PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, JULY 4 -- The Haitian armed forces declared today that they fully support the country's provisional rulers against a protest movement aimed at forcing a change of government.
"The armed forces of Haiti give their total support to the National Government Council," the military said in a proclamation broadcast tonight.
Organizers of an off-again, on-again general strike, which paralyzed Haiti for four days last week, vowed to keep pressing for removal of the military-led council. But a key Cabinet minister insisted, "The government is staying."
The deepening confrontation threatens to disrupt an electoral process aimed at democratic presidential elections in November. The Provisional Electoral Council announced today that it was suspending negotiations with government authorities over election procedures and regulations.
A statement by the council complained of harsh repression last week by government security forces. At least 22 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded in shooting incidents.
"When we are certain that the barbarous actions we have underlined will not be renewed, then we will resume negotiations," the council's statement said.
The general strike was suspended for the weekend but will resume Monday, its organizers said. Port-au-Prince was peacefully busy today, the second day of open commerce since last Monday. At midday, a din of honking horns and banging metal filled the city in a preannounced protest.
The strike previously had been suspended on Wednesday to allow the public to lay in new supplies of food and other essentials. The strike brought the country to a virtual standstill.
Protesters threw rocks, burned tires and barricaded streets with rubble. Army and police patrols here fired rifles at suspected troublemakers.
"Some terrorists, taking advantage of the pacific actions of some citizens in the exercise of their democratic rights, want to promote at any expense a climate of trouble and disorder," today's proclamation by the armed forces said.
The military's proclamation said "specific instructions" had been issued to all security forces to "make use of moderation and wisdom in carrying out their mission of security."
The strike was organized by a coalition of political, civic, religious, labor, student and business groups. Calling itself the "57 Organizations," the coalition said in a statement broadcast today that it would persist in its drive to bring down the government.
"The Haitian people must stay mobilized regardless of what maneuvers the government tries," the statement said. "Too much blood has flowed to give up now."
Gerard Noel, the acting minister of information, told a news conference today that the three-man National Government Council would not be forced out of power.
"The government is staying," Noel said. "How could a legitimate and constitutional government consider quitting? If it did, the country would be thrown into chaos."
He said the strike and protests had been instigated by extremists of the right and the left who seek to destabilize the country.
"They ask for this, this, this and this, and you give it to them, and they continue to strike," he said.
Haiti's current crisis is one in a long, sporadic series that began in 1985 as discontent grew under the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier. Successive waves of protests and strikes forced Duvalier to give up power and flee to exile in France on Feb. 7, 1986.
He left the government in the hands of a military-dominated National Government Council. In response to new protests, the council was recomposed in March 1986, but remained under military control.
Its members are Gen. Henri Namphy, Col. Williams Regala and civilian Luc Hector. Namphy is the council president, and Regala is the interior minister, responsible for the government's security forces.
About a year ago, the country was rocked by a protest movement demanding the resignation of Regala and other government officials considered to have been loyal followers of Duvalier. Those protests subsided after the government announced a timetable for elections.