Former Haiti leader hospitalized, stable after passing out

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) " Former Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide was hospitalized late Friday after passing out on a stage in northern Haiti where he was supporting the presidential candidate of the political faction he founded decades ago.

Sen. Nenel Cassy said that Aristide passed out as he was preparing to speak on behalf of Fanmi Lavalas candidate Maryse Narcisse in Cap-Haitien, the country's second largest city. He said the 63-year-old was hospitalized but quickly regained consciousness and was in stable condition.

"He was traveling all day today and had very little food to eat so that could be the problem. He is now resting," Cassy told a local radio station, adding that supporters were expecting Aristide to go back on the campaign trail Saturday.

Aristide collapsed onstage late Friday as backers of competing presidential candidate Moise Jean-Charles rushed through a crowd gathered for Aristide's Lavalas party and tore down pictures of Narcisse and the ex-president.

Jean-Charles is an ex-senator who leads the Petit Dessalines faction, named after a hero of the Haitian Revolution.He was an activist with the Lavalas movement during Aristide's rise to power and first term in office but later broke off to form his own party.

Earlier in the day, Aristide and Narcisse cut short a Friday visit to the coastal city of Gonaives after residents of the Raboteau slum began to protest their presence. A violent 2004 rebellion that ousted Aristide from power for a second time first erupted in Gonaives.

Aristide and Narcisse walked through Gonaives' streets with police escorts before Raboteau residents started burning tires and chanting "Down with Lavalas." After visiting a cathedral and a police station, the Lavalas campaigners quickly departed for the northern city of Cap-Haitien. Earlier in the day, they had visited the nearby towns of St. Marc and Arcahaie.

Aristide remains a highly divisive figure in Haiti, popular with some and reviled by others.

The slightly built Aristide emerged as a leading voice for Haiti's poor and became the troubled country's first democratically elected president in 1990, despite opposition from the army, Haiti's elite and the United States following the 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship.

He was toppled twice from power, his second term ending in 2004 amid the violent rebellion sparked in Gonaives. He left the country aboard a U.S. plane. Aristide and his supporters insist he was kidnapped. U.S. officials said he departed at his own request.

Critics accuse the polarizing ex-president of breaking promises to help the poor, allowing corruption fueled by drug trafficking and masterminding attacks on opponents with armed gangs.

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David McFadden on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dmcfadd

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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