PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, JULY 2 -- Haiti's government today backed down after nationwide riots in which 12 people were reported killed and rescinded an electoral decree that had prompted a general strike.
An official statement read over national television tonight gave no reasons for rescinding the decree, which was issued 10 days ago and gave the government partial control of upcoming local and presidential elections.
The decree had taken some responsibility away from an independent electoral council and provoked what diplomats said was the most serious political crisis since former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier fled the country in February 1986.
The statement also said Minister of Information Jacques Lortie had resigned. Lortie caused a storm last week when he told a news conference, "Whether the decree is unconstitutional or not does not concern us."
Lortie's letter of resignation, addressed to interim President Henri Namphy, said, "I thought and I still think that the decree was in harmony with the constitution . . . Such a decision was rejected by the people."
He said he was resigning "to help you in the solution of this national crisis."
A new constitution, approved March 29, set up the Provisional Electoral Council as the sole authority for controlling the election process.
In its statement, the government reaffirmed a timetable fixing local elections for August and presidential elections for November.
It was not clear if the government's reversal would fully defuse the crisis in this impoverished Caribbean nation.
Cities throughout Haiti were paralyzed today for the third day this week by the strike, backed by political, religious, labor and other groups, calling for the government's resignation over the decree.
Two people were reported shot and killed by soldiers today in a suburb of Port-au-Prince, bringing the total number of dead since the strike began to 12.
Radio reports said clashes throughout the country were less severe than on Monday and Tuesday, the first days of the strike.