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Anti-tyrant, uncommonly vicious tyrant and drug dealer Aristide's protests ... (More than 450 photos): *Petit-Goâve *Cap-Haitien *Port-au-Prince *Senior chief bandit Aristide, Aristide's junior bandits, commonly known as chimères (after the firebreathing monsters in Greek mythology) *Nov. 26, 2002 *Nov. 28-30, 2002 *Dec. 2, 2002 *Dec 3, 2002 brutal dictator Aristide's violence. *Dec.7, 2002, dictator Aristide burned political party *Dec.16-17, 2002 *Dec.19, 2002 *A must read research-based column:Waiting in totalitarian dictator Aristide's hell, more Haitians are likely to risk their lives in perilous waters to come to paradise *Haitian orphans call cemetery home *Free from prison, but still paying a penalty *Mass murder in Haiti (Special Report) *A Haitian Doctor's success in the fight against disease (Health News This Month) Editorial
Posted at 5:10 p.m., Monday, December 30, 2002
Kenya's ruling party is defeated after 39 years in power
By Marc Lacey, The New York Times Nairobi, Kenya, Dec. 29 - In a vote widely hailed as a step forward for democracy in Africa, Kenyans have resoundingly defeated the party that has ruled over them for nearly four decades and selected the opposition leader Mwai Kibaki as their president, election officials said today - more.
50 police stop brawl at Saugus club
By Jason Pring, Globe Correspondent, 12/30/2002
One woman was arrested on an unrelated shoplifting warrant, and three police officers were treated at local hospitals for minor injuries.
Police said that cramped quarters inside the function hall may have been a factor in the brawl. They estimated that the size of the crowd ranged from 2,000 to 2,500 people.
''When you get that many people crammed into a space, it doesn't take much to set people off,'' said Saugus Police Lieutenant Steve Sweezui.
Police were first summoned at 11:30 p.m. to help with parking problems. ''Cars were parked everywhere,'' Sweezui said. ''There weren't enough lanes to get into the building.''
Then police received several calls from people inside the club reporting fights.
Caruso's Diplomat was so crowded that police officers had trouble getting in to investigate, they said.
Sweezui said that more fights followed when police announced that the party was to be shut down for the night.
''It was necessary to clear the building and necessary to request assistance from surrounding communities to help us disperse the crowd,'' Sweezui said.
By 1:30 a.m., police from Lynn, Malden, Wakefield, the Essex County Sheriff's Department, and the State Police had cleared the crowd.
Sweezui said police have not yet determined whether the party promoters or the owners will face charges. Saugus Police Chief Edward Felix will review reports of the incident before any action is taken.
This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 12/30/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company. Wehaitians.com's notes: Today, our executive editor Prof. Yves A. Isidor was on Boston's Haitian radio magazine program Vwa Lakay urging victims to call We Haitians United We Stand For Democracy. The purpose of so was to inform the assumed large number of victims of his organization's intention to file a class action lawsuit against Jean Eddie Bazile, the so-called promoter or uncommonly crook of the Saturday night dance show, which wehaitians.com terms "organized grand thievery", rather. The ballroom could only accommodate a certain number of patrons, still an additional 2,000 tickets or so were sold, suggesting that the thievery organized by Bazile was "grand scale." Many of the would-be patrons were gassed and beaten by police. If you happen to be one of the victims of the Saturday night rare organized crime, please call us today at: 617-547-2220 or 617-233-4095. You can also send us an e-mail at: wehaitians.com. All we are waiting for to return to the Massachusetts Attorney General Office to commence the class action lawsuit is for you all to come forward. If you don't come forward because you are afraid of the alleged petty thief Bazil we will be forced to find another way to stop the concerned alleged criminal and many others from defrauding other Boston's Haitians.
Posted at 1:59 a.m., Saturday, December 28, 2002
So-called Haiti cops probe death at reporter's home
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 27 - Police investigating the shooting death of a guard at a prominent journalist's home said Friday that they were trying to determine if the broadcaster was the target (the extremely sad faces of Montas).
The France-based group Reporters Without Borders said the Christmas Day attack appeared to be an attempt "to eliminate" journalist Michele Montas, calling the attack a "despicable and cowardly action."
Montas the widow of radio station owner Jean Dominique, who was assassinated in 2000 also said she believes the two gunmen were trying to kill her because of her demands for justice in her husband's killing. Since then, Montas has run the station and anchored the 7 a.m. daily newscast that they once led together.
Montas was at home with her elderly mother when the security guard was shot three times outside the house. But police said the attackers apparently didn't aim at the house.
"We are excluding no hypothesis," police spokesman Jean-Dady Simeon said. "We can't say as yet whether the killing was motivated by politics, theft or revenge."
Montas said the attack was linked to an anticipated indictment of her husband's killers. An investigating judge has promised an indictment by the end of the year. No one has been charged, and Montas has criticized the investigation's slowness.
Dominique, Haiti's most prominent journalist, once supported President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party and was killed as he began to openly criticize the party. He was gunned down on April 3, 2000, at his station, Radio Haiti-Inter.
Press freedom groups have faulted the government for failing to bring Dominique's killers to justice. They have accused the government of tolerating attacks on the press charges the government denies. Aristide and First Lady Mildred Aristide visited Montas to assure her the government is committed to advancing the investigation into Dominique's killing, a statement from Aristide's office said. "
If an indictment is due, it must be published to know who is guilty and who is innocent," Aristide said Thursday. "Without peace and justice we cannot transform this country."
Since mid-November, at least three people have been killed and 350 injured in clashes that erupted during anti-government protests. Aristide has blamed much of the recent violence on the opposition.
On Thursday, 184 civil society groups signed a declaration saying they won't support holding legislative elections, planned for next year, until the government guarantees security and freedom of speech.
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.
Posted at 12:51 p.m., Friday, December 27, 2002 Severe economic difficulties are ravaging many U.S. states forcing also Michigan to drop minimum sentence rules for drug crimes
By The Associated Press
ANSING, Mich., Dec. 25 (AP) Karen Shook was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1993 for arranging a drug deal for a man who turned out to be an undercover police officer. But Ms. Shook, a former bank teller, could be paroled 10 years early under legislation expected to be signed by the governor in the next week to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. Advertisement
Michigan is one of several states revising mandatory minimum sentences. Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey and North Carolina are also considering eliminating such rules, said Laura Sager, executive director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a Washington group.
Michigan Department of Corrections officials do not know how many of the state's 49,296 inmates could be eligible for parole under the legislation, which would take effect March 1. But supporters of the legislation said the state's skyrocketing prison population made the law necessary.
Critics of Michigan's mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines have pushed for changes for years, but economic difficulties may ultimately have led to their elimination.
The state, facing a $1.5 billion general fund deficit in the coming fiscal year, spends about $1.4 billion a year on its prison population, or an average of $28,000 for each inmate, said Russ Marlan, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections.
This month, as the Legislature struggled with the state budget, it approved eliminating mandatory sentences. The departing governor, John Engler, a Republican, supports the move.
Laurie Quick, Ms. Shook's sister, said her family did not know about the state's strict sentencing guidelines until Ms. Shook, now 49, was arrested.
"It's been a nightmare," Ms. Quick said. "She has seen murderers and other convicted felons come and leave since she's been there. It's cruel."
Although the Michigan legislation would make some offenders eligible for early parole, a decision about their release is ultimately up to the parole board. Drug offenders have the highest rate of parole, at 72 percent, Mr. Marlan said.
Nearly 62 percent of other nonviolent offenders receive parole when they are first eligible, followed by violent offenders at 40 percent and sex offenders at 15 percent, he said.
The legislation requires judges to follow state guidelines when sentencing criminals to prison. But eliminating mandatory minimums will give them much more discretion.
"The time had come to make the change," said David Morse, the Livingston County prosecutor. "The idea of stiff severe penalties for drug kingpins was a problem because we weren't getting those kingpins. We were getting people who were carrying on behalf of kingpins."
Under current law, Michigan judges are allowed to deviate from the mandatory minimum guidelines only in extraordinary circumstances.
Now, the law requires a sentence of at least 10 years and up to 20 years in prison for a person convicted of possessing 50 to 224 grams of narcotics or cocaine. The legislation would allow the judge to impose any sentence up to 20 years.
Posted at 6:18 p.m., Thursday, December 26, 2002
Gunmen in Haiti attack window's house
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 26 (AP) - Gunmen opened fire on the home of a slain journalist's widow, killing a security guard who was keeping vigil at the gate (relevant press release).
Michele Montas said Thursday that the attack happened minutes after she had pulled into her home in Petionville, just outside Port-au-Prince.
Two men approached on foot about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and opened fire at the front gate, killing security guard Maxim Seide, Montas said.
Her late husband, Jean Dominique, a prominent journalist and radio station owner, was gunned down at his station, Radio Haiti-Inter, on April 3, 2000. Montas, who is also a journalist, has run the station ever since, serving as anchor of the daily newscast that they used to lead together (Montas' house).
The gunmen escaped, and police blocked off the area outside the house to investigate. One other security guard who was posted in the courtyard was not injured.
The motive behind the Christmas Day attack was unclear, but Montas has been vehement in her criticism of attacks on the press in Haiti and the slowness of an investigation into her husband's killing. No one has been charged.
Asked if she believes she was targeted, Montas said: "There is no doubt."
She said she believes the attack was connected to the expected indictment of her husband's killers. An investigating judge has promised indictments by the end of the year.
Press freedom groups also have faulted the government for failing to bring Dominique's killers to justice. He was widely considered Haiti's most prominent opinion maker. Once a supporter of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, he was killed as he began to criticize the governing party.
Aristide has said he supports freedom of the press, but the France-based group Reporters Without Borders has criticized him for allegedly not doing enough to rein in violence against journalists.
"The presidency vigorously condemns the attack and deplores the death of Maxim Seide," presidential spokesman Jacques Maurice said. "We want to reinforce the security of journalists."
Maurice said police were guarding Montas' house against any further attack.
More than 90 journalists have been harassed or roughed up this year, the vast majority of them by government supporters, according to the Association of Haitian Journalists.
The number has increased sharply since mid-November, when anti-government protesters began demanding Aristide's resignation, accusing him of tolerating attacks on his enemies and not doing enough to solve the impoverished country's problems.
In the past two months, two radio stations have been damaged in arson fires in the Caribbean country, including Radio Etincelles in west-coast Gonaives and Radio Maxima in north-coast Cap-Haitien.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has said it is "deeply concerned about growing threats against Haitian journalists.
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.
Posted at 11:40 p.m., Monday, December 23, 2002
Haitian industry sees hope in U.S. Trade Bill
By David Gonzalez, The N.Y Times
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 22 For each sewing machine that remains idle at Dietrich Siegel's factory here, life grows harder for at least five relatives who depended on the person who made a living at it. As Mr. Siegel looked at rows of dozens of silent machines on a recent day, he lamented that he and his workers were losing not only money, but also time (mass murder in haiti).
"I won't ever be able to make up for having empty rows like this," said Mr. Siegel, the vice president of Classic Apparel, which in recent years has been forced to close one factory and to sell another. "When time is gone, it's lost."
Much time has been lost in Haiti. Its manufacturing base has shrunk by half from its peak in the mid-1980's, down to 25,000 jobs, because of political instability (A Haitian Doctor's success in the fight against disease).
Although Haiti's daunting social and economic problems have earned it unwanted comparisons with Africa, the manufacturers envy Africa in one important aspect: to try to reverse the decline in jobs, Haiti's manufacturers are lobbying the United States Congress to pass a trade act that would grant Haiti duty exemptions held by sub-Saharan nations since 2000.
The bill would allow Haitian clothing factories, which now receive exemptions only if they use American fabric, to use fabrics from other countries, where they might cost less. A bill has been sponsored and supported by an unlikely coalition of Democrats sympathetic to the embattled Haitian government and by Republicans just as critical of it, who see the measure as a way to jump-start the Haitian economy.
Manufacturers here say that if Congress were to approve such an exemption in its next session, factory jobs could triple. They also say it could spur other industries to invest in Haiti, whose advantage as the hemisphere's least expensive labor market has been outweighed by an infrastructure that has deteriorated, partly because of a freeze on foreign aid.
"This is a noncontroversial issue," said Jean-Edouard Baker, a factory owner and past president of the Haitian Manufacturers' Association. "This is not aid going to the government. It is putting in place a structure that will encourage investment and create jobs. We desperately need jobs."
More than half of Haiti's population is unemployed or barely subsisting on less than a dollar a day, and the manufacturers say the situation is desperate.
At its peak, Haitian industry produced everything from clothing and electronics to baseballs for the major leagues. Its economic free fall began after Jean-Claude Duvalier was ousted in 1986 and continued through the economic embargo of the early 1990's, when Haiti was isolated after a coup drove out the democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Although Mr. Aristide returned to Haiti after the American invasion in 1994, manufacturing jobs did not. Political deadlocks and accusations that Haiti was among the countries that used child labor and sweatshop conditions drove away existing clients, including Disney, which had been a major customer. Those customers moved to more stable places like Nicaragua and Honduras while keeping other companies from even considering the island.
The manufacturers contend that the reports of abuses were blown out of proportion but that they have corrected problems and are monitored these days by companies that give them contracts.
Manufacturers said they saw a way to spur jobs when President Bill Clinton signed into law the African Growth and Opportunity Act in 2000, which opened American markets to a portion of African-produced clothing made with non-American material.
"In every measure Haiti is similar to sub-Saharan Africa," said Jean Paul Faubert, the vice president of the manufacturers' group. "So why not have trade parity?"
The proposal to extend trade benefits could help Haiti take advantage of trends within the industry and the region, the manufacturers say. Its closeness to the United States provides for cheaper transportation and faster turnaround at a time when stores are ordering with less lead time.
Factory owners in the Dominican Republic have also begun to consider expanding or moving some operations into Haiti, because manufacturing has been so successful there that workers are demanding higher-paying jobs, like those assembling electronic components. Haitian workers receive about $2 a day and transporting supplies to Haiti or finished goods from Haiti to the United States is cheaper than for Honduras or Nicaragua, which in recent years have gained 22,000 jobs from companies based in the Dominican Republic.
Dominican and Haitian politicians, civic and business leaders have already been exploring the possibility of opening factories along their mutual border, where tensions have always simmered over illegal Haitian immigration. They have also begun to develop Free Zones like those in Central America that provide concessions to manufacturers and provide streamlined access to services ranging from electricity and telecommunications to shipping and customs procedures.
"The manufacturers are leaving the Dominican Republic and looking for other places, anyway," Mr. Faubert said. "If they can think of Haiti, they cannot only create more employment, but improve security since people no longer will have to cross the border. It is in everyone's national interest to see the Haitian economy do better."
Outside the Classic Apparel factory here, street vendors sit on dusty sidewalks selling piles of oranges or bottles of motor oil. Most of the workers inside the factory could just as easily end up on the street, Mr. Siegel said, since it was only last month that a large order came in that allowed him to rehire workers who had been idle for much of the year.
Even then, the order was not big enough to fill all the rows of sewing machines inside his cavernous factory.
"I wish we still had three factories," he said. "We had to concentrate everything here and try to keep it alive. But we need more jobs."
Haitian police raid village to evict armed group led by ex-soldiers
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 23 - Police raided a remote village and fired shots as they chased away an armed band led by former soldiers opposed to Haiti's government, an official said Monday.
No one was injured as police swooped in by helicopter and raided the village of Pernal, which had been occupied by about 50 armed men, presidential spokesman Jacques Maurice said. The group fled during Saturday's raid as police set off grenades, but two men were captured, he said.
"The soldiers abandoned their uniforms, and took flight after setting fire to the homes they were staying in," Maurice said (?). Ten homes were burned, independent Radio Metropole reported.
The group included about 10 ex-soldiers who served in Haiti's army until it was disbanded by Aristide in 1994 and about 40 other men, Maurice said. Previously, officials had said the group was entirely made up of ex-soldiers.
The government accuses the men of carrying out attacks as they demand the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It was unclear what charges the two captured civilians might face.
The group allegedly made its base in Pernal, in the hills outside the town of Belladere, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Port-au-Prince. Authorities were searching for those who fled.
The government accuses members of the group of killing regional justice of the peace Christophe Lozama on Nov. 28.
The group also allegedly stormed a police station Dec. 10 and released four prisoners, two of them suspects in the Lozama killing. The men killed four people as they fled that day.
The government has accused the opposition of trying to overthrow Aristide and lending moral support to the armed band. Opposition leaders insist they oppose violence.
Joseph Jean-Baptiste, who leads an association of ex-soldiers, said he doubted the official account of the raid and said the government "has staged an event in an attempt to eliminate former soldiers."
It wasn't immediately possible to confirm the government's account due to the area's remoteness.
Since mid-November, tens of thousands have protested in anti-government demonstrations to demand Aristide's resignation. Police and Aristide's supporters have intervened, and clashes have left at least three dead and some 350 injured.
The opposition accuses Aristide of incompetence in dealing with problems from poverty to political violence. But the president says he has brought relative peace and has refused to step down before his term ends in 2006.
Aristide first won the presidency in 1990, but was ousted in a military coup after less than a year and went into exile.
Restored to power following a 1994 U.S. invasion, Aristide demobilized the Caribbean country's army and replaced it with a civilian police force.
Aristide ceded power to chosen successor Rene Preval in 1996, then won a second five-year term in 2000. Major opposition parties boycotted the presidential vote due to a dispute over flawed legislative elections earlier that year.
The dispute has held up hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid.
Aristide now supports holding early legislative elections next year. But the opposition refuses to appoint representatives to an electoral council, saying the government must do more to ensure security and arrest perpetrators of past political violence. (mn-imj)
Hundreds protest government in Haiti's second-largest city despite temporary police ban
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 23 - Hundreds marched in Haiti's second-largest city Sunday to protest the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, defying a temporary ban on public demonstrations during the holiday season.
A dozen Aristide partisans in the northcoast city of Cap-Haitien opened fire on the opposition supporters, community leader Frandley Denis Julien said by telephone. No injuries or arrests were reported.
Police had previously given the group five minutes to disperse and firefighters threatened to douse the marchers with high-pressure hoses, Julien said.
The pro-Aristide group also threw urine-filled bottles and rocks at the opposition marchers in an attempt to break up the demonstration. The march, which lasted nearly four hours, continued but was later broken up by police who fired tear gas into the crowd, witnesses said.
Scores of anti-government demonstrations have taken place in the past month, often broken up by police or Aristide supporters. Clashes have left at least three dead and 350 injured. The dead and injured include both Aristide partisans and government opponents.
Police on Friday banned all demonstrations in Haiti until Jan. 8, calling it a "truce" for the holiday season. "All demonstrations are prohibited during this period," police spokesman Jean-Dady Simeon said.
Opposition leaders called the temporary ban a violation of the constitution. "The ban is illegal," said opposition spokesman Jacques Etienne, who participated in the march. "It violates our right to assemble and demonstrate peacefully."
Police deny that the ban is unconstitutional.
Aristide's opponents accuse him of incompetence, corruption and a pattern of tolerating attacks on his enemies.
The president says he has brought relative peace to the country. Aristide and his governing Lavalas Family party have agreed to early legislative elections next year, but he has refused to step down before his term ends in 2006.
Since Aristide's victory in flawed 2000 elections, his government has been stymied by a lack of international aid, investment and growing poverty.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has a population of 8.2 million people. (mn-fg)
Posted at 10:55 p.m., Friday, December 20, 2002
Dozens of ex-soldiers opposed to Haiti's totalitarian government are blamed for attacks in remote town
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 20 - More than 50 ex-soldiers have taken up arms in a remote town and carried out attacks as they demand the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, government officials said Friday.
The men, who served in Haiti's army until it was disbanded by Aristide in 1994, are concentrated in the rural village of Pernal, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Port-au-Prince, presidential spokesman Jacques Maurice said.
"We are waiting for the opportune moment to disarm them, but we don't want to spill innocent blood," he said.
Some of the heavily armed men established the base there several months ago but kept a low profile until last month, Maurice said.
He accused members of the group of killing regional justice of the peace Christophe Lozama on Nov. 28 during a clash between Aristide backers and opposition supporters.
The former soldiers also stormed the nearby Las Cahobas police station on Dec. 10 and released four prisoners, two of them suspects in the Lozama killing, Maurice said. The group killed four people as they fled, including three known government supporters.
The ex-soldiers also were accused of firing shots at a police vehicle recently. No one was injured.
In interviews broadcast by independent Radio Metropole, the ex-soldiers said they aim to overthrow Aristide and restore the army that he disbanded.
"We have assumed the responsibility of taking action to force Aristide out of power," one former soldier said, without giving his name.
The political opposition has denied trying to oust Aristide by violent means. But government spokesman Mario Dupuy said: "The uprising is part of a general plan to destabilize the government."
Special police units are in the area where the ex-soldiers have their base, officials said. The government has offered to negotiate, but the men have refused.
Since mid-November, tens of thousands of Haitians have protested in anti-government demonstrations, demanding that Aristide step down. The president's opponents accuse him of incompetence, corruption and a pattern of tolerating attacks on his enemies.
Aristide says he has brought relative peace to the country and has refused to step down before his term ends in 2006.
Meanwhile, police and Aristide's supporters have intervened in the protests, leading to clashes that have left at least three dead and some 350 injured in the past month.
Aristide first won the presidency in a landslide in 1990, but the army overthrew him after less than a year in office. He lived in exile in Washington until U.S. troops helped restore him to power in 1994.
Once back in the Caribbean country, Aristide demobilized the army and replaced it with a civilian police force.
Facing a term limit, he ceded power to chosen successor Rene Preval in 1996, then won a second five-year term in 2000 elections boycotted by major opposition parties.
Dupuy said the ex-soldiers in Pernal have brandished the red-and-black flag of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, who fled the country for France during a popular uprising in 1986.
In a rare television interview shown Tuesday on the U.S. television network CBS, Duvalier said he had resigned "to avoid blood flooding the streets" and urged Aristide to do the same. (mn-imj)
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.
Betting on its brand name, Hilton sees a future in Haiti Poor economy, protests fail to dim chain's vision
By Marika Lynch, Miami Herald Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Haiti's economy is contracting, street protests are routine, and the U.S. State Department has all but suggested that visitors stay away (photos).
Yet Hilton sees an opportunity for business in Port-au-Prince.
Early next year, across the street from the capital's airport, investors will officially break ground on a 196-unit hotel that would be the Caribbean nation's largest.
The Hilton D'Haiti hopes to attract business people seeking to slip into the country and avoid the trek -- and the safety risks -- of heading downtown. Travelers will be able to rent an extended-stay apartment and office space as well as shop and eat at three restaurants, all without stepping outside the hotel's 15-foot-high wall.
''A lot of people who don't stay overnight now or who don't go to Haiti at all because there's not a branded hotel will find a sense of security and familiarity with a brand like Hilton,'' said Bruce Baxter, president of the Coral Gables-based InnVest Inc., the project's consultant.
Though Hilton will manage the hotel, the $52.5 million complex is being built by Harding Enterprises of Louisville, Ky., which owns the Haitian cigarette company Comme Il Faut and a food-distributorship business. The two businesses are located close to the airport, an area that is evolving as an industrial hub.
Investors say a Hilton will attract new businesses to Haiti. They also hope that the political turmoil -- protests have grown in recent weeks as the government and opposition leaders remain deadlocked over disputed 2000 elections -- will have cooled by the time of the hotel's scheduled opening in 2005.
Hilton D'Haiti will be the country's only international-brand hotel. Haiti's Club Med closed, and Holiday Inn pulled its name off a downtown hotel a few years ago. Currently, business travelers tend to stay in one of four upscale hotels that have a total of 374 rooms, according to an industry index. The Hilton will add 50 percent more rooms.
The heyday of Haitian tourism came in the 1970s, when foreigners toured art galleries and sampled the local cuisine. Now, most tourists are business people, missionaries or aid workers.
And while 141,000 people visited Haiti last year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, only about a third stayed in hotels. Occupancy nationwide varies from 30 percent to 50 percent, said Elisabeth Silvera Ducasse, president of the Haitian Tourism Association.
Despite that, word of the Hilton project has been received well by business leaders and even by local hoteliers, said Ducasse, who is also managing director of the family-owned El Rancho hotel in the suburb of Petionville.
''I remember,'' she said, 'my father always telling us: `If new companies come into Haiti with names that are known all over the world, it will attract more people to come here.' ''
Her only worry, Ducasse said, is that if the Hilton fails to draw travelers, it might have to lower prices below local market value, which in turn might drain business from her and other locally owned hotels.
The 27-acre Hilton complex was designed by OBM International, a Coral Gables-based firm that has been involved in projects around the Caribbean and done consulting work for the Village of Key Biscayne.
''The biggest challenge it has to face is Haiti's international reputation,'' said John Bell, director general and chief executive of the Caribbean Hotel Association, which is based in Puerto Rico. ``One has to hope and believe this current trauma the country is going through has to have an end.''
Posted at 2:10 a.m., Friday, December 20, 2002
2002 brought war detainees to Guantanamo, U.S. food sales to Cuba, stepped-up political conflict in Haiti
By Ian James, Associated Press Writer
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Dec. 19 - The new year promises possible trials for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, new pressures to ease the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba and increased turmoil in Haiti, where the opposition is pressing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign (photos).
The U.S. military began flying prisoners from Afghanistan to its naval base at Guantanamo in eastern Cuba in January. They still have not been charged, are not allowed lawyers and face an uncertain fate.
The U.S. government says at least some could be tried by military tribunals, while others could be released or held indefinitely. In the meantime, they remain imprisoned on suspicion of links to Afghanistan's fallen Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden 's al-Qaida terrorist network.
Despite Cuba's long-standing disapproval of the U.S. presence at Guantanamo, the government in Havana says it won't oppose the American detention operation.
With some U.S. lawmakers' support, Fidel Castro's government is pressing for a loosening of the embargo on trade with the island and is buying U.S. foods, from rice to apples, under an exception to the sanctions.
During a visit to Havana in May, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter urged the United States to do away with the embargo and urged Cuba to embrace democracy. While some dissident groups are demanding guarantees for rights such as freedom of speech and private business ownership, the 76-year-old Castro has indicated he intends to stay in power for years to come.
In Haiti, protests against Aristide's government grew in 2002 as thousands of his opponents took to the streets calling for his resignation. The president's supporters held large counter-demonstrations, and political violence appeared to be on the rise.
Aristide says he has brought relative peace following years of repeated coups and that he plans to serve out his term, which ends in 2006. While the political disputes rage, poverty continues to entrap most Haitians in a daily search for food.
The economy has seen healthy growth in Haiti's wealthier neighbor, the Dominican Republic. But the poorest Dominicans, like Haitians, continue entrusting their lives to rickety boats as they leave in search of opportunity elsewhere.
Power shortages and electricity rate hikes led to violent protests that killed at least 15 Dominicans in 2002. Meanwhile, the Dominican political system is adapting to new leadership following the death in July of former President Joaquin Balaguer, who ruled for 22 years and wielded influence until his death at age 95.
Nearby Puerto Rico marked its 50th anniversary as a U.S. commonwealth, and the U.S. Navy (news - web sites) held what was expected to be its last full year of bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.
U.S. President George W. Bush has promised the training will be halted by the end of May, and the Navy is looking for alternative sites where it can train for future conflicts.
Across the Caribbean in French Guiana, the European space program is trying to improve its performance after the botched launch of an Ariane-5 rocket from its South American launch center on Dec. 11. The rocket, carrying two satellites, veered off course after liftoff, forcing ground control to destroy it as it fell toward earth.
With a decline in the number of travelers following the 2001 terrorist attacks, many Caribbean islands that traditionally rely on tourism have suffered. Some islands are seeing visitors return, while persistent unemployment is driving young people to leave countries such as St. Lucia and Dominica.
In Jamaica, where an active drug trade has fed violent crime, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has promised to reintroduce executions, last carried out there in 1988.
His governing party, along with those of the Dominican Republic and Trinidad, held onto power in legislative elections during the past year.
Throughout the region, meanwhile, anti-terrorism efforts have given new importance to security. In Antigua and Barbuda, where U.S. sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad lived for a time, a government-appointed task force has been investigating how he allegedly falsified documents to get Antiguan passports for himself and others.
Leaders across the Caribbean say they face challenges in boosting their fragile economies, protecting the environment and addressing a high HIV-infection rate. At a recent summit in Cuba, Castro pledged 1,000 medical workers to help fight AIDS in other Caribbean countries.
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press
Posted at 6:29 p.m., Wednesday, December 18, 2002
|Attack anniversary turbulent in Haiti|
|By Jane Regan|
|Special to The Miami Herald|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec. 17 -- Dueling demonstrations in Haiti's capital on Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of an attack by armed men on Haiti's National Palace and subsequent mob violence throughout the country (photos).
While hundreds of opposition party members held a rally in their burned-out headquarters, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide met with several thousand of his supporters in front of the palace, which was draped with black cloth as a sign of mourning for those who died in last year's assault.
The differing commemorations resulted from two interpretations of Dec. 17, 2001. While the government called the assault an attempted coup d'état, opposition parties say it was a sham used to justify the attacks by pro-government mobs that followed.
NOT A COUP ATTEMPT
A lengthy report by the Organization of American States released last summer said the Dec. 17 assault was not a coup but was instead carried out with police complicity.
''Today is important to us. It shows that despite all Aristide's efforts to make us disappear, to burn us out, to destroy us, we are still here working for the reconstruction of the country,'' said Suzy Castor, director of a research center that was sacked and burned, and also a member of the People's Struggle Organization, which is a member of the Democratic Convergence opposition alliance.
Victor Benoit, head of the National Congress of Democratic Movements, also a member of the Democratic Convergence, agreed on the importance of the gathering.
''It is the anniversary of destruction, disaster, crime and attacks against the press. It is the anniversary of a day of human rights violations,'' Benoit said.
A mile away, Aristide and his Lavalas party noted the anniversary with a mass meeting before the National Palace.
Thousands of Aristide supporters, dancing to several carnival bands playing drums and horns, shouted slogans as they marched from the Bel-Aire neighborhood to the National Palace.
''If you are in the palace yard, it shows that while last year there were putschists in the palace, today the people are in the palace,'' said Aristide, who was engulfed by his jubilant supporters as soon as he emerged from the bright white building.
Many of the supporters were also carrying rawhide whips, which they said they would use against Aristide's enemies.
The commemorations came one day after more than two dozen anti-Aristide parties announced they had reached unity on a broad plan that calls for Aristide's resignation, a transitional government and a general election.
The unity document signals the opposition's recognition that the OAS-brokered Resolution 822 is ''over,'' said Gerard Pierre-Charles of the People's Struggle Organization. Resolution 822 calls for the government to take illegal guns off the streets, judge those who carried out the Dec. 17, 2001, mob attacks and assure a safe climate for parliamentary and local elections under Aristide's auspices.
|Restrictions found on Afghan women|
|Morals police keep tabs, wield power in militia-led era|
|By Pamela Constable, Washington Post, 12/18/2002|
KABUL, Afghanistan - Women caught talking with men on the streets of Herat, a major city in western Afghanistan, risk being seized by special morals police, taken to a hospital, and forced to undergo an exam to determine if they have had sex, according to a report issued yesterday by Human Rights Watch.
Under the control of Ismail Khan, the former Islamic militia leader who governs Herat Province, women and girls are living in an atmosphere of official religious restrictions similar to those imposed by the extremist Taliban regime that was toppled by US and Afghan military forces 13 months ago, the New York-based human rights group said.
''Virtually every aspect of women's and girls' lives is still policed in Herat,'' the report said. It said they are subject to harassment and arrest if they do not cover themselves with a veil in public, or if they enter a taxi driven by a man who is not a close relative, attempt to drive a car, or speak or walk with a man on the street.
Khan, who styles himself the ''emir,'' or Islamic ruler, of Herat and several surrounding provinces, has previously defended his human rights record and his policies toward women, pointing out that he has reopened numerous girls' schools that were shut by the Taliban and has welcomed women into the work force.
But both Human Rights Watch and several Afghan-based human rights groups said Khan, who commands thousands of armed followers and enjoys virtually autonomous regional power, appears to have become more extreme in his Islamic views and restrictions on women than during his first, pre-Taliban stint as governor in the early 1990s.
''What is most alarming is that women are not being allowed to express themselves freely,'' said Amina Afzali, a member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission who is from Herat. ''They cannot object to anything Ismael Khan says or does, they cannot gather publicly, they cannot raise their voice. It is the same as it was under the communists'' in the 1980s, she said.
Afzali said neither she nor the commission had heard any reports of women in Herat being forced to undergo medical chastity exams, as described by Human Rights Watch yesterday. She said she found it a ''strange'' allegation and suggested the report might be exaggerated.
But another organization, the Afghan office of the International Human Rights Law Group, said its informants in Herat confirmed that such cases had occurred.
The Human Rights Watch report does not name any alleged victims or witnesses of forced gynecological exams, which it called ''a form of sexual abuse.''
But it quotes unnamed hospital workers and relatives describing in detail the humiliating treatment of women and girls dragged into the Herat Hospital for such punitive tests during the past year.
The investigating team sent by Human Rights Watch to Herat last month did not conduct any interviews with Khan or his aides, but team members said they were detained by armed men on the last day of their stay, taken to a government guest house, and questioned for several hours about their activities.
Last month, the New York group issued an equally critical report on general human rights conditions in Herat, describing a ''pattern of widespread political intimidation, arrests, beatings, and torture by police and security forces'' under Khan's control.
Historically, Herat has been one of Afghanistan's most cultured and modern cities, with a major university, extensive contacts with neighboring Iran, and many women in professional jobs.
But under Khan, Human Rights Watch said in its November report, a ''climate of fear'' exists, and Khan is creating a ''closed society'' where many Taliban-era restrictions are being revived.
Khan, a white-bearded, ethnic Tajik of about 50, has dismissed such criticisms as politically motivated, while stressing his commitment to making Herat a secure, educated, and efficiently governed region after years of war and strife.
Posted at 2:01 p.m., Tuesday, December 17, 2002
|Ex-Haitian dictator goes on TV to 'explain myself'|
|By Michele Gillen, CBS/WFOR-4|
PARIS, Dec. 16 - Jean-Claude ''Baby Doc'' Duvalier, the former dictator of Haiti who has lived in exile in France since 1986, has granted his first television interview to an American journalist in 15 years (photos).
The interview, with WFOR-CBS4 investigative reporter Michele Gillen, will be aired tonight on CBS 4 at 6 and 11 p.m.
The last time Duvalier sat before an American camera was with Barbara Walters.
Considered by many Haitians to have run a regime marked by brutality, financial fraud and political persecution, Duvalier told Gillen Sunday that he is ``intent to return to his country.''
There were no restrictions on what Gillen could ask.
Questioned about the allegations of abuses under his government and that of his father, Francois Duvalier, he responded, ``I never said that there weren't any abuses.''
During the 2 ½-hour interview in a Paris hotel, Duvalier said he now hears the cries of his people, who ``are suffering a lot. It is not bearable. It is revolting.''
The following are excerpts from the interview:
Gillen: It has been 15 years since you agreed to an interview with an American television journalist. Why now?
Duvalier: Because it is now time for me to explain myself.
Q: What is the greatest risk today to the Haitian people?
A: The greatest risk is that this chaos transforms into utter and uncontrollable violence.
Q: Do you feel that it is a crisis at this point?
A: Absolutely, absolutely.
Q: What do you think he [President Jean Bertrand Aristide] should do?
A: He does not rule Haiti anymore.
He does not have the possibility of ruling Haiti anymore. He has been rejected by the vast majority of the population. He should, according to me, retire.
It is impossible to deceive people for too long. Aristide reveals himself as the greatest fraudulent user of power of all time.
How is it possible to explain that 16 years after my departure the children's mortality has been increasing? Sixty percent of the population is not in a position to get enough food. And life expectancy is diminishing. How is it possible to explain that 16 years afterward industrialists have to close their doors and there are no tourists anymore?
People are suffering a lot. It is not bearable. It is revolting. I know of parents who can't have their children go to school anymore. Some families eat every other day.
Q: Do you feel the issues of starvation and real life and death are greater now than they were 15 or 20 years ago? A: There is no possible comparison. The country has gone backward by 50 years. All the infrastructure has been destroyed. What is left is in a miserable state. Part of the capital does not have electricity.
Q: Do you want to return to Haiti? A: It is my firm intention as soon as conditions allow.
Q: Why do you want to go back and what do you want to do?
A: In spite of all these years that have elapsed since I was in Haiti, I am still very touched by that country. I suffer from being away as well as from seeing the misery under which the Haitian population has to live. That is why it is my duty to go back to the country and participate in the rebuilding of my country.
Q: Is there anything legal stopping you from going back to Haiti?
A: There is absolutely no legal obstacle to my return to Haiti.
Q: So why have you not gone back?
A: I've got my reasons.
Q: Tell me.
A: I will not tell the media.
Q: Do you live with the fear of being held criminally accountable for allegations of misappropriation of dollars from Haiti?
A: If there were any money misappropriated, I would like to see the evidence.
Q: Under what circumstances did you step down? In the final hour, who came to you and said you must go?
A: Nobody came to me to say that I had to leave. I thought it was best for me to leave because I wanted to avoid blood flooding the streets in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere. I had the means to stay in power, but I thought it was better for me to leave.
Q: It has been reported that the American government essentially forced your hand and said you had to leave.
A: It's absolutely false.
Q: Did you ever think it would be this many years that you would be away?
A: Honestly, no.
Q: The U.S. policy that doesn't consider Haitian refugees [migrants] as political refugees . . . do you agree with that?
A: There is chaos in Haiti. There are no available means to govern the country . . . Students were injured by bullets. Journalists were persecuted; two of them died. So that leads me to think that faced with such a situation, the Bush administration should grant the status of political refugee.
Q: It will be difficult . . . for some people to accept your raising concerns over abuses today and not taking any responsibility for abuses under you and your father's regime.
A: I never said that there weren't any abuses.
Haiti's National Palace draped in black to commemorate attack as opposition rallies against Aristide
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 17 - Opposition leaders rallied for a new government in Haiti on Tuesday, a year after government supporters torched opposition offices and gunman stormed the National Palace.
"We have assembled to commemorate the terrible events of Dec. 17 and to set democracy back on track by calling for the resignation of the man who was responsible for them," said opposition politician Mischa Gaillard, asking for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's resignation.
Activists gathered in the charred headquarters of the 12-party Convergence opposition alliance where several hundred people shouted "Down with Aristide!" Two cameraman who work for Aristide's foundation, Tele Ti-Moun, were barred from entering.
Protests against Aristide's government have grown stronger in the past month with pro-government supporters holding separate rallies to defend the former priest's popularity. At least three people have died in clashes and more than 350 people have been injured.
On Tuesday, the National Palace was draped in black to commemorate last year's attack when gunmen stormed the building before dawn. The attack, and the violence that followed, put an end to more than a year of fruitless Organization of American States mediated talks to get the government and opposition to agree on new elections.
Aristide's Lavalas Family party swept the ballot in May 2000 in elections the opposition denounced as rigged.
Agreeing to early legislative elections next year, Aristide has refused, however, to step down before 2006. Opposition leaders say they won't participate in any elections unless security is improved.
"The struggle in Haiti is not about Aristide at all. The struggle is about empowering poor people to have some say in their lives," said Ira Kurzban, a U.S. attorney for the Haitian government.
Government spokesman Mario Dupuy said to sabotage the electoral process is to wage "total war against the people."
Aristide won the presidency in a landslide Dec. 16, 1990, but the army overthrew him after less than a year in office. He lived in exile in Washington until U.S. troops helped restore him to power in 1994, demobilized the army and replaced it with a civilian police force. He ceded power to his chosen successor Rene Preval in 1996.
In a race boycotted by major political parties, Aristide won a second five-year term in November 2000, when the provisional electoral council said 60 percent of the electorate had cast their ballots.
Since the victory, his government has been stymied by a lack of international aid, investment and growing poverty.
Last year on Dec. 17, gunmen attacked the National Palace in what the government said was an attempted coup. Six people, including several former soldiers, were arrested but no trial dates have been set.
Following the attack on the palace, Aristide partisans torched opposition offices and the residences of its leaders. At least 10 died in the violence, which caused millions of dollars of damage.
The opposition charges the Dec. 17 attack was an event staged to clamp down on dissent.
In the past month, tens of thousands of people in scores of anti-government demonstrations have demanded Aristide step down, charging his allegedly anti-democratic government with incompetence and corruption. The demonstrations have often been broken up by police or Aristide supporters.
Some 25 opposition political parties and alliances have signed a declaration calling for Aristide's resignation.
The OAS which in a September resolution, exhorted Aristide to disarm the holders of illegally possessed weapons, pay reparations to the victims of the Dec. 17 violence and bring its perpetrators to justice, has faulted the government for not doing enough to persuade the opposition to participate in elections.
But the OAS, which accepts Aristide's legitimacy, has also rebuked his foes for straying from the electoral path. (mn-pd)
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press
Judge denies Haitians' asylum; First setbacks worry activists
By Jacquline Charles and Jennifer Maloney, Miami Herald Writers email@example.com
As the first batch of asylum requests were heard and denied Monday, advocates to free the detained Haitians worried that the denials were a sign of what's to come in the next few weeks.
Immigration Judge Rex J. Ford on Monday denied each of the requests for political asylum submitted by five male Krome detention center detainees. He told them, despite their compelling testimony, they failed to establish that they would be persecuted if returned to Haiti.
Ford also told the detainees that their testimony failed to demonstrate that they were refugees in Haiti, meaning they could not go elsewhere within the country to seek refuge from the political persecution they claim to have suffered.
''I am not unsympathetic to your situation,'' Ford told detainee Jalet Entienma through a translator. ``It's a very unfortunate story you told. . . . In your case, there is no evidence you were persecuted based on the guidelines the laws provides for.''
Entienma's asylum application was among the first 100 submitted last week as part of the Oct. 29 boatload of Haitian migrants who jumped off a boat in Biscayne Bay near the Rickenbacker Causeway. Another 100 or so applications are expected Dec. 27 in what immigration advocates and attorneys are calling an accelerated process designed to expedite deportation.
Holding several documents in his hand, Entienma, dressed in navy blue shirt and pants and a brown jacket, initially gave Ford a letter seeking a continuance in his case. But Ford denied the request, as he did in the others.
Barely audible at times, an ill-prepared Entienma attempted to make his case for asylum by telling Ford he feared returning to Haiti because of his brother's disappearance -- 12 years ago. Since then, Entienma said, he has been unable to live in Gonaives, his native village.
''It appears your brother was affected by criminals in Gonaives,'' Ford told Entienma, dismissing the migrant's claim that his brother's disappearance was politically motivated. ``There is no indication [you were] harmed in any way in Haiti.''
Immigration advocates and attorneys say the detainees -- those with and without lawyers -- are being railroaded through a system on a fast-track to deportation. There just isn't enough time to properly prepare the cases, they said.
''We can't represent someone if we know little or nothing about their case. That's a sham,'' said Cheryl Little, executive director of Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, who spoke at a rally Monday demanding the release of the migrant children from INS custody.
``They're not even pretending to give them due process.''
Last week, in a bid to buy more time, Little sent a letter to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, outlining the obstacles she and other attorneys face in representing the Haitians. They include: insufficient time to meet with clients, inadequate meeting space, hourslong waits to meet with clients, reduction of visitation hours and the unusually accelerated hearing schedule.
''It's very discouraging,'' said Randolph McGrorty, executive director of Catholic Charities Legal Services, which sent each of the detainees a letter saying it was willing to represent them but needed until Jan. 13 to prepare.
Even in cases like Garcon Jean-Louis, whose attorney received the case that morning, representation made little difference. Attorney Alain Armand failed to get Ford to continue the case, after raising concerns about his client's mental health.
''Even if the court were to believe the testimony concerning his claims, the court would find he failed to meet his burden,'' Ford ruled in the case.
All of the detainees were given 30 days to appeal the decisions.
|Haitian-born prosecutor prompts praise|
|By Larry Lebowitz, Miami Herald Writer|
Markenzy Lapointe doesn't like tooting his own horn, but plenty of others are willing to praise the first Haitian-born man to serve as a federal prosecutor at the U.S. attorney's office in Miami.
''Mark is an outstanding person who has excelled as a student, soldier and lawyer,'' U.S. Attorney Marcos Daniel Jiménez said. ``I am thrilled that he has chosen to join our office and once again serve our country and community.''
Patrick White, who oversees recruiting as executive counsel to Jiménez, called Lapointe ``the whole package. He's a future leader, not only in this office, but in this town. He's got all of the right characteristics: patience, humble, smart, seriousness of purpose.''
Lapointe, who clerked for Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead, will start in the Appellate Division, but looks forward to frontline prosecutions in the Major Crimes Division. ''I'm eternally grateful to have the opportunity to work in this community,'' Lapointe, 35, of North Miami, said at the end of his first day of orientation courses.
``I'm humbled by it.''
The appointment of a Haitian federal prosecutor in a community the size of Miami was long overdue, said Andre Pierre, a prominent member of the Haitian Lawyers Association and a friend of Lapointe's.
Actually, Lapointe is the second Haitian-born prosecutor in the Miami office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Magda Lovinsky was born on the island and raised stateside.
According to 2001 Census Bureau estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 167,713 native Haitians in the area -- 55,810 in Broward and 111,903 in Miami-Dade. Community activists say those numbers are low.
Lapointe was born in Port-au-Prince. His father was a tailor and his mother sold balloons on the streets. In 1984, he immigrated to Miami's Liberty City neighborhood. Three years later he graduated from Miami Edison High School.
While he was working on an associate's degree at Miami-Dade Community College, Lapointe joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.
After transferring to Florida State University, he was placed on active duty and sent to the Persian Gulf where he served in the infantry.
After the war, he returned to Tallahassee, completing his bachelor's degree in finance in 1993. He became a naturalized American in 1995 while living in Miami and working for a foreign bank. With some guidance from Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Daryl Trawick, the following year Lapointe enrolled at the FSU law school. After Lapointe graduated from law school in 1999, Anstead picked him for one of the court's clerkships.
''My clerkship was the greatest experience I had professionally,'' Lapointe said. ``I was working for an incredibly bright and incredibly passionate man. And I learned a whole lot about the appellate and trial practice.''
Lapointe lives in North Miami with his wife, Andrise, and their 2-year-old son, Eric. His parents and four siblings are all in South Florida.
Lapointe is fluent in both Creole and French. But in reality, he said, ``the joke around the house right now is if I went to France right now, could I order a meal?
Posted at 4:55 p.m., Friday, December 13, 2002
Aristide of Haiti: Pragmatist or Demagogue?
By David Gonzalez, The New York Times
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 12 - To his many impoverished followers, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the leader they fervently believe will lift them out of their misery. To his opponents ? a group that has become more vocal and more visible ? he is a demagogue who must reform or resign for the good of the country.
Those competing camps have clashed in the streets here in recent weeks, sometimes with fatal results as Haiti's lingering political stalemate, now two years old, flirts with disaster and disorder.
Negotiations have so far failed to end the deadlock, which stems from an election dispute. Several hundred million dollars in foreign aid have been frozen because of the crisis, and the economy of the hemisphere's poorest nation has festered.
Yet President Aristide says Haiti is at peace, or at least not in open warfare, thanks to him. In a 90-minute interview at the National Palace, he said he had already made significant concessions to his opponents.
He faulted international lenders for criticizing him while not providing Haiti with money that would allow the government to work. He has every intention, he said, of finishing his second five-year term. "I am not saying that I am the best," he said.
"I am saying it is not easy to find someone capable of doing what I am doing for two years. I do not have to say a lot. I just have to invite people to look at what we have accomplished with nothing."
As much as offering a defense of his record, the statement provided a précis of Haiti's political conundrum.
Even his critics acknowledge that for all his flaws, there is no other politician with Mr. Aristide's popular standing. But they complain that the president has deflected responsibility for the political deadlock and made progress toward breaking it impossible.
Despite assurances about his commitment to democracy, they say, he has built his support in part by playing dangerously on the race and class differences that have made the country's politics so volatile and its democratic governments so fleeting since Haiti's founding.
"If he does not do something dramatic we are going to be in a terrible situation," said a leading businessman who has tried to intercede with the government. "I do not know if he has the wisdom to do what is necessary, because time is running out."
The Organization of American States has urged international lenders and donors to release the money, and donors meeting in Washington this week said they were looking for ways to provide some immediate funds to assist development and provide jobs.
But first they want Mr. Aristide to make some administrative changes that will account for how the money is used. Those changes hardly depend on the political opposition, said one official at the meeting.
During the interview, held in the antechamber to his office in the hushed, almost still palace, Mr. Aristide portrayed himself as having already been reasonable with his opponents, a fractious coalition known as the Democratic Convergence.
He has offered to shorten or even end the terms of the winners of the disputed 2000 elections, he said. He blamed the opposition for sabotaging any chance for a peaceful resolution of the political crisis by refusing to take part in new legislative elections next year against his Lavalas movement.
"Those who say Lavalas is weak, why not go to elections?" he said. "It would be good for the country."
His critics answer that Mr. Aristide has been slow to guarantee their security, particularly since a mysterious nighttime raid on the presidential palace a year ago that the president's supporters say was an attempted coup.
Since then, the critics say, the government has yet to disarm gangs of thugs who have sought retribution and intimidated Aristide opponents. Some say it is an indication that Mr. Aristide cannot control his supporters in the Lavalas movement, or does not want to.
Diplomats are warning both sides not to use the anniversary of the palace raid, next week, to provoke more confrontations.
Posted at 1: 40 a.m., Friday, December 13, 2002
In Haiti, a symbolic funeral mass and procession for chief bandit Aristide
By Yves A. Isidor, wehaitians.com executive editor
Cambridge, MA, Dec. 13 - A man from Mars - or from Pluto - could be expected to miss a symbolic funeral mass and precession, with a lot of political significance, in Haiti Thursday (photo).
But for thousands of Haiti's state university students, it would never be so (No safe areas in Haiti, says U.S.A).
A symbolic funeral mass was said Thursday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, for the country's brutal dictator, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, after his death was mocked and that he died Wednesday from drinking the blood of innocent citizens, the results of an autopsy performed thereafter on the body affirmed.
If for some of the students, tyrant Aristide should simply be fried in hell, but for others it was also an opportunity to set scores, even with the dead body of a little red man they could not get in life to make him pay for his incalculable number of crimes - most of them brutal murde.
During the course of the funeral procession, leading to Port-au-Prince's cemetery, where the dictator's body was to be put to rest, students could be heard chanting from miles away: "You bastard Arisitide, die again! You thief Aristide, die again! Let's kick the dictator's body, and now."
Less than two minutes later, the closed pink casket, a cheep one, with a made believed tyrant Aristide's body inside, was nearly reduced into pieces after a large number of enraged students kicked it several times before they were restrained by colleagues, who said "Oh Satan, Oh Satan is now gone, there is no need to even attempt to touch his toxic body," which prompted an intermittent cry of long live Haiti! Down with dictatorship!
"Letènel, mesi anpil, mwen kontan anpil Satan mouri (God, God thank you very much, I'm extremely happy that Satan has died)", said a very old lady, 87, who declined to give her name, standing across the street watching the funeral procession.
Aristide says vast majority of Haitians support him ByJim Defede and Marika Lynch, Miami Herald Writers firstname.lastname@example.org
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec. 12 -- Appearing calm and confident, Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Thursday dismissed the notion his government is in trouble or that he has lost the support of his people.
''Today, I am here at the palace, it is not a gift. The vast majority of the people are with me,'' Aristide said during a wide-ranging, 90-minute interview in his office.
Aristide pledged to hold elections next year and said that Haitian immigrants who reach Florida are economic, not political, refugees -- a designation that would all but close the door on the possibility of winning political asylum.
He saved his harshest criticism for the United States and the international community for blocking aid for his government's projects more than two years ago. He argued that international leaders, and not his government, are responsible for the turmoil in his nation.
''In 1990, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Twelve years later, Haiti is still the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere -- not because of what we did, but because of what those [members of the international community did] -- imposing an economic sanction against us as a people,'' Aristide said. ``They have the responsibility.''
Recently, Haiti has faced almost daily protests, where opponents demand Aristide's resignation and alleged supporters become violent in his name.
Aristide acknowledges there is political violence in his country -- among those who support him and those who don't. Nevertheless, he said, the levels are exaggerated.
He also questioned why human rights groups and the media often blame his Lavalas Party for the violence. To make his point, he mentioned an attack on a police station Tuesday night, where four people were killed in an apparent attempt to free an opposition member arrested for murdering a Lavalas judge.
As is often the case in Haiti, Aristide says things are not always as they seem. In recent weeks, political gangs who say they are pro-government have taken to the streets, even beating anti-government protesters with whips on Dec. 3 to preempt a march in downtown Port-au-Prince.
While opponents see the groups as Aristide's ''enforcers,'' the president said it is unclear who is behind them.
''It is not easy to distinguish which one is really supporting us when they are causing violence,'' Aristide said.
Despite their declarations, some may commit violence to embarrass the government and try to turn people against him, Aristide said.
To Aristide, the country's political and economic crises are intertwined: The international community denies aid, people grow desperate, and there are outbursts in the streets.
In fact, Aristide said, it is surprising Haiti isn't more unstable, given the poverty and 70 percent unemployment rate in the nation of eight million. He credited himself with keeping the country together.
''I would want to see who could sit here in this office and spend the past two years without economic assistance and keep the country intact, relatively peaceful and intact,'' Aristide said. ``Tell me, if in Detroit, you could have such a peaceful environment when there is a blackout. Tell me, if in Haiti, where you have months of blackouts, not just hours, you can still have a peaceful environment.''
Haiti's democracy is young and experiencing growing pains, he said. The country is trying to break the addictive cycle of coups that had gripped the nation for almost 200 years. He said it would take time to develop strong democratic institutions.
Aristide is facing the biggest test to his leadership since the September 1991 coup that forced him into exile in the United States. A once small, elite opposition has grown, and recently students, business leaders and human rights groups have condemned the government, and some have demanded his resignation.
The country has been locked in a political stalemate since May 2000, when the Lavalas Party swept parliamentary elections that observers said were flawed. Afterward, the international community blocked aid, including more than $150 million in loans for roads and health projects.
This summer, the Organization of American States released that aid, but the government still hasn't received the money. Among the stumbling blocks: the country still owes money on other loans.
Critics, however, said Haiti's economic problems are more fundamental, and go beyond the lack of aid.
Financial mismanagement, the recent collapse of local cooperatives, or investment groups that went broke after devolving into a pyramid scheme, and a rumor-fueled banking crisis that sent millions of dollars out of the country also have deepened the economic crisis.
Aristide's opponents and the international community say Aristide also is slow to impose reforms.
Earlier in the week, the OAS chastised the Haitian government for not doing enough to provide a secure environment for legislative elections, which Aristide wants to hold next year.
Opposition leaders say they won't participate until the government can ensure a safe environment in which to campaign and vote. Aristide rejects that notion. If an election can happen in civil-war torn Colombia, he said, it can happen in Haiti today.
The opposition is afraid of contesting elections and is stalling, Aristide said.
''They fear elections. They prefer to choose violence sometimes,'' he said, adding that elections will take place in the first six months of next year.
The OAS also criticized the Haitian government for not arresting people implicated in the burning of opposition members' homes and headquarters last year.
Aristide said he has called for their arrests, but the judiciary is independent.
''Our judicial system is corrupted, our police [department] is young,'' Aristide said, adding he can't get involved because he would violate the separation of powers.
In the interview in his office, where he sat beneath a portrait of Haitian independence hero Toussaint L'Ouverture, Aristide also talked about Haitian immigration to the United States.
Video footage of more than 200 Haitians scrambling to the shore off Key Biscayne in October saddened him, he said. Though some said they were fleeing political persecution and have asked for asylum, Aristide said the exodus is economic, exacerbated by the international community's blockage of aid to the government.
''It is clear in my mind that the people left for economic reasons. Haitians are proud, willing to stay in Haiti and work in Haiti,'' Aristide said. ``Haitians enjoy working. When you see someone leaving the country . . it is because they are suffering so much.''
The Haitian coast guard, he said, has orders to stop boats leaving the country.
Aristide puts the onus on the United States to strengthen protection.
Despite the seriousness of the issues he is confronting, Aristide was in remarkably good spirits during the interview, laughing and joking at times, and making it clear he enjoys being president.
Asked about his plans for the remainder of his term, Aristide said: ``My answer may surprise you. What I am looking forward for is a peaceful Haiti, a democratic Haiti.''
Repairing the economy, attracting investment to the island, and improving the education system are important to him as well, but a stable democracy is the first priority.
``For the coming three years I will continue to try my best to try and protect that peaceful and democratic environment because I know once we have that, the rest will come.''
Posted at 5:15 a.m., Thursday, December 12, 2002
Poor, abused and largely ignored, Haiti's street children endure daily struggles
By Ian James, Associated Press Writer
LES CAYES, Haiti, Dec. 10 - On the edge of town, dozens of boys congregate below a statue of Jesus. It's their home as they scratch out lives on the town's littered streets noisy with trucks and motorcycles.
Forced from their homes by poverty and broken families, the children load and sweep buses for meager tips. They don't attend school, their clothes are ragged, and fellow citizens largely regard them as a nuisance.
"I don't know my age," says a barefooted Jean-Claude George, who has the body of a 10-year-old but the gaze of a man who has known years of suffering. "I've been on the street a long time."
Like others among the children who sleep on buses or near the white statue, Jean-Claude fled an abusive home in the countryside for this town on Haiti's southern coast, 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the capital of Port-au-Prince.
He earns small change on the buses to pay for food and shoes, but the sandals often disappear in the company he keeps.
"The other kids keep an eye on me all night," he says. "Once I go to sleep, they steal them."
Street children struggle in cities around the globe, from Sao Paolo to Bombay. But in this Caribbean nation, the Western Hemisphere's poorest, the problem of homelessness among children is especially severe.
Some experts say the situation has worsened in recent years amid Haiti's political turmoil. Thousands of children wander the cities, looking for odd jobs, begging or stealing to eat.
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, has tried to make children's issues a cornerstone of his presidency, but government efforts have failed to bring the children off the streets.
In 1986, before he was president, Aristide founded the Family Is Life orphanage.
His political involvement eventually made it a target for opponents. In 1991, the same year he was ousted in a coup, five children died in a suspicious fire at the facility. In 1992, some children were wounded when Aristide opponents stormed the building and began shooting.
The orphanage eventually closed in 1999 amid protests by orphans who said promises of jobs weren't kept.
Dominique Esperant, the former regional head of the social affairs ministry in Les Cayes, hopes to put street children back on the political agenda.
"Everyone seems to think the best way to deal with this is to kick these kids out of town," Esperant says. "I believe they can become good citizens like anyone else if someone is there to help them out."
Frustrated by a lack of government funds, Esperant is trying to raise money independently to start a center to house street children.
He meets with the children below the statue of Jesus, drawing a crowd as he writes their names on a list. At last count, the list had 57 names.
"There is no work back home," says Lesene Souverain, 17, who says he left home when he was 9 because his parents couldn't pay for school. "At least on the streets, there are people who can help me."
In the nearby hills, deforested land is turning into desert. Curls of smoke rise as farmers use remaining trees to make charcoal for cooking. Esperant says most of Les Cayes' street children come from this wasteland.
"They don't have any arable land to plant anymore," he says. "So they came to the city to look for life, to look for a way to survive."
Child labor is common even for those stay at home. Boys in Les Cayes sell crackers and muffins from trays on their heads. In Port-au-Prince, some young girls work as prostitutes to augment family earnings.
Sometimes, poor parents give away children to be servants for better-off families. It's widely accepted in Haiti to keep a child servant, or "restavek" a Creole term that means "staying with."
The children often are mistreated, and human rights groups criticize the practice as child slavery. Abuse drives many restaveks to the streets.
In Les Cayes, many people express little pity for the children, calling them "grapiyay," or hustlers.
Jean-Claude's young face, like those of others, bears scars. He says he won't return to the home where his father beat him.
"I'd rather stay with the guys," he says. "They're practically my family."
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.
Posted at 2:39 p.m., Monday, December 9, 2002
4 Haitian journalists hiding from pro-Aristide gang; Plight of group underlines peril facing profession across nation
By Marika Lynch, Miami Herald Writer email@example.com
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec. 9 -- Esdras Mondelus named his station Radio Etincelle, literally Radio Spark, because he wanted his broadcasts to illuminate people's lives. But the light has gone out.
The station's four reporters, plus three others, are in hiding here, living in fear.
Two weeks ago, the so-called Cannibal Army, a gang that supports President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, went hunting for them at their station in the northern town of Gonaves. The journalists jumped a wall and hid in the local bishop's house until police escorted them to the capital.
Meanwhile, their headquarters was torched.
The group represents some of the 64 Haitian journalists threatened over the past two years, says the Haitian Journalists Association, which filed a complaint on their behalf to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. In other cases, journalists were beaten by police, attacked by protesting university students, and one says he was assaulted by members of the presidential guard, according to association documents.
In Haiti, where nearly 85 percent of the population can't read, radio is king -- a powerful and often feared force.
Reporters risk their lives, or even lose it like Jean Dominique, the popular news director at Radio Haiti Inter who was shot to death in his station's courtyard.
A year later in 2001, another reporter, Brignol Lindor, was hacked to death with a machete after the local mayor denounced him.
''You have armed groups linked to the government constantly threatening journalists. What's worse is that the government often doesn't make sure these people are punished. That's the most serious threat to press freedom,'' said Joseph Guyler Delva, head of the association.
The government realizes that ''some journalists are being persecuted for voicing criticisms,'' said presidential spokesman Luc Especa. The violence is part of the political polarization in Haiti right now, Especa said.
''The government is doing the best it can to establish order and to urge everyone to remain calm,'' Especa said.
Delva concedes there is a measure of press freedom in today's Haiti. For example, he said, unlike Haiti under the Duvalier regime, reporters can criticize the government and not worry about officials shutting down the station. Yet, he said, there are still grave problems.
The journalists in hiding are from Gonaves, a northern port city four hours by car from the capital.
It is the headquarters for the Cannibal Army, a pro-Aristide gang led by Amiot Metayer, who escaped from jail in August.
The government refuses to rearrest him.
Reporters at Radio Etincelle said they've been getting threats since their live coverage of a protest in Cap-Hatien Nov. 17, which turned out to be the largest anti-Aristide march the country has seen.
So on Nov. 21, the crew was in the streets of Gonaves again, covering a student march. Word spread that the Cannibal Army was after them, Mondelus said.
The reporters went back to the station and opened up the telephone lines to get callers' reaction to the day's political events.
Soon after, members of the Cannibal Army ran toward the station, and seven reporters -- including three that work for other stations but use the office -- jumped the station's wall. They hopped on the back of motorcycle taxis, common in Haiti's countryside, and went to the bishop's house.
''We thought we were already dead,'' said Mondelus, 31, Radio Etincelle owner and executive director.
The reporters say they cowered in the courtyard for two hours until the bishop finally let them in.
The bishop feared reprisals for hiding them. At one point, church leadership wanted the reporters to leave, but the head of Haiti's Organization of American States mission intervened. The reporters stayed for seven days, eating meals of spaghetti brought by a church member, praying they wouldn't be found. They called their wives, their mothers, every day.
The mother of reporter Jean-Robert François was in tears. Michelin François told her son and local radio that she'd received threats. We know where your son is; we're going to kill him, the callers said.
''Try not to cry too much,'' Jean-Robert François said, trying to console his mother. But she too had to leave her home and go into hiding.
The Haitian Journalists Association called the police, which sent three high-level officers on a rescue mission to pick up the group by helicopter. The aircraft was supposed to whisk them to safety Friday, Nov. 29, but couldn't take off. It needed to be serviced.
The reporters had to move, though: Their hide-out at the bishop's house had been discovered.
They went to a hotel, but thugs came and started firing outside. Delva, of the journalists association, was on the phone with Haiti's head of police at the time.
''We could see people from our room, running, falling down, trying to flee,'' Delva said. ``The journalists panicked. They had nowhere to run.''
REFUGE IN CAPITAL
The police immediately sent two jeeps, which took the reporters to Haiti's second largest city, Cap-Hatien. There they boarded a small plane for the capital, where they continue to be in hiding.
The reporters want to go back to work but say they won't until the government meets some conditions. They want Haiti's police to arrest the gang leader Metayer and take away the Cannibal Army's weapons.
They haven't heard an answer. ''We're still waiting,'' Mondelus said.
Posted at 10:01 p.m., Saturday, December 6, 2002
Opposition party headquarters burned in alleged arson in Haiti
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 7 - The party headquarters of an opposition politician burned down Saturday in a blaze allegedly set by partisans of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the politician said (photo).
Arsonists threw a firebomb into the downtown headquarters of Hubert Deronceray's Mobilization for National Development party after midnight, Deronceray said, accusing Aristide partisans of "doing their leader's bidding."
The ensuing fire gutted the building, but nobody was inside at the time.
On Wednesday, about 20 Aristide partisans had stormed into Deronceray's headquarters, slapped party members, and announced they had received an order to burn down the building. The men left, promising to return, Deronceray said.
They said that "if Aristide's government is threatened, they will turn day into night and night into day," he said.
The threats came amid a protest strike that slowed business activity in several Haitian cities, including the capital, on Wednesday.
The Chamber of Commerce called the strike after an eruption of anti-government demonstrations on Tuesday that left some 52 people injured in the capital. During clashes, Aristide's supporters wielded whips and hurled rocks at demonstrators.
Demonstrations have been raging for three weeks in Western Hemisphere's poorest country. At least 350 people have been reported hurt and three killed in demonstrations since Nov. 18.
The government has blamed the violence on the opposition. The opposition, by demanding Aristide's resignation and refusing to participate in elections, "has polarized the country," government spokesman Mario Dupuy has said.
Opposition leaders say elections are impossible under Aristide and his allegedly antidemocratic government.
Living conditions in Haiti have deteriorated in the past few years. There has been scant investment and a trickle of foreign aid, which was suspended after Aristide's Lavalas family party swept what observers said were flawed parliamentary elections in May 2000.
Gunmen raided the National Palace on Dec. 17 in an attack the government described as a failed coup attempt. The opposition accused the government of staging the attack to clamp down on dissent.
At least 10 people were killed in the palace assault and subsequent violence. Aristide militants later went on the rampage, burning opposition offices and homes.
Aristide, a former priest, was ousted in a 1991 coup months after his first election as president. U.S. troops invaded and helped restore Aristide to power in 1994. Now serving his second five-year term, he has refused to step down early as opponents demand.
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.
Prominent businessman shot dead in Haiti's capital
By Michael Deibert Reuters Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec 6 (Reuters) Gerald Khawly, a prominent Haitian businessman and brother of the former mayor of the southern city of Jacmel, was shot and killed in Port-au-Prince on Friday evening, police and relatives said.
Khawly, 64, was shot in the head by two men at a gas station which he owned near the capital's Sylvio Cator Stadium, relatives said. His son-in-law, Pascha Vorbe, who was with him, was shot in the neck.
The suspected killers escaped on a motorcycle and had not been captured, police said.
Khawly was taken to Port-au-Prince's Canape Vert Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Vorbe would be airlifted to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital for surgery, relatives said.
Khawly's family is prominent in coastal Jacmel, where his brother, Jacques, the former mayor, is president of the Chamber of Commerce.
The killing came in the wake of a spasm of violence in Haiti as President Jean-Bertrand Aristide faces a barrage of criticism over the disintegrating economy and for violence allegedly committed by his supporters.
Government supporters beat anti-Aristide demonstrators in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday and five other protesters were shot and wounded in the provincial city of Petit Goave.
At least four people were wounded by gunfire two weeks earlier as Aristide supporters set up barricades of flaming tires around the capital and fired automatic weapons from the backs of pick-up trucks.
At least five people, including a judge, have been killed in political violence since November 17th.
A general strike called last week by Aristide's political opposition and 15 business groups in response to the violence saw hundreds of businesses closed around the country
Aristide, a former Catholic priest, was elected president in 1990 but ousted in a coup months later. U.S. troops helped restore him to power in 1994 and he won a second term in Nov. 2000. Since then he has been mired in a dispute over May 2000 legislative elections, which has stalled foreign aid for his 8 million people as the economy has deteriorated.
Posted at 8:49 p.m., Thursday, December 5, 2002
Haitian totalitarian dictator says he won't step down, accusing his opponents of sabotaging progress in Haiti
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 5 (AP) - President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has rejected calls for his resignation, accusing his opponents of sabotaging progress in Haiti.
"It's not President Aristide they don't like. It's the Haitian people they don't like," Aristide told a crowd in the southern coastal city of Les Cayes on Wednesday.
The speech coincided with an anti-Aristide strike by businesses in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Banks were closed, gas stations empty, and many students returned home when they found their schools shut. Similar strikes were held in tandem in Cap-Haitien, Gonaives, and Jacmel.
Wednesday's strike came after an eruption of anti-government demonstrations on Tuesday that left at least 16 people injured. During many of Tuesday's clashes, Aristide's supporters attacked demonstrators with whips and rocks. Protesters are demanding better living conditions and an end to Aristide's government, which they accuse of being autocratic and anti-dissident.
"The strike was a unanimous reaction of the people to the criminal violence of the government," said former army officer Himmler Rebu, one of the leaders in Tuesday's anti-government march in the capital.
Aristide's allies called the strike a failure. The call was only followed by the wealthy minority, said lawmaker Rep. Simpson Liberus. "The vast majority of the people did not respect" it, he said.
Fifteen major business associations participated in the strike. In a written statement, the associations accused the government of "contempt for the most basic democratic norms."
About 2,000 Aristide supporters broke up Tuesday's Port-au-Prince march using stones and rawhide whips to drive away protesters. Police fired tear gas Tuesday at a crowd in Petit-Goave, where ten teenagers were injured in an opposition protest last week.
The government blamed Tuesday's violence on the opposition. "We reject violent confrontations," government spokesman Mario Dupuy said. He accused the opposition of polarizing the country and said Aristide wants a "peaceful environment."
At least three people have been killed and scores injured in three weeks of anti-government protests in Haiti. Opposition leaders said they are only seeking change. "The people don't stage coup d'etats. But they know how to chase dictators like you (Aristide) from power," said opposition politician Evans Paul. Pressures have been mounting on Aristide's government, which has been stymied by a lack of international aid and investment and growing poverty in Haiti.
"The international community still supports ... the setting up of a provisional electoral council in order to hold elections," said Organization of American States special representative David Lee, who deplored "the intimidation that marred" Tuesday's demonstrations.
Although parliamentary elections are planned for next year, presidential elections aren't planned until 2005. Some of the country's leaders say they won't participate in elections unless the climate for democracy improves.
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.
Posted at 11:40 p.m., Wednesday, December 4, 2002
Conditions for children in Haiti worsening
By Jane Regan, LatinAmericapress.org
"We have built a nation where the child does not exist," said Jean Robert Chéry, director of the Popular Education Center (PEC), a Port-au-Prince organization that works with street children. "Where are the laws to protect children? Where are the structures? Nowhere. When a family has a problem, it sells a child, just as a peasant sells an animal when he needs cash."
Almost 10 percent of all Haitian children between five and 17 years old--about 173,000, according to the United Nations (news - web sites) Children's Fund (UNICEF (news - web sites))--are restavèks, meaning "stay with," which refers to children who are virtually enslaved as domestic servants.
The practice started during the last century, when peasants began sending their children to work for urban families in the hope that they would receive food, schooling, and the chance of a better life.
Most, however, receive no education, are regularly abused and are thrown onto the streets when they reach a certain age or, in the case of girls, when they become pregnant, often after being raped by an employer.
In recent years, restavèks have appeared across the border in the Dominican Republic, where Haitians have long worked as both legal and undocumented immigrants. At least 2,000 children are smuggled into the neighboring country from northern Haiti every summer to work as domestic servants, beggars, or farm hands according to a recent report by UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration.
The children, aged between five and 13, live in impoverished conditions and must turn over their earnings to the smugglers - who might or might not send some of the money to the children's families. While many do return to Haiti at the end of the summer, about one-third remain in the Dominican Republic.
"This is a shocking export of the restavèk phenomenon," said Sylvana R. Nzirorera, communications officer for UNICEF, which, along with other local organizations, is working on plans to fight child smuggling. But the government has shown little interest in the initiative, she said.
Haiti's President Jean-Bertrand Aristide promised to end the restavèk practice at the UN Special Session on Children last May, but no concrete measures have yet been taken, said Nzirorera, who added that despite several meetings with UNICEF officials, "nothing has come from these discussions."
While the Haitian government claims to help about 200 restavèks a year through a telephone hotline and a still-unratified set of laws on children's issues that do not mention restavèks, the government does little to protect children, according to PEC's Chéry.
While education campaigns about children's rights in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic are important, the only way to end the exploitation of children, according to the child advocacy groups, is to address Haiti's ailing education and healthcare systems, and provide parents with employment to reduce the pressure on young family members to bring home a wage.
Addressing the immigration problem would also do much to stop the child smuggling, according to Colette Lespinasse, director of the Haitian Refugees and Repatriated People's Support Group. It is estimated that about 10,000 Haitians have been repatriated from the Dominican Republic so far this year, while the United States Coast Guard has picked up some 650 people and the Bahamas has returned hundreds more.
"We have a government that does not admit it has an immigration problem, so it has no immigration policy," Lespinasse said. "It closes its eyes and doesn't deal with it. People can take boats, cross the border, export kids--that doesn't bother people in the government...There is no investment in anything productive that would enable people to live better lives."
Copyright © 2002 OneWorld.net.
Posted at 5:25 p.m., Wednesday, December 4, 2002
General strike in Haiti closes businesses, schools in protest of bestial dictator and de facto President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government
By Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 4 - Shops and schools were bolted shut Wednesday during a general strike called to protest President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government a day after police and mobs broke up anti-government demonstrations.
Nearly 200 businesses, including banks and gas stations, closed in the capital of Port-au-Prince, while others in the northern provinces shut their doors in solidarity. The call for the general strike came hours after police firing tear gas and whip-wielding Aristide partisans broke up anti-government demonstrations across the country on Tuesday. U.S. Ambassador Brian Dean Curran pleaded for calm in the impoverished nation besieged by growing instability.
"The solution to Haiti's problem is not in the street but through elections," said U.S. Ambassador Brian Dean Curran. "We urge people to refrain from violence. People have the right to demonstrate freely and the United States regrets that that right was denied Tuesday."
Pressure has been mounting on Aristide to step down, but the former priest has refused. Parliamentary elections are slated for next year, but presidential elections aren't scheduled until 2005. Some leaders say elections are impossible given the current political instability.
At least 16 people were injured in Tuesday's protests during a third week of steady demonstrations against Aristide's embattled government.
"The strike was a unanimous reaction to the criminal violence of the government," said opposition leader and former Haitian Army Col. Himmler Rebu, who participated in a 1989 failed coup against then-dictator Prosper Avril.
"There can be no fair elections as long as Aristide is in power, but we will not use violence to resolve the problem of violence," he said.
Traffic was light on the streets Wednesday, but the airport stayed open. Many informal merchants who couldn't afford to close remained open.
"I don't have the luxury of not working," said Pesan Claude, a 50-year-old florist in the suburb of Petionville. "I'm not interested in anything else except taking care of my family."
Aristide, whose Lavalas Family party swept what observers said were flawed elections in 2000, has blamed the opposition and the international community for deserting the country in its greatest time of need. Since the flawed elections, foreign aid has come to a halt.
Fifteen major business associations were participating in the strike. In a written statement, they expressed concerned that "the democratic process is in grave danger."
Rebu, who closed his fitness centers for the strike, said if the government doesn't respect opposing points of views, leaders will present a declaration that could ask for Aristide's resignation and the establishment of a provisional government. A similar declaration helped push then-President Paul E. Magloire from power in 1956.
Rebu urged the international community to recognize what he called Aristide's unwillingness to govern democratically. "We believe the international community has to face its responsibility," he said.
The United States helped restore Aristide to power in 1994 after he was ousted in a coup in 1991. Facing a term limit, Aristide ceded power to chosen successor Rene Preval in 1996. Aristide won a second five-year term in November 2000.
In the last few years, poverty has deepened in the Caribbean nation and investment has dried up. The country has also been hobbled by decades of political turmoil.
"Production has declined, tourism has disappeared, and we have lost many assembly jobs to the Dominican Republic," said one businessman and strike organizer who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation. (pd-imj)
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press
End of the Aristide myth
By Jane Regan
Once seen as a savior, Haiti?s president is now the target of massive, angry protests.
During his 1990 presidential campaign, it was not uncommon to see thousands of Haitians carrying the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Catholic priest, through the streets on their shoulders, singing and chanting, "Together, together we are the cleansing flood (lavalas)!" Millions of Haitians considered Aristide, founder of the Lavalas party, their savior.
Twelve years later, crowds are turning out to demand Aristides resignation and more. In the streets, demonstrators chant, "Judge Aristide in a peoples court!" "Aristide, president of the thugs!" and "Aristide, we are hungry and exhausted!" and cheer former Army officers. Angry men, women and children trample fliers bearing Aristides photo while bystanders drink toasts to them.
Although discontent has been building for months, the first major anti-Aristide march was held on Nov. 17 in the northern coastal town of Cap-Haïtien, on the eve of the 199th anniversary of the Battle of Vertières, the last major event in the Haitian slave revolution. It followed two student marches in the capital that drew thousands.
At the Vertières monument, thousands of people cheered speakers from opposition parties that used to struggle to attract a crowd of a hundred. "At the feet of our ancestors, we pledge to combat all forms of dictatorship!" shouted Evans Paul, a former Aristide ally and mayor of Port-au-Prince during Aristides first term. Aristide, who was ousted by a coup in 1991, was returned to office in 1995. He was elected to a second term in 2000 (LP, Dec. 11, 2000).
Former Col. Himmler Rebu, who headed the now-disbanded Haitian Armys special forces, was also there, beaming under accolades. Absent from the political scene since leading an abortive coup attempt in 1989, for which he was arrested, Rebu was not in the Army when it overthrew Aristide in 1991.
The Vertières demonstration, which drew more than 15,000 protesters, was the largest ever against Aristide and the biggest for or against anything since Aristides 1990 presidential campaign. "Were tired of Lavalas. Were hungry and prices just keep going up," said Roger Jean-Charles as he watched the marchers pass by, some dressed in their Sunday best. "I voted for Aristide, but now I regret it."
While Aristide still has followers in the countryside, people in cities and towns have overcome apathy and fear and have taken to the streets, sometimes led by opposition politicians but often on their own.
In the southern coastal town of Petit-Goâve, where a pro-Aristide mob hacked journalist Brignol Lindor to death a year ago because Aristide opponents had been guests on his radio show, students marched on Nov. 20 to protest an increase in exam fees. When they massed at the police station, officers opened fire, wounding at least seven students. Lavalas claimed that opposition members had infiltrated the march, but human rights groups and most journalists rejected that version of events.
The Petit-Goâve incident was followed by demonstrations in other cities, and there were other attacks on protesters by police and Aristide supporters. At least a dozen people were injured on Dec. 3 in Port-au-Prince and several other cities when Aristide backers attacked demonstrators who were demanding Aristides resignation and justice in the Lindor case.
Lavalas which has been reduced to a small number of government employees, politicians and a few hundred supporters, some of whom are armed has organized its own shows of force. On Nov. 22, thugs blockaded the capital with burning barricades, sometimes with the help of people driving state vehicles. Only journalists and official vehicles were allowed to circulate.
Outrage from business associations, opposition parties, human rights groups and the Organization of American States (OAS) was so strong that in the following days, the party switched to rallies and marches. They have never drawn more than a few thousand people, however, and their slogans such as, "If Aristides not here, who will replace him?" indicate that the regime has run out of alternatives.
Meanwhile, violence has escalated. Seven radio journalists are in hiding and two stations have closed because of threats from pro-Aristide thugs. On Nov. 28, a Lavalas judge in Lascahobas, in eastern Haiti, was shot in the head as he swore to stand by Aristide to the death, according to one reporter. On the same day, in Gonaïves, on the northwestern coast, a mob of Aristide supporters known as the "Cannibal Army" (LP, Aug. 26, 2002) attacked an anti-Aristide march.
More than a dozen people, including high school students, have been wounded or killed since the Vertières march on Nov. 17.
On Nov. 28, after two weeks of silence, Aristide summoned the press to the National Palace, where he called for peace and said elections would be held as scheduled next year. "I will not leave office," he said. "A coup detat is not the solution to Haiti's problems."
Many observers, however, question whether more promises and elections are the solution. Most Haitians are poorer now than they were a decade ago. During the past two years, the economy has shrunk and most foreign loans and aid have been blocked by governments and international agencies tired of the two-year feud between Lavalas and the opposition (LP, April 8, 2002).
Tales of drug deals and corruption also abound. While they are difficult to corroborate, most Haitians consider sumptuous cars and well-armed security personnel evidence that Lavalas has betrayed them.
"We struggled for democracy. We risked our lives during the coup. But then we saw our leaders run for office or receive jobs and line their pockets," said Ertha Charles, a teacher and former youth leader in the northern town of Pilate. "Many people are totally disillusioned about the ideas we had and the promises Aristide made. We are all worse off. Only a few opportunists, people who attached themselves to someones coattails, have jobs.
The rest of us have nothing." The recent demonstrations are a result of that frustration and the countrys multiple economic crises. Earlier this year, the collapse of a credit union pyramid scheme cost tens of thousands of Haitians their lifes savings, an estimated US$200 million (LP, Sept. 23, 2002). Many blamed Aristide, who, in his February 2001 inaugural speech, had urged people to put their money in credit unions.
That was followed by the sudden drop in the value of the Haitian gourde, fed by a rumor that bank accounts in US dollars about one-third of all accounts would be converted into gourdes. In just a few weeks in October, the gourde lost one-third of its value and about $50 million was withdrawn from banks.
On Nov. 4 the government missed the OAS deadline for a series of reforms, including establishing an electoral council and disarming the population (LP, Nov. 18, 2002). While the OAS, Lavalas and the US Embassy an influential player in Haiti continue to call for elections, many observers say balloting would be impossible now.
"The prospects of forming an electoral council and holding elections are dwindling," said Pierre Esperance of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, one of a dozen human rights organizations responsible for choosing a representative to the electoral council. "Lavalas is incapable of assuring the necessary climate of security."
Instead, opposition parties and some other sectors are calling for Aristides resignation and the formation of a transitional government that would oversee elections within the next year. The grassroots groups, peasant organizations and other leftist groups that helped bring Aristide to power 12 years ago have so far remained silent.
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Prosper Avril, former Haitian president by coup, accused torturer and one-time Miami mamey farmer, sits in the National Penitentiary contemplating his future.
Three times a court has ordered his release, and three times the Haitian government has kept him locked up. In the latest charge, the government says Avril masterminded a peasant massacre in 1990, even though the general had skipped the country by U.S. military jet the day before.
Sitting in the prison courtyard, beneath a banner that reads ''Long Live Aristide,'' Avril blames his former political rival for his current circumstance.
''I think he has something in his heart against me,'' Avril said of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The Organization of American States and human-rights groups question Avril's continued detention, which some see as revenge politics in the feeble Haitian justice system.
''A scandal,'' said Pierre Esperance, director of the Haiti office of the National Coalition of Haitian Rights.
''Arbitrary abuse of power,'' said Luigi Einaudi, assistant secretary general of the OAS. ``Haiti isn't Switzerland, but some cases are pretty obvious.''
The government maintains that there is no plot against Avril. In this latest legal round, the government says Avril's lawyers merely asked the wrong court to set him free -- an issue of jurisdiction.
''His lawyers made a mistake,'' said Ira Kurzban, the Miami-based lawyer for the Haitian government.
''This guy is a dictator and a torturer. I wish Mr. Avril was put in the proper context,'' Kurzban added.
A confidant and financial advisor to the former ruling Duvalier family and a member of the presidential guard, Avril had an 18-month reign over Haiti. When he took power in September 1988, ousting another military leader, he promised to bring ''irreversible democracy'' to the country. But he never called elections. He was forced to flee in March 1990 after protests engulfed the country.
Part of the catalyst was a crackdown on opposition leaders. Six well-known activists were beaten by soldiers, their bloodied bodies displayed on television. One said he overheard Avril directing the beating by telephone.
The events led four prominent human-rights groups, including Americas Watch, to call Haiti under Avril ``one more prisoner of a brutal despot willing to use violence and terror to preserve his rule.''
The activists later sued in federal court in Miami. They won a $41 million judgment for torture in July 1994, after Avril refused to participate in the court proceedings.
While Avril was in power, Aristide was a popular and militant crusader pressing for the country's first democratic elections. He campaigned for Avril to step down, and for the removal of all Jean-Claude Duvalier supporters from government positions.
After years in exile, including a period in which he bought a South Miami-Dade County farm, Avril eventually returned to Haiti and lived in relative obscurity, until he showed up at a May 2001 meeting of the Democratic Convergence, an umbrella group of anti-Aristide parties.
Two weeks later, Avril was signing copies of his book, The Black Book on Insecurity, at a Petionville restaurant when masked commandos swept him off to prison. The book, still on sale in the capital for $12, blames Aristide's rule for crime and uneasiness among Haitians. It ends with a list of 554 people killed between 1995 and 2000 when Aristide's party, Lavalas, was in power.
Avril was charged with plotting against the government and arrested on a 6-year-old warrant signed by a dead judge. An appeals court ruled that his arrest was arbitrary and illegal.
But as he left the National Penitentiary in April, ready to return with his son to his gingerbread mansion in the suburbs, masked guards hauled him back to jail again. The government accused him of masterminding a 1990 peasant massacre in St. Marc, where 11 died in a land dispute.
Days after his arrest, the judge who signed that warrant fled to Miami and told Radio Carnaval the arrest was political and that he had been pressured to sign the warrant.
Avril maintains his innocence, saying he couldn't possibly have been involved in the slayings, since he had left on a C-130 jet bound for Homestead.
But Brian Concannon, a U.S. lawyer who lives in Haiti and works with the government and family members of the massacre victims, said Avril had planned the killings in advance. Relatives and residents testified to that in court.
''It's an injustice to release somebody who has committed massive human-rights violations without him being tried,'' Concannon said.
Despite an Oct. 22 appeals court ruling, which said Avril should be released immediately because he was being held without a legal arrest warrant, he remains behind bars, counting out the days with pencil slashes on a notebook.
Though the country's largest prison is renowned for its deplorable conditions, Avril lives in what he calls the ''VIP'' section. He still sports a gold watch and wedding band and freshly pressed cotton slacks.
His family brings him home-cooked meals every day, fried goat and rice and coffee for the morning.
Avril wants out, but he's not sure he'll be released soon. Though he says he has no aspirations for office, Avril -- who formed his own political party -- says Aristide's government fears he will be a candidate in proposed upcoming elections.
``Aristide does not want me as a candidate. He's afraid of me being in front of his party.''
Yet Avril says his eyes are on leaving Haiti. ''I can't be safe here,'' he said. ``This is a government that creates situations. They invent cases for you.''
Posted at 12:05 p.m., Wednesday, December 4, 2002
Nationwide strike is urged in Haiti today
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 4 (AP) - Opposition leaders called for a nationwide strike against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government on Wednesday, a day after police and pro-government mobs broke up protests by thousands of demonstrators.
Many business owners in Port-au-Prince said they were keeping their stores closed, and some schools were shuttered.
Fifteen major business associations said they would participate in Wednesday's strike. In a written statement, the associations accused the government of "contempt for the most basic democratic norms."
The business associations that joined the strike said they are concerned "the democratic process is in grave danger."
During Tuesday's clashes, Aristide's supporters wielded whips, hurled rocks and fired guns as they attacked government opponents during Tuesday's clashes, witnesses said. At least 16 people were injured.
Police fired tear gas to break up marches by thousands of demonstrators in northern Cap-Haitien and southern Petit-Goave and wielded nightsticks to break up a 500-person protest in northwestern Gonaives. Protesters are demanding better living conditions and an end to Aristide's government.
"This government accepts no form of dissent. That's what is called a dictatorship," said opposition politician Rene Theodore, who urged Haitians to join Wednesday's strike.
About 2,000 Aristide supporters broke up a demonstration in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, using stones and small, rawhide whips to drive away protesters. Witnesses said at least a dozen people were injured in the melee.
At least four others were injured elsewhere, though it was difficult to determine the total number since the protests spanned the country.
The government blamed the violence on the opposition. "We reject violent confrontations," government spokesman Mario Dupuy said. He accused the opposition for polarizing the country and said Aristide wants a "peaceful environment."
Demonstrators on Tuesday also demanded justice in the death of journalist Brignol Lindor, who was hacked to death a year ago by Aristide supporters. Lindor was slain after he allowed opposition politicians on his talk-show program.
Protesters hung photos of Lindor's mutilated body on storefront doors. Some set fire to shacks in Petit-Goave.
Opposition leaders in Port-au-Prince said their motorcade was attacked by hundreds of rock-throwing Aristide supporters, damaging their cars.
Aristide supporters also threw stones at State University faculty buildings, angered by anti-government students who had lowered the Haitian flag and raised a black flag of mourning to honor Lindor, independent Radio Kiskeya reported.
At least three people have been killed and scores injured in three weeks of anti-government protests in Haiti.
Pressures have been mounting on Aristide's government, which has been stymied by a lack of international aid and investment and growing poverty in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Although parliamentary elections are planned for next year, presidential elections aren't planned until 2005.
The opposition says it wants the government to guarantee a peaceful climate before a legislative vote is held. Aristide won the presidency in 1990, but was overthrown in a coup after less than a year in office. He lived in exile in Washington until U.S. troops helped restore him to power in 1994, then ceded power to chosen successor Rene Preval in 1996.
Aristide won a second five-year term in November 2000.
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.
Posted at 5:15 a.m., Wednesday, December, 4, 2002
At least 16 injured in Haiti protests
By Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writer
PETIT-GOAVE, Haiti, Dec. 3 (AP) - Police fired tear gas to break up demonstrations Tuesday by thousands of anti-government protesters, as President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's supporters wielded whips and hurled rocks to drive away government opponents. At least 16 people were reported injured (photos).
Two men were shot by Aristide backers in the town of Petit-Goave, where police lobbed tear gas canisters into about 2,000 marchers, witnesses said.
Thousands more protested in several cities, clamoring for immediate elections and better living conditions. But police and crowds of Aristide supporters broke up the protests.
The demonstrators paraded through the streets demanding an end to Aristide's government and justice in the death of journalist Brignol Lindor, who was hacked to death a year ago by Aristide supporters.
"I came to shout 'Down with Aristide!'" said 12-year-old David Merisier, a student in Petit-Goave, about 45 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the capital. "We can't eat. We can't go to school. We're tired of Aristide."
Meanwhile, about 2,000 Aristide supporters broke up a demonstration in Port-au-Prince, wielding whips and throwing stones to drive away protesters. Witnesses said at least a dozen people were injured.
Police also fired tear gas as they disrupted a march by some 2,000 people in northern Cap-Haitien and wielded batons to break up a 500-person protest in northwestern Gonaives, witnesses said. At least two protesters were reported arrested in Gonaives.
Pressure has been mounting on Aristide's government, which has been stymied by a lack of international aid and investment and growing poverty in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Although parliamentary elections are planned for next year, presidential elections aren't planned until 2005.
Classes were canceled and businesses closed for protests marking the one-year anniversary of Lindor's killing outside Petit-Goave.
Lindor was slain after he allowed opposition politicians on his talk-show program. On Tuesday, many of the same opposition leaders spoke on the air, demanding justice.
"Lindor's death is something that has affected the national consciousness of Haiti," said Arbrun Alizy, 31, director of Radio Echo, which Lindor once ran. "There still has not been any justice."
At least 10 teenagers were injured last week in Petit-Goave after demonstrators called for Aristide to step down. At least three people have been killed in three weeks of protests in Haiti.
On Tuesday, protesters hung photos of Lindor's mutilated body on storefront doors. Some later set fire to shacks in Petit-Goave.
Hundreds more remembered Lindor at a Mass in the capital, while outside the church, government backers shouted: "If Aristide isn't there, who will replace him?"
Opposition leaders in Port-au-Prince said their motorcade was attacked by hundreds of rock-throwing Aristide supporters while police did nothing. No one was injured, but cars were damaged in the hail of rocks.
"Today, the consciousness of the Haitian citizen has been scandalized by the barbarity of Lavalas," said opposition politician Evans Paul, who was in the motorcade.
The government blamed the violence on the opposition, saying new legislative elections planned for next year are the only solution.
"We reject violent confrontations," government spokesman Mario Dupuy said. He blamed the opposition for polarizing the country and said Aristide wants a "peaceful environment."
The opposition says it wants the government to guarantee a peaceful climate before a vote is held.
In the capital's streets Tuesday, people who refused to accept fliers with Aristide's photo were lashed with small, rawhide whips. Aristide supporters beat one man who was wearing an opposition T-shirt and police rescued one opposition supporter from a group of Aristide backers who had wrapped a whip around his neck.
Opposition politician Rene Theodore called for a nationwide general strike on Wednesday.
"This government accepts no form of dissent. That's what is called a dictatorship," Theodore said.
Businesses in the capital will close on Wednesday, said chamber of commerce president Maurice Lafortune. "The strike is a warning strike because of what happened today," he said. Aristide won the presidency in 1990, but was overthrown in a coup after less than a year in office. He lived in exile in Washington until U.S. troops helped restore him to power in 1994, then ceded power to chosen successor Rene Preval in 1996.
Aristide won a second five-year term in November 2000.
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.
Posted at 11:49 p.m., Monday, December 2, 2002
Birthplace of Haitian independence torn between political rivalries; one person shot in morning protest
By Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writer
GONAIVES, Haiti, Dec. 2 - More than a dozen houses that burned in a wave of anti-government protests smoldered on Monday as townspeople salvaged furniture and cleaned sewers clogged with political posters and tires used in three weeks of violent demonstrations (photos).
Barricades of car carcasses and logs remained from a protest Monday morning that residents said was aborted after a shooting in this town of salt marshes and wooden colonial houses where Haiti's declaration of independence was signed in 1804, creating the world's first black republic. One man was shot in head at the start of Monday's protest and was hospitalized, residents said (Le petit-fils d'une esclave haitienne vendue comme un meuble - The great grand son of a Haitian slave sold like a piece of furniture).
Once a stronghold of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Lavalas Family party, Gonaives about 150 kilometers north of the capital Port-au-Prince has since turned against the former slum priest, launching steady protests and calling for Aristide's resignation.
On Sunday, pro-government thugs set at least 17 houses ablaze. At least one person was killed.
"They came into my house and they beat, shot and burned my daughter to death," said Georges Beaubrun, 86, pointing at a charred plastic foot stool where his 19-year-old daughter sat before she was killed by a pro-government mob.
"She hadn't done anything wrong. Her body is in the morgue and I don't even think I will bury her because I have no money."
Witnesses said Sunday's attack was in retaliation for the killing of a government supporter in a shooting a day earlier. Another government supporter, Christophe Lozama, also was killed last week in Las Cahobas in eastern Haiti. Scores have been injured in the violent demonstrations.
Pressure is mounting on Aristide's government to improve living conditions in the impoverished nation where resources have been ravaged, most people are unemployed and hunger is rampant. Since Aristide's party won a landslide victory in what observers said were flawed elections two years ago, international aid has come to a halt.
The government has blamed the opposition and the international community for turning their backs on a country still reeling from decades of dictatorships, coups and instability. The country's troubles have been compounded by a lack of investment and a U.S. administration preoccupied with the war against terrorism and a looming battle in Iraq.
"Aristide was democratically elected and he's done more for us than any political leader since 1804," said supporter Henris David, 28. "That was the year we won our independence from slavery, but we're still slaves to foreign pressure and influence."
Fresh elections are slated for next year, but many say they want an immediate ballot despite a vacuum of political leadership in the country.
"It's been from this city where all revolutionary movements against the government have been born," said businessman Pierre-Robert Auguste, 49, who organized one of the protests against Aristide. "He has violated human rights, stolen money from the country and it's time for him to leave office. We want new elections now."
Aristide last week refused to step down and said he would not be ousted in another coup.
The embattled leader was thrown from power in 1991, just months after he was elected in the country's first democratic elections since the end of the 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship.
"Before Aristide we drank from the sewers and swam in dirt," said Guy Justemay, 30. "Now, we sleep well and we are not afraid." (pd-imj)
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press
Heavily armed Haitian man arrested at Miami Airport pleads not guilty
By WPLG Click 10.com
Police said that Andre Riguens, 33, was arrested Nov. 16. Riguens (pictured in federal court sketch) was passing through a security checkpoint when a screener saw a suspicious item in his carry-on luggage, according to officers.
A search of Riguens' luggage revealed a handgun and 50 rounds of ammunition wrapped in foil and duct tape and hidden inside a DVD player, according to court documents.
Riguens was scheduled to fly on an American Airlines from Miami to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
On Monday, Riguens pleaded not guilty to trying to take a weapon onto an airplane. He was released on $50,000 bond, and ordered to stay away from guns and airports.
Copyright © 2002 WPLG Click10.com.
Posted at 5:20 p.m., Monday, December 2, 2002
Two killed in Haiti unrest
By Michael Deibert, Reuters Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 2 (Reuters)- Two people were shot dead and more than 20 houses were burned in a Haitian provincial city at the weekend in gang fighting between factions loyal to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and groups trying to oust him, residents reported on Monday.
The violence, in an impoverished slum area of the northern city of Gonaives, was the latest unrest to hit the impoverished Caribbean nation after several weeks of protests against Aristide and counter-demonstrations by his supporters.
The fighting erupted on Sunday when gunmen loyal to Jean Tatoune, an opponent of Aristide, shot dead Evans Auguste, a member of the pro-Aristide "Cannibal Army" street gang, residents said.
The Cannibal Army retaliated, burning at least 20 houses in the Jubilee section and shooting one resident, witnesses said.
The Cannibal Army is headed by Amiot Metayer, who escaped from prison in Gonaives along with Tatoune in a spectacular jailbreak in August.
"They came in and burned the houses because they were trying to get to Tatoune," one resident, who asked not to be named, told Reuters by telephone.
Tatoune, an important figure in the overthrow of the Duvalier family dictatorship in 1986, became a fierce critic of Aristide, and was serving a life sentence for his role in the massacre of Aristide supporters in Metayer's neighborhood in 1994.
Metayer had been jailed for his role in the torching of homes in the neighborhood of a rival gang leader last summer.
They were freed along with some 150 other prisoners when armed Metayer partisans stormed the Gonaives jail where they were being held on Aug. 2. Metayer and Tatoune paraded arm-in-arm through the city's streets, denouncing Aristide and promising to overthrow his government.
But Metayer has apparently since reconciled with Aristide, and has led several pro-Aristide marches in the city since his escape. No attempt has been made to re-arrest him.
Opposition and student groups have said they will rally for a third consecutive week across the country of 8 million in protest at a deteriorating economy and what they charge is Aristide's increasingly authoritarian rule.
In Gonaives last week, thousands of protesters marched past barricades of flaming tires and burning cars, residents said, before being set upon by rock-throwing and whip-wielding Cannibal Army members. Two policeman were also shot, officials said.
A former Roman Catholic priest, Aristide rallied Haiti's poor as leading figure in the overthrow of 30 years of dictatorship in the mid-1980's and became the first elected president in 1990, only to be overthrown in a military coup seven months later.
Re-instated by U.S. troops in 1994, he returned to office again in February 2001 but has since been mired in a dispute with the Democratic Convergence opposition coalition over contested May 2000 legislative elections.
The deadlock has stalled over $500 million in desperately needed international aid. Haiti's currency, the gourde, has lost 40 percent of its value.
U.S. soldiers to conduct joint exercises in Dominican Republic but not on Haitian border
By Nancy San Martin, Miami Herald Writer
U.S. officials in the Dominican Republic on Monday confirmed that U.S. soldiers will be deployed in the Caribbean nation next year to participate in joint military maneuvers, but stressed that none of the exercises will take place along the Dominican-Haitian border.
About 200 U.S. soldiers will arrive in the Dominican Republic beginning in February for a three-month program to help build schools and clinics and participate in medical outreach programs in the center of the island.
In the spring, several hundred U.S. soldiers from as many as 15 military installations in the United States will arrive to partake in joint ''counterterrorist'' exercises with the Dominican armed forces, officials said.
''None of it will take place on the border,'' said a spokesman for the Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG), the unit at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo in charge of dual exercises, training and equipment issues.
Monday's clarification followed last month's announcement by Dominican officials that their armed forces will receive 20,000 M-16 assault rifles from the United States. The donation is part of an ongoing assistance program between the United States and various countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
Discussions also are under way for the Dominican Republic to obtain other gear -- such as sensors and drug-sniffing dogs -- to help in detecting illegal crossings and contraband smuggled in from neighboring Haiti. The two nations share the island of Hispaniola.
The approximately 300-mile border has been cause for concern because of its long history as an illegal crossing for migrants, drugs and arms. The apprehension of third-country migrants over the past two years -- including Chinese, Pakistanis, Colombians, Cubans and Russians -- also has prompted officials to consider the possibility that the border is being used to move terrorism, even though authorities have not identified any terrorism threat in the Dominican Republic.
''The U.S. government views the border as a threat to both the United States and the Dominican interests in the sense of flow of drugs and illegal migration,'' said the MAAG spokesman. ``We're looking at possible training in border operations surveillance . . . for Dominican armed forces stationed on the border.''
The border operations would likely involve trainers from the U.S. Department of Defense, Customs, DEA and other government agencies, but no U.S. soldiers.
''We would like to make sure that the Dominican armed forces halt any flow of any possible terrorism moving through the area,'' the MAAG spokesman said. ``We by no means want to seal the border. What we want is for them to do a better job of countering illegal activities along the border.''
Maj. Gen. Carlos Díaz Morfa, the head of the Dominican army, recently told The Herald that as many as 8,000 soldiers would be rotating through the island for exercises over the next year.
U.S. officials declined to say exactly how many U.S. soldiers would be going to the Dominican Republic but said the number was nowhere near the 8,000 figure cited by Díaz. More detailed information on the exercises will be released within the next two weeks, officials said.
The Dominican Republic is the only nation in the Caribbean where the counterterrorism exercises are being carried out.
Lack of equipment, crews hobbles Haiti's coast guard
By Marikka Lynch, Miami Herald Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- One by one, the weary, would-be U.S. immigrants file onto the Coast Guard dock here, unwillingly returned to their homeland.
Haitian Coast Guard Cmdr. Leon Charles consoles them with a touch, and videotapes them for posterity. But that's about as close as any Haitian guardsman gets to migrants.
Since 1995, Charles' crews have stopped just two Florida-bound boats -- and only because the guard bumped into them in the bay off Port-au-Prince.
''Coincidence,'' Charles said.
With three aging cruisers and a skimpy fuel budget, the Haitian Coast Guard has three hours a day to patrol the country's 1,100-mile coast. The lack of equipment and crews thwarts any serious effort to stop illegal migration or the growing drug trade.
The northern and southern coasts have become a playground for human and drug smugglers, and the nation is a pit stop for about 15 percent of America's cocaine supply, U.S. officials say. Yet the Haitian Coast Guard hasn't been able to curb either.
The Haitian guard hasn't had a major drug bust since 1998, and has seized just 2,000 kilos of cocaine in the past five years.
''Not much,'' the commander concedes.
The Haitian Guard is a symbolic force without the substance to fulfill its mission, said Ivelaw Griffith, a Florida International University professor and expert on Caribbean security.
''What's worse, the bad guys know they don't have the capability and exploit it,'' Griffin said.
In fairness though, no Caribbean nation has a Coast Guard equipped to efficiently protect its coasts, he added.
That leaves the United States, which beefed up ocean patrols recently after more than 200 Haitians got within swimming distance of Key Biscayne.
The U.S. Coast Guard's relationship with its Haitian counterpart is ''very close,'' Judith Trunzo, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, said. U.S. patrols can and do enter Haitian waters to chase suspected drug dealers, though a Haitian guardsman must be aboard. And when the United States repatriates would-be immigrants, the local guard helps by ferrying them in from the cutters.
At first, the Haitian corps had 122 members, but the ranks shriveled after half were sent to Miami for training. Only 17 returned to Haiti, Charles said.
Now all training is local.
''We can't afford losing more guys,'' Charles said. ``They won't come back.''
The Guard is trying to boost its fleet. Next year, the country's second base will open in the northern city of Cap Haitien, thanks to $500,000 in assistance from the U.S. government. Right now the Coast Guard makes it up to the north coast about once a month.
That's where the Key Biscayne-bound left from. The Haitian force didn't know about its voyage until the U.S. Coast Guard called and said the boat had been spotted 20 miles from the Florida coast.
Getting to Cap Haitien from the Port-au-Prince base is now a task. The Coast Guard's 40-foot cruisers, refurbished 1980s era Haitian navy boats, don't have toilets or beds, making long stays uncomfortable. Then there's the fuel budget, a paltry 2,000 gallons of diesel a month, or enough for 100 hours on the sea.
So mostly, the sailors patrol the bay off the capital, boarding boats to make sure they have the required life vests, and rescuing sinking fishermen.
Posted at 10:45 a.m., Sunday, December 1, 2002
A flood of discontent rises around Aristide
By Marika Lynch, Miami Herald Writer email@example.com
Key groups oppose Haitian leader
When university students took to the streets in Port-au-Prince this week, their chants described the nation's political situation this way: ``Aristide has fallen; he's just stuck in a tree branch.''
The chant demonstrates a changing dynamic that threatens the foundations of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government, according to several analysts. An opposition once limited to a frail coalition of political parties has broadened to include other key groups that bring a new vigor to the political fight (Keeping Faith in the United States of America).
This week alone, a group of writers, a union, the nation's most prominent business organization, the bar association and a coalition of church and human rights groups all pointedly condemned the government for what one group called creating a ``climate of terror.''
Opponents blame Aristide's administration for letting his supporters paralyze Port-au-Prince with burning barricades a week ago, and letting political gangs intimidate opposition members, among other things.
For some longtime Haiti-watchers, the protests have a familiar ring.
''The reports from Haiti bear a strong resemblance to the events that preceded the downfall of the Duvalier regime in 1986,'' said Steve Horblitt, who works for Creative Associates International Inc., a Washington consulting firm with a Haiti office. ``[Aristide] has alienated key sectors in Haitian society.''
''The thought that he'll be bum-rushed out of there is increasing,'' said James Morrell, of the Haiti Democracy Project. ``The support is really, really dwindling. He's got armed thugs on the streets. It's a question of money with [Aristide], and how much money to keep paying them.''
HARD TO READ
Analysts say trying to gauge if or when Aristide steps down is a high-risk gamble.
As protests erupted around the country Thursday , Aristide was emphatic about finishing his term. The opposition is but a small minority, he said.
The president called for peace and warned the Haitian people about the dangers of another coup. Aristide has blamed the unrest on the opposition umbrella group Democratic Convergence and on former military officers who he says are hungry for power. Yet the effects of the last days are resounding from the northern port town of Gonaves to Washington, D.C.
''Haiti is unraveling. We're meeting to look at what our options are, which are pretty bleak,'' a high-level Bush administration official said.
Part of the problem is that there is no clear successor in the post-Aristide era. The opposition Democratic Convergence is a cluster of ideologically divergent parties usually grouped around a personality. And even though Aristide is losing popularity, he still commands loyalty, as evidenced by Friday's pro-government demonstration.
The demonstration coincided with the 15th anniversary of the deaths of 15 voters in Haiti's first democratic election after the fall of the 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship. On Nov. 29, 1987, after months of violence, 100 voters were queuing up to cast ballots at Argentine Bellegarde High School, when army and paramilitary attackers went from classroom to classroom, shooting at and hacking voters with machetes. The elections were later suspended.
''Aristide or death!'' 2,000 Aristide partisans chanted Friday, marching to the National Palace. ''If Aristide isn't there, who will replace him?'' In the meantime, more than 1,000 antigovernment demonstrators marched in St. Marc, about 50 miles northwest of the capital.
The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince has said that calling parliamentary elections -- to rectify the 2000 elections, which observers said were riddled with fraud -- is the only solution. But the Bush administration official said Haiti is ``turning into a noncountry.''
Given the lack of a clear post-Aristide leader, some U.S. officials wonder quietly whether Haiti should be declared a ''failed state'' and be handed over to the United Nations or the Organization of American States for temporary administration.
The most recent round of protests in Haiti began Nov. 17, when a civic group in Cap-Hatien organized a march. With more than 10,000 people, it was the largest demonstration against Aristide and his Lavalas party ever.
Other protests followed around the country. In a show of force, Aristide supporters burned barricades Nov. 22 in Port-au-Prince, paralyzing the city.
But many groups have lent their voice in anti-government chants. University students began to speak out after the government took a larger role in running the institution, and high school students took to the streets. Four were shot by police in the western town of Petit-Gove during one march last week, angering many.
The student movement is a bellwether for Haitian politics and shouldn't be underestimated, said Tony Maingot, a Haiti expert and professor at Florida International University. In 1985, the shooting of three high school students during a demonstration sparked protests that helped oust Jean-Claude Duvalier.
''The history of Haiti is when the high school students get involved, they don't stop,'' Maingot said. ``There is a tenacity like piranhas.
This news article appeared in The Miami Herald of November 30, 2002.
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