pay was 525 gourdes, or $43. Ten percent of that went to a pension plan each month.

This week, the army command announced that only the 1,500 soldiers staying in the military would be paid for the month of December. After protests by former soldiers Wednesday and Thursday, the government said that discharged soldiers will also be paid.

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