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Haiti clears park of squatters

By TRENTON DANIEL

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Aug. 30 2012 6:58 p.m. MDT

In this picture taken Aug. 16, 2012, a small creek runs through La Visite National Park, Haiti, a rare piece of protected woodland in one of the most deforested countries on earth. A police operation to clear out farmers living for generations in the national park is now under investigation after four squatters were shot to death in the attempted eviction. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Associated Press

LA VISITE NATIONAL PARK, Haiti — The police officers and other officials showed up in the mountain clearing on a cool morning armed with shotguns, pistols, sledgehammers and orders for hundreds of squatters to vacate the homes and farms they had carved out of one of Haiti's few national parks.

The people living there had known they could be removed at any time because they were on a rare piece of protected woodland in one of the most deforested countries on earth. But they were resolved to put up a fight. In a violent clash that lasted several hours, four squatters were shot to death.

Exactly what happened on July 23 is still in dispute, but the episode points to the difficulties facing President Michel Martelly as he tries to bring law and order to a chaotic country still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake and successive hurricanes and storms.

Martelly has made protecting the country's long-neglected natural environment one of his top four priorities.

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