By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Thousands of demonstrators tookto the chaotic streets of Haiti's capital on Wednesday toprotest an increase in kidnappings in the impoverishedCaribbean nation this year and demand a crackdown on thoseresponsible.
The protest was peaceful for the most part. But many of theestimated 6,000 demonstrators called for the death penalty forkidnappers and chanted slogans against judges and policeauthorities they accused of being soft on crime.
"Kill the kidnappers and arrest corrupt judges who releasethem in exchange for money," shouted one group, as they milledoutside the Justice Palace where judges regularly holdsessions.
"There should be no prison for kidnappers. They should besent directly to the grave and to hell," said MuthurinBeauvoir, a 35-year-old protester.
At least 160 people have been kidnapped for ransom sincethe start of the year, according to Haitian and U.N. police.That compares to 237 for all of 2007 and puts the country ontrack for a significant increase in abductions, which can oftenend in killings even when ransoms are paid.
U.N. police spokesman Fred Blaise said on Wednesday atleast 36 people were kidnapped in May but many cases gounreported.
Haiti has suffered endemic political upheaval and prolongedperiods of brutal dictatorship since French rule ended with aslave revolt more than 200 years ago.
There was an overall improvement in the security situationlast year under President Rene Preval, who is seeking to builda stable democracy in the poorest country in the Americas.
But the situation could deteriorate quickly again thisyear, as Preval seeks to pull together a new government toreplace one toppled by food riots in April that took at leastsix lives.
(Editing by Tom Brown and Eric Walsh)