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Posted at 10:49 p.m., Thursday, June 27, 2002 

Gunman kills six relatives of governing party official in Haiti

By The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, June 27 - Police have detained 20 people for questioning in the killing of six relatives of a governing party official, Haiti's government said Thursday.

The victims, including two children, were relatives of Cleonord Souverain, a regional coordinator for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family party, officials said. The attack occured Sunday night at Souverain's home in the town of Belladere, near the border with the Dominican Republic.

Souverain was not home at the time. Neighbors told reporters that an unknown gunman broke into Souverain's home and opened fire, killing five members of his family. One child wounded in the attack was taken to a Dominican hospital, where he died Tuesday, Haitian news reports said.

Further details about the attack weren't immediately available, and it was unclear how the six victims were related to Souverain. Residents of Belladere said they thought the incident might have been politically motivated, as tensions within the party's local branch had been mounting for several months.

The Caribbean country's government announced a full investigation into the incident, and pledged to punish the perpetrators.

As of  Thursday, 20 people had been detained for questioning, Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert said.

Belladere is located 100 kilometers (63 miles) from the capital of Port-au-Prince.  

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 1:49 p.m., Wednesday, June 26, 2002

U.S. has mixed record of trying to install new leaders

By George Gedda, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON, June 26 - If it's any consolation to Yasser Arafat, he has a lot of company. The United States has a long history of trying to get rid of foreign leaders who don't measure up.

Some methods are more decorous than others. President George W. Bush made known his desire that Arafat be removed in a nationally televised address.

Elsewhere over the years, U.S. efforts at regime change have been less gentlemanly. In this category are outright assassination, invasions, covert plots.

"Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership," Bush said Monday, his measured tones masking one of the most significant developments in America's long and sometimes tortured involvement in the Middle East.

Sometimes the United States, in its search for new leadership abroad, has the luxury of broad international support, as in the air and land campaign that led to the ouster of the ruling Taliban militia in Afghanistan last November. Much of the world showed understanding for Bush's decision to use force against a government the United States said was complicit in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Bush also wants somebody other than Saddam Hussein running Iraq, and force is a strong possibility. If he chooses that option, however, international backing is likely to be scant.

The Europeans, so often with the United States during times of crisis, generally believe military action against Iraq would not have a legal basis. Most also firmly rejected Bush's demand that Arafat be removed as a condition for peace.

Latin America and the Caribbean have been favored hunting grounds for American presidents eager for regime change.

One example is Cuba, where a Senate committee found in 1975 there had been eight CIA sponsored attempts on the life of President Fidel Castro. (Castro says there were many more.) A generation later, Castro is still around. The official policy nowadays is to apply pressure to nudge Castro into promoting democracy and free market changes.

The Bush administration is not fussy about who dismantles the totalitarian structure Castro has erected. If Castro himself does it, so be it. But no one is expecting that will happen.

Castro was also the protagonist of America's most embarrassing regime change initiative. He easily disposed of a U.S.-trained Cuban exile force at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

President Bill Clinton sent troops to Haiti in 1994 to oust a military clique that had seized power from an elected president three years earlier. Internationally, the invasion drew few protests, having received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council beforehand.

The first Bush administration sent troops to Panama in 1989 to evict and arrest Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, an anti-democrat who was wanted in the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Although much of Latin America felt the unilateral U.S. action was unwarranted, U.S. officials can respond that with Noriega gone, Panama has enjoyed 12 years of democratic stability.

President Ronald Reagan's administration sponsored a Nicaraguan rebel force to fight pro-Cuban Sandinista Daniel Ortega. Eventually, it was Nicaragua's voters who took care of that regime change, electing a moderate in 1990.

U.S. troops deposed a leftist government in Grenada in 1983. American jet fighters attacked Libya three years later, appearing to target the compound of longtime leader and American bugaboo Moammar Gadhafi at one point. He survived but now seems somewhat tamer than he once did.

Old timers can remember two early U.S. regime-change successes: Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954, both orchestrated by the CIA. Both resulted in the emergence of regimes friendly to the United States but with limited backing at home, partly because of poor human rights records.

In Iran, the long-term outcome was a major setback for Washington. An anti-American Islamic radical regime was installed in 1979 and remains.

Bush has branded Iran an "axis of evil" country but has not demanded new leadership there. The administration is counting on the Iranian people to bring that about.

EDITOR'S NOTE — George Gedda has covered foreign affairs for The Associated Press since 1968.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.

                              
Ash begins trek from treasure coast
                                                   
By WPBF The WPBFChannel.com
June 25, 2002

Two tons of incinerated debris that have been parked on the Treasure Coast finally began being hauled away Monday, marking the end of a 16-year odyssey for the unwanted trash.

Since May 2000, the ash had sat in Martin County, the product of a global misadventure that started in Philadelphia in 1986. From there, it visited Netherlands Antilles, Singapore and a beach in Haiti.

Until last year, it looked like it would wind up in a Pompano Beach landfill, until Broward County leaders objected. Now a plan has been drafted to haul it back to Pennsylvania, just 100 miles from where it started.

"This marks the first real opportunity that we have to dispose of material and dispose of it in an environmental sensitive way," said Melissa Meeker of the Department of Environmental Protection.

The ash is not considered hazardous, but the Department of Environmental Protection is worried it could pose a risk during severe weather.

According to the plan, the last bit of ash should be out of Martin County Saturday.

The cost of the move is approximately $600,000, a portion of which the state hopes to collect from other involved parties.

Copyright 2002 WPBF TheWPBFChannel.com.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 12:18 a.m., Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Widow of murdered prominent Haitian radio journalist and commentator is recipient of prestigious journalistic award

By Yves A. Isidor, wehaitians.com executive editor  

Cambridge, MA, June 25 - Having defied the death threats and slurs of Haiti's totalitarian de facto president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, but through his bandits who in the early morning of April 3, 2000 gunned down her prominent radio journalist and commentator husband, Jean Leopold Dominique, in the courtyard of his Radio Haiti-Inter station, Michele Montas-Dominique, news director of Radio Haiti-Inter, is one the 2002 Maria Moors Cabot Prize few recipients "for outstanding coverage of the Western Hemisphere," Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, which administered the award, announced Thursday.  

"Through their coverage," Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism said in a statement, "they have demonstrated commitment to freedom of the press and inter-American understanding."

The award was first given in 1939. 

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 11:15 p.m., Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Haitian survivor recounts horror of boat explosion off St. Maarten

By Marvin Hokstam, Associated Press Writer

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten, June 19 - Haitian migrant Annocuis Jean Christla had imagined the eight-hour boat trip through the night would take him to better opportunities on U.S. shores.

But about an hour after the rickety, crowded boat shoved off from St. Maarten headed for the U.S. Virgin Islands, it exploded into flames and sank.

Christla said on Wednesday that he and one other man were the only survivors among the 37 on board at the time of Sunday's explosion.

"God helped me to survive," he said while at a police station in the Dutch Caribbean territory of St. Maarten.

Now awaiting deportation back to his impoverished homeland, Christla said he will never again try to make such a voyage. Police did not say when Christla would be taken back to Haiti.

The boat had been smuggling Haitian, Dominican and Chinese citizens from St. Maarten, which shares an island with the French territory of St. Martin, to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, coast guard officials said.

Christla and a Haitian friend each paid dlrs 500 upfront for the trip, with another dlrs 300 due upon arrival.

"I knew it wasn't safe ... but I had to take a chance," he said, explaining that he had come illegally to St. Maarten a year ago, but still could not find work.

They had not been at sea for long when, as the captain was trying to switch fuel tanks, the tanks caught on fire and exploded about 5 miles (8 kilometers) off Anguilla's coast, he said.

Some people were stunned or killed in the blast, while Christla and others jumped overboard as the boat turned into a fireball.

Christla said he managed to grab hold of a floating tank, and watched others around him struggling to stay afloat. One man grabbed wildly at the floating debris, pleading for help before sinking beneath the water's surface, he said.

A small child was thrown overboard in the blast. "I tried to help, but I couldn't. I could barely help myself," he said through an interpreter in Creole, his native language.

He said he looked around the chaos for his friend. "I saw his body floating past. There were bodies all over."

Christla held tightly to the tank, thinking he also was going to die, until a French police boat discovered him off the coast of Anguilla on Sunday.

"I thought (God) had sent someone to come save me," he said, smiling with relief at the fact that he had escaped with just a cut across the bridge of his nose and scrapes on his arms and chest.

The other Haitian man rescued off French St. Martin was in a hospital in Marigot, but officials there would not give details of his condition or identity.

Authorities said they had found no other survivors in the water, and no bodies.

St. Maarten police said the boat's owner, who was not on board, had fled the island.

The Caribbean islands have seen a sharp rise in drug trafficking and migrant smuggling in recent years as independent boat owners risk the choppy seas and police patrols for high returns.

The crossing is often hazardous. In May, at least 14 Haitian migrants drowned and 73 were rescued when their 35-foot (10.5-meter) sloop sank off the Bahamas. In March 2001, at least 15 migrants drowned when the 40-foot (12-meter) wooden boat Esperanza sank off French St. Martin. French authorities arrested two crew members and a man accused of collecting the migrants' money. 

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

Read, too, Time magazine, please stop trashing the world cup and portugal / A former top haitian cop tells of drugs and murder plots

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 7:28 p.m., Tuesday, June 18, 2002

In Haiti's Heartland, discontent grows

By Michael Deibert, Reuters Writer

HINCHE, Haiti, June 18 (Reuters) - The people of Haiti's Central Plateau have a long history of rebellion -- from escaped slaves who helped evict would-be conquerors to Charlemagne Peralte, a former army officer who led an insurrection against an American occupation in the early 20th century.

In an echo of earlier struggles, some rural areas are again seeing stirrings of a challenge, this time to what some peasant groups charge are increasingly oppressive tactics by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family ruling party.

Grass-roots organizers in places such as Hinche, 50 miles north of the capital Port-au-Prince, are attempting to rally farmers across the country of 8 million people under a banner of civil disobedience. In recent months, peasant groups have held demonstrations and built roadblocks with burning tires along the country's Route National 1.

One prominent peasant figure is Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the charismatic 55-year-old leader of the 200,000-member Mouvman Peyizan Papay (Papay Peasants Movement) and affiliated groups, who was at one time one of the president's closest confidants.

He has been organizing in the region for 30 years and has now become a vocal critic of the Aristide administration.

"We started organizing when we realized the problems of the peasants weren't technical ones, but rather ones of exploitation and lack of education," said Jean-Baptiste of the groups' origins under the dictatorships that preceded Aristide.

He said his own group presses for change on issues ranging from reforestation to the right to assembly. 'A THREAT

TO BE ELIMINATED'

"Stolen elections, corruption, this will do nothing to help the people here, and we refuse to accept it," Jean-Baptiste said. "We have always fought against this and will continue to do so, and with our work today, it is obvious that Aristide considers ... the independent peasant movements a threat to be eliminated."

The peasant movements have gathered momentum in recent months and could pose a challenge to Aristide and his party in the impoverished Caribbean nation, some Haiti experts say.

"As that bond breaks down between Lavalas and the peasantry, incumbency could prove a terrific burden in the next elections should they be free and fair," said James Morrell, director of the Haiti Democracy Project, a Washington-based think tank.

"But in the proto-democracy that Haiti is, there's still no substitute for formal political parties articulating such demands in the national debate and registering it at the polls." The government says it is addressing the concerns of those in the countryside, where subsistence farmers scratch out a living, with programs such as literacy centers and health care plans but it is still meeting opposition.

Peasants have been vigorously protesting the government's decision to build a free trade zone on farmland near the northeastern town of Ouanaminthe. On May 27th, a demonstration in the northern town of San Raphael turned violent when an armed men allegedly tied to local landowners attacked a group of peasants and journalists.

Two peasants were killed and seven people were arrested, including two journalists, during the clashes.

Aristide, who had the overwhelming support of Haiti's poor when he first took office 11 years ago, returned for a second presidential term 18 months ago. His return has been marked by a continuous challenge from opposition parties over parliamentary elections in May 2000 which they contend were tabulated to favor Lavalas.

He also faces rural discontent. Aristide himself was one of the Papay Peasant Movement's strongest supporters while working as a leftist parish priest in the late 1980s, and Jean-Baptiste served as the head of the transition team for Aristide's successor, Rene Preval, in 1995.

During Aristide's exile after being ousted by a military coup in 1991, the movement bore the brunt of army repression along with other popular movements before a U.S.-led coalition returned him to power in 1994.

APPALLED BY CORRUPTION

But Jean-Baptiste said he was appalled by the level of corruption in the final months of Aristide's first term as Haiti's president, and that the situation under his successor deteriorated even further.

Relations between the two sides reached a new low with the election of Lavalas party member Dongo Joseph as Hinche's mayor after the disputed May 2000 elections. Joseph is not from the region and so was widely viewed in the Plateau as an outsider.

On Nov. 2, 2000, men under Joseph's command fired on a meeting of the movement in Hinche, witnesses and local media said. During the attack, which many believe was an attempt to assassinate Jean-Baptiste, his younger brother was shot and wounded along with five others.

Joseph has since been recalled by the central government and replaced by a new mayor.

National Palace spokesman Luc Especa denied the charges of repression. "There has been no action on the part of local authorities to prevent groups opposed to the government from meeting," he said.

"The local authorities have been instructed by the government to allow people to meet freely and respect the rights guaranteed to them by the constitution."

After a series of attacks on police stations in the capital and the countryside last July, the peasant movement's political office in Hinche was burned, and it was again threatened during the chaos that followed an attack on the National Palace and an apparent attempt to oust Aristide last December.

But, said Delanour Exil, an elderly member of the Plateau's first peasant collective, "We've come too far to respond to these new pressures and stop doing our work."

"We're finished following people like goats," added Exil, whose collective was formed in the picturesque hamlet of Bassin Zim in 1972.

Jean-Baptiste said he had little faith in the political opposition based in the capital, the Democratic Convergence coalition.

"The Convergence are like a head without a body, consisting of every conceivable political wing, but with no program beyond that of opposing Aristide. They've made no attempt to engage the people of Haiti, he said.

"We will continue to fight until there are truly fair elections. The military regimes, and all regimes, that have blocked the progress of Haiti had to go," he said, referring to Haiti's dark past of military dictatorships.

Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 2:35 a.m., Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Boat explodes near St. Maarten, two survivors found, more than 30 feared dead

By the Associated Press

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten, June 17 - Coast Guard officials were searching Monday for survivors of a boat explosion in the waters near the Caribbean island of Anguilla.

Officials believed there were 35 people aboard the boat, only two of whom have been found, said Jan Drost, head of the Netherlands Antilles Coast Guard unit in St. Maarten.

One survivor was found Sunday on a beach in Anguilla, and another was found in St. Martin, a French Caribbean territory which shares an island with the Dutch territory of St. Maarten.

Initial information from the survivor in St. Martin indicated the migrants aboard the boat were Haitian.

The man found in Anguilla told authorities the boat left St. Maarten on Saturday evening and was about 5 miles (8 kilometers) off Anguilla's Dog Island when both engines exploded and the boat sank, Drost said.

The man, who was not identified by name or nationality, did not say what kind of boat it was.

Many Haitians board rickety boats hoping to reach U.S. shores and escape their country's dismal economic situation.

The Haitian opposition and government have been at loggerheads since 2000 elections, which observers and the opposition said were flawed. The international community has frozen hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Haiti until the two sides can agree on new elections.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 1:17 p.m., Saturday, June 15, 2002

SPIRITUAL LIFE

Practitioners of vodou battle stereotypes

By Rich Barlow, Globe Staff, 6/15/2002

LYNN - The resident zombie on the campy supernatural soap opera ''Passions'' recently gave an enemy a really bad case of laryngitis with a trick familiar to B-movie addicts. She strangled a doll representing her enemy with a scarf.

Hollywood often stereotypes religion, of course, but when it comes to Haitian vodou (often Americanized as ''voodoo,'' which actually is an African-American offshoot), even everyday language can be dismissive. ''Voodoo economics,'' was not a tribute to Ronald Reagan's math skills.

To Erol Josue, an ''oungan'' (vodou priest), this popular perception is unfair.

''Magic exists in vodou,'' he says in French translated by his friend Anna Wexler, a Brookline writer and student of vodou. But the 15,000 people he estimates practice vodou in the Boston area don't run around choking dolls, Josue says.

Quite the opposite: In her new book ''Rara! Vodou, Power, and Performance in Haiti and Its Diaspora,'' Wesleyan scholar Elizabeth McAlister says vodou historically has been a force for good in Haiti, intimately woven with the struggle for civil rights and against poverty.

Yet the one-two punch of popular misperceptions and a relatively small Haitian community in Boston means vodou in this area is practiced in the privacy of homes and basements, unlike in New York or Miami, which have larger vodou populations and occasional public festivals.

''Most Americans ... think it's black magic,'' says McAlister. ''It's probably particularly secret, or let's say particularly protected, in Boston, but everywhere in the United States, practitioners are conscious the religion is demonized by the media.''

Wexler attributes local prejudice to the influence of some Protestant churches, which ''have brought a lot of Haitians, gotten them out of Haiti and gotten them visas,'' she says. ''The Protestant churches very often judge vodou very negatively.''

Many people probably aren't aware that vodou is a cousin of Catholicism, formed by the marriage of African traditions brought by slaves to Haiti and the faith of Rome forced on them by their French Catholic masters.

To be initiated into vodou, a person must first be baptized in a Catholic church, says McAlister.

Vodouists believe in a God who works through numerous spirits. In Lynn, where Josue lives in the home of his cousin, a health aide who is a ''manbo'' (priestess), his cousin stores a small altar in a cramped room in her basement. Josue says more than 100 people have squeezed into the basement for ceremonies before the altar, which was recently arrayed for a cermony to the spirit Ezili Danto.

Covered in a red cloth, the altar bore a solitary burning candle surrounded by bottles of alcohol and fronted by two cups of coffee. (Ezili Danto is an earthy spirit, partial to strong liquor and bitter coffee.) A plate of cookies stood for the children for whom this motherly spirit watches out. A bouquet of roses - thanks from a congregant for help received from the spirit - added a touch of nature. (Oungans and manbos counsel their congregants. They also use medicines made from plants to treat certain illneses, particularly diabetes, says Wexler.)

Color paintings of Catholic saints hung on the walls - Patrick expelling the snakes from Ireland among them - in silent witness to how Catholicism became ''a living part of the religion,'' says Wexler. Some vodouists attend Catholic churches, including Josue's cousin, who keeps a cross and figurine of Joseph holding the baby Jesus on an adjacent altar.

The calling to the priesthood comes when a ''lwa'' (spirit) chooses a person, says Josue. Preparation for priesthood includes a week or more of seclusion, during which the budding priest or priestess learns rituals and contemplates his or her spiritual identity. Priests and priestesses have equal power to lead ceremonies.

The ancestral aspect of vodou is as critical as the religious one. Josue visits Haiti at least once a year, to divest himself of the material trappings of the West and surround himself with the environment of his ancestors. The pilgrimage has not always been possible. During the temporary overthrow of President Jean-Bertand Aristide, Josue lived in exile because he could not speak freely against the military dictatorship that replaced Aristide's government.

There's another part of Haitian heritage to which vodou speaks: slavery, which existed until Haitians revolted and liberated themselves from the French in 1804. ''There's a lot of elements that remind us of the history of slavery in vodou,'' says Wexler, a descendant of New England clipper shipbuilders who benefitted from the slave trade.

Translating for Josue, she adds, ''It's also a religion of resistance, unlike how Karl Marx describes religion, as the opium of the people. People want their paradise here on earth; it's not a resignation to a better life after you die. ... It really infuses Haitians' ability to survive.''

This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 6/15/2002.
Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Posted at 3:29 p.m., Friday, June 14, 2002

Swiss government orders freeze of 'Baby Doc's' assetts, officials say

By the Associated Press

BERN, Switzerland, June 14 - The Swiss government Friday ordered the further freeze of 7.5 million Swiss francs (dlrs 4.8 million) in assets of Haitian ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and his associates, officials said.

The governing cabinet, or Federal Council, said the step was being taking because a conclusion to a 16-year investigation of the Duvalier case could be drawing to a close.

The council ordered the Foreign Ministry to support efforts "for the most satisfactory possible outcome of this affair."

The assets have been frozen since April 1986 at the request of the Haitian government, officials said.

The cabinet said it "wants to prevent the misuse of the Swiss financial center as a sanctuary for assets from dishonest dealings."

Ministry official Nicholas Michel said the basis for the freeze was in a very complicated case that goes back to a 1986 request from the Haitian government.

An investigation in cooperation with Haiti is still under way, the government said.

The government did not identify the associates, but described them only as "further persons in his entourage."

In 1999 part of the investigation was concluded when a former private secretary of Duvalier, whose name was undisclosed, was given access to his blocked accounts in Switzerland.

Switzerland's highest court noted in a ruling at the time that Haitian authorities had repeatedly failed to provide information for proceedings against the secretary.

Duvalier, known as "Baby Doc," was named president for life at age 19 following the death in 1971 of his father, Francois, known as "Papa Doc."

A popular uprising forced him into exile in February 1986. He was denied entry to Switzerland and currently is believed to live in France. Tens of thousands had been killed during the 29-year Duvalier dynasty and hundreds of millions of dollars stolen. 

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         After more than fifteen years, ash waste heads to Pennsylvania from Haiti 

By George Strawley, Associated Press Writer

HARRISBURG, Pa., June 14 (AP) - Some 3,000 tons of incinerated ash that has been on a 16-year worldwide odyssey will get a final resting place back in Pennsylvania if state officials get their way.

The Department of Environmental Protection wants the waste hauled to a landfill 50 miles southwest of Harrisburg by the end of the month. Officials are finishing up a plan to ship the ash from Florida, where it is sitting on a rusted barge near Palm City.

"This being Philadelphia ash to begin with, Pennsylvania stepped forward and said it should come back here," agency spokeswoman Sandra Roderick said Thursday.

More than 14,000 tons of ash was produced by an incinerator in Philadelphia in 1985 and loaded on the cargo ship Khian Sea to be taken to a disposal site.

The ship sailed the Caribbean searching for a dump site for more than two years, vainly searching for a port. In 1987, the crew unloaded about 3,000 tons on a Haitian beach before the ship was ordered to leave. The rest of the ash was apparently dumped in the Indian Ocean.

The ash in Haiti was later taken to Florida, which has been trying to get rid of it. A plan to dump it at a Pennsylvania landfill failed in 1998 for lack of money.

Pennsylvania and Florida environmental officials and trash-hauler Waste Management Inc. are finishing a plan to move the ash here by rail and truck. Waste Management owns the landfill and inherited the ash in a business deal.

The ash would be loaded onto containers, three to a flatbed rail car, and shipped to Hagerstown, Md., where trucks would haul the containers to the landfill. The waste would be shipped without any cost to taxpayers, Roderick said.

Roderick said nothing stood in the way of the agency's consent.

"There's not really any issue on our part with the ash itself," Roderick said. "It's been tested. It's no different than any incinerator ash that we landfill every day."

Public agencies and private consultants have tested the ash over the years, according to the DEP. Heavy metals such as lead and cadmium are in the ash, but not in hazardous concentrations.

Neighbors learned of the plan this week in a newspaper, hours after local landfill inspectors heard about it state officials.

"It's scary," landfill neighbor Tom Zomak said of the ash. "It was turned away from 11 countries, four continents and all of a sudden it's OK for Pennsylvania, in our backyard?"

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                       Posted at 9:10 p.m., Thursday, June 13, 2002

Finally, would-soon-to-be-Haitians to be honored for their invaluable contributions to U.S. independence

By Yves A. Isidor, wehaitians.com executive editor

Long ago, October 9, 1779, about 750 free slaves from the French colony that was then called Saint-Domingue, but only to on January 1, 1804, in part, became Haiti, after nearly thirteen years of  a slave revolt against the French, fought alongside troops against the British in the Siege of Savannah. more

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 3:01 p.m., Thursday, June 13, 2002

Mohammed's religion finds a place in Haiti  

By Michael Deibert, Reuters Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, June 13 (Reuters) - Tucked away on a corner of the Haitian capital's dusty, congested Delmas Road, a modest white building bears a curious sign, painstakingly stenciled in green Western and Arabic script.

"Mosquee Al-Fatiha," it reads. "Communaute Musulmane d'Haiti."

An attendant splashing water on the ground greets a visitor who approaches the gate. "As-salaam aleikum (peace be upon you)," he says, breaking into a smile. "Welcome to the mosque."

Haiti, the Caribbean nation closely associated with the African-derived faith of voodoo, is home to a small but growing community of Muslims. Two Islamic centers in the capital of Port-au-Prince are among nearly a dozen around the country started by those who have converted to the faith.

Officials with the major Islamic groups estimate there are between 4,000 and 5,000 Muslims in Haiti, a nation of about 8 million people.

In the lanes of the historic Carrefour-Feuilles quarter, a neighborhood that snakes up the mountains surrounding Port-au-Prince, a plangent, timeless sound echoes.

Among the market women haggling over prices while portable radios blare popular Haitian "compas" music, the muezzin's call to prayer goes forth from a new Islamic masjeed, or prayer center. "

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, La ilaha ila Allah," -- "God is greater, God is greater, there is no god but God."

Haiti is about 80 percent Catholic and 20 percent Protestant, according to State Department figures, while some 85 percent of its people regularly practice voodoo.

MUSLIMS NOTICEABLE IN CITIES

But followers of Islam have recently stepped into the public eye. Muslim men distinctive in their kufi headwear and finely groomed beards, and women in traditional scarves, are now seen on the streets of several cities.

Nawoon Marcellus, who comes from the northern city of San Raphael, recently became the first Muslim elected to the Chamber of Deputies, Haiti's lower house of parliament.

"I returned to Haiti in 1985 just to preach Islam," said Abdul Al-Ali, the Delmas mosque's white-bearded, commanding imam, or spiritual leader. "I converted while I was in Canada and we bought the space for the mosque in 1993."

"Haitians would like to have the truth and Islam will bring it to them. If we follow Allah, peace be upon him, I think things can change."

In impoverished Haiti, beset by a faltering economy, malnutrition, political violence and a two-year-old electoral dispute that has led to a freeze on $500 million of international aid, some converts find the attention Islam devotes to charity and social justice particularly appealing.

"If you see someone who is in need, the ones who need help, whether it's education, money or what have you, we Haitians as a whole tend to be very generous in helping with one another," said Racin Ganga, the imam of the Carrefour Feuilles center, who attended college and was introduced to Islam in New York.

"Those who don't have anything tend to help out. It is in some way inborn to us as Haitians, as well as Muslims, to help out. So that principle of responsibility, of helping those less fortunate, resonated very well."

Yacine Khelladi, an Algerian economist who has conducted an informal survey of the religion in Haiti, said in its idealized form, Islam could address many of Haiti's needs, including social justice, literacy and a sense of community.

"It even regulates business, land disputes, banking and other things -- all of which could be perceived as attractive in Haiti as an alternative model," Khelladi said.

REVISIONIST HISTORY

The study of Islam has also resulted in some provocative new theories about Haitian history, including a revisionist view of Boukman, a rebel slave who inspired other slaves to rise up against their colonial masters.

"Boukman was never a voodoo priest, like they say, he was a Muslim," said Samaki Foussoyni, a worshiper at the Delmas mosque.

"When they describe his name, Boukman, in English, as he was from Jamaica, they are really describing 'book man,' because of the book he was always reading, which the French here in Haiti always referred to as an "upside-down" book," Foussoyni said.

"They described it as such because it was the Koran, which you read left to right. When they say they had a voodoo ceremony at Bois Cayman, where Boukman lived, it was in fact 'Bwa Kay Imam,' or 'the woods of the house of the imam' in Creole."

Although the mosques are locally maintained and receive no assistance from Islamic charities abroad, the nascent faith got an international boost from the U.S.-led military force that entered Haiti in 1994 to restore exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.

"The Pakistani and Bangladeshi soldiers came to our mosque to pray and enjoy our faith and they encouraged us with this belief," Al-Ali said.

Conscious of their status as outsiders in overtly voodoo and Catholic Haiti, a nation that endured decades of dictatorship and brutal military repression, Muslims are quick to stress the peaceful nature of their faith and to distance themselves from the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

"Allah says that if a man kills another man it is as if he has killed all humanity," said Racin Ganga. "The people who did what they did in New York, they are not even human. Islamic people should use the weapon of their love, because violence, as we've seen here in Haiti, will not take us anywhere."

Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited

                                                                                                                                                                                         June 20, the 171st day of 2002. There are 194 days left in the year

By The Associated Press

Highlights in history on this date:

1605 - Russia's Czar Theodore II is assassinated in palace revolution.

1625 - France and United Provinces sign nonaggression treaty.

1756 - Scores of British prisoners (146, by British account) are shut in a cell known as the "Black Hole of Calcutta" by the nawab of Bengal, and only 21 escape suffocation during the night.

1789 - French assemblymen representing the common people vow not to leave the tennis court where they meet until a constitution is drawn up, signaling start of French Revolution.

1837 - Queen Victoria succeeds to British throne on death of her uncle, King William IV; Natal Republic is founded by Dutch settlers and a constitution is proclaimed.

1867 - U.S. President Andrew Jackson proclaims treaty for purchase of Alaska from Russia.

1891 - Britain and Netherlands define their boundaries in Borneo.

1927 - Druse revolt against French in Syria ends.

1933 - Army stages coup in Siam (Thailand). 1934 - Agreement is reached on frontier between Sudan and Libya.

1961 - Kuwait, newly independent, is admitted to Arab League, but admission to United Nations is blocked by Soviet Union. 1973 - Juan Peron returns to Argentina after 18-year exile.

1988 - Lt. Gen. Henry Namphy declares himself president of Haiti after troops storm national palace and depose civilian President Leslie Manigat.

1990 - Ion Iliescu is sworn in as president of Romania. The United States boycotts the inauguration to protest his role in violent repression of opposition figures.

1991 - German lawmakers narrowly vote to return Germany's seat of power to Berlin.

1991 - P.V. Narasimha Rao becomes India's ninth prime minister since it became independent in 1947. He begins reforms that start to open India's closed and socialist economy.

1992 - Czech leader Vaclav Klaus and Slovak leader Vladimir Meciar agree to split Czechoslovakia in two. 1993 - The European Community authorizes its mediator to negotiate the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

1994 - U.S. athlete O.J. Simpson pleads innocent to murdering his ex-wife and her friend.

1995 - Chechen rebels who stormed Budyonnovsk, Russia, return to their battered republic and release some 150 human shields who accompanied them.

1996 - Russian President Boris Yeltsin fires three of the most powerful members of his administration amid charges they want to cancel presidential elections and use force to retain their positions and power.

1997 - Turkey's Islamic-influenced government falls when the president asks conservative politician Mesut Yilmaz to form a government, after the leader of the Islamic Welfare Party resigned as premier.

1998 - Fighting rages through the northern suburbs of Guinea-Bissau's capital as rebel soldiers hold off advancing Senegalese troops near the airport.

1999 - While in Germany for a summit Russian President Boris Yeltsin presents U.S. President Bill Clinton with the recently declassified Russian reports relating to the assassination of President John Kennedy.

2000 - A French court dismisses criminal charges against former German doctor Hans Muench at the Auschwitz death camp, ruling that at age 89, he is too old for a trial on inciting racial hatred.

2001- American Lori Berenson is convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Peruvian court for collaborating with leftist guerillas in a thwarted plot to seize Peru's congress.

Today's Birthdays: Jacques Offenbach, German-born composer (1819-1880); Errol Flynn, Australian actor (1909-1959); Chet Atkins, country guitarist (1924-2001); Olympia Dukakis, actress (1931--); John Goodman, U.S. actor (1952--); Cyndi Lauper, U.S. singer (1953--). Thought For Today: You can do very little with faith, but you can do nothing without it — Samuel Butler, English satirist (1835-1902).

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 12:49 a.m., Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Top OAS and Caribbean Community officials visit Haiti to push for end to political crisis

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, June 10 - Two top regional officials on Monday began a visit to Haiti to push for the resumption of talks between the government and opposition over holding new elections.

Organization of American States Assistant Secretary-General Luigi Einaudi and St. Lucian Foreign Minister Julian Hunte, representing the Caribbean Community, planned to meet with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and top opposition leaders during at least a week of discussions.

The international community blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in aid after Aristide's Lavalas Family party swept flawed 2000 elections. The opposition said the elections were rigged, and the aid will not be released until both sides agree on new elections.

During the last round of discussions with the government and opposition in May, Einaudi and Hunte said progress had been made.

The two sides halted negotiations after a Dec. 17 armed attack on the National Palace that Aristide described as an attempted coup. At least 10 people were killed in the attack and subsequent violence.

The opposition maintains the coup was staged as a pretext to clamp down on dissent. Opposition leaders have refused to resume talks until Aristide partisans are disarmed, imprisoned opposition supporters are released, and the perpetrators of attacks on its offices brought to justice.

Einaudi said he could no longer accept opposition leaders' objections to resuming talks. "We don't agree with preconditions," he said.

Former Sen. Paul Denis, an opposition spokesman, said: "The OAS is trying to rush us into a superficial agreement."

Meanwhile, Aristide has proposed holding elections for the 83-seat Chamber of Deputies and two-thirds of the 27-seat Senate in November 2002.

"The government of Haiti is determined to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion as soon as possible," Foreign Relations Minister Joseph Antonio said.

Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 6:39 p.m., Friday, June 7, 2002

World refugees hit hard in 9-11 aftermath
                                                   
By Jim Lobe, OneWorld US Writer
June 7, 2002

Refugees were among the victims worst hit in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon as people forced to flee their homelands faced new obstacles to finding safe haven, especially in the United States which temporarily froze admissions of all refugees, according to a new report released Thursday by the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR).

New security measures, fueled by increasing wariness toward immigrants in Europe and Asia, as well as shortfalls in funding for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) programs in Africa, also eroded protections for one of the world's most vulnerable populations, according to the 'World Refugee Survey 2002.'

Thousands of refugees in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and elsewhere who expected to enter the U.S. were stranded by the freeze, while tightened admissions procedures in Europe made it more difficult to gain asylum there, the 280-page report said.

"At a time when freedom is under attack, the world is turning its back on people fleeing war, persecution, and terror in search of freedom," said USCR's executive director Lavinia Limon. "This indifference towards refugees undermines our stated values," she added.

Altogether, conflict and persecution brought the total number of the world's refugees to 14.9 million by the end of 2001, the largest number since 1995 and an increase of some 400,000 from the year 2000. Some 22 million more people were internally displaced in similar ways. Among the newly uprooted were some 1.8 million Africans driven from their homes by war, armed insurgencies, or violent civil unrest, especially in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan, Burundi, Liberia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, and Senegal.

Many of those who made it across international boundaries still faced harsh conditions due to the failure of major donors to provide more than US$20 million for regional UNHCR programs.

But refugees from other regions, particularly South and Central Asia and the Middle East, also fared poorly during 2001, particularly after September 11 when Pakistan, Iran, and other neighbors closed their borders as war loomed over Afghanistan.

Before the attacks, Afghans represented the largest population of uprooted people, with an estimated 4.5 million living outside the country, mainly in Iran and Pakistan, and another one million displaced inside Afghanistan.

Although by mid-2002, more than half a million Afghans in Pakistan and Iran had made their way back home, international donors have not kept pace with the costs of repatriating them, raising questions about whether the returns are sustainable.

"Let us hope that the international community, led by the United States, will not squander this opportunity to end the misery and bring stability to this corner of the globe," said Bill Frelick, the Survey's chief editor, who noted that only about two-thirds of UNHCR's budget for the Afghan problem had been provided by donors to date.

If Afghan refugees ended the year with more hopeful prospects, however, the same was not true of the world's second largest refugee population, the Palestinians, 4.1 million of whom live outside their traditional homeland or in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza.

As violence intensified between Israel and Palestinians over 2001 and well into 2002, at least 26,000 left the occupied territories for Jordan and did not return, according to the report which noted that by October last year, some 64 percent of the 1.4 million refugees in the occupied territories were living below the poverty line, 80 percent in Gaza alone.

The three-month U.S. freeze brought total refugee admissions for 2001 to their lowest point since 1987. On October 1, there were approximately 23,000 refugees around the world who had already been approved for admission due to their "well-founded fear of persecution." But they had to wait for three months they were able to enter.

Moreover, the anti-immigration measures adopted by Washington had a ripple effect elsewhere through the hemisphere as Mexico and Central American countries stepped up their detentions and deportations of undocumented migrants. In addition, the U.S. began detaining asylum seekers from Haiti as a matter of policy, even after they had proven to an immigration officer that they had a "credible fear" of persecution if they were returned home.

Europe also witnessed setbacks for refugee protections in the wake of the September 11 attacks, as Britain and Germany joined the U.S. in passing anti-terrorism laws that significantly curbed the rights of immigrants and refugees inside their borders. Other traditionally liberal Western European countries tightened border controls and asylum-screening processes.

Copyright 2002 OneWorld.net

                                                                                                                                                                                Myanmar authorities burn 290 tons of opium poppy ... Penalities were waived for the two nations, Haiti and Afghanistan

By The Associated Press

BANGKOK, Thailand, June 7 - Myanmar authorities on Friday burned 290 tons of opium poppy seeds in a demonstration of their determination to stamp out the drug trade.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, was the world's top opium producer in 2001, even though its production has fallen sharply since 1996, according to U.S. State Department figures. Much of Myanmar's opium is processed into heroin, which is exported to neighboring countries and onward to the West.

The burning took place in Shan state, an eastern border area that is the nation's main narcotics production area, Sally Anderson of the Washington D.C.-based public relations company DCI Group told The Associated Press in Bangkok. She did not know the exact location.

The burning began at about 1 p.m. (0600 GMT) and ended several hours later, she said. A total of about 350 people, including government officials and local villagers, witnessed the fire.

Those present included Priscilla Clapp, charge d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar, a representative of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from the embassy, and Japanese Ambassador Shigeru Tsumori, said Anderson.

Her account could not immediately be confirmed independently.

A government news release earlier this week said the seeds, if planted and harvested, could been used to yield enough opium to make 55 tons of pure heroin with an estimated U.S. street value of dlrs 2.2 billion.

Last year's estimated opium production in Myanmar totaled approximately 865 tons, which could be used to make about 86.5 tons of heroin.

Under a program called "Project Hell-Flower," the seeds were collected from farmers in northern, eastern and southern Shan State in exchange for rice, wheat, maize and corn seeds.

The United States has provided little assistance to Myanmar since 1988, when the military government crushed a pro-democracy movement. U.S. officials have said relations will not improve until Myanmar makes democratic reforms and does more to fight drugs.

Myanmar is one of three countries that the U.S. State Department says has "failed demonstrably" to cooperate in fighting drugs. The designation makes it ineligible for most types of U.S. assistance. The same penalties were waived for the other two nations, Haiti and Afghanistan, because of U.S. national interests.

A top Myanmar anti-drug official, Col. Kyaw Thein, met with the State Department's top counternarcotics official, Assistant Secretary Rand Beers, on May 13. The State Department said they discussed the steps Myanmar needs to take to fight drugs.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 7:02 p.m., Wednesday, June 5, 2002

State Dept. Report: At least 700,000 and possibly four million people are victims of human trafficking

By George Dedda, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON, June 5 - At least 700,000 and possibly as many as four million persons are bought, sold, transported and held against their will through fraud, coercion and outright kidnapping, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday.

And even in the United States there are 50,000 so-called "trafficked" persons, Powell said. He pledged the resolve of the U.S. government "to stop this appalling assault" on human beings worldwide.

Presenting the State Department's second annual Trafficking in Persons Report, Powell said most of the victims are women and children.

He said the report helps 'to bolster the will of the international community to combat this unconscionable crime."

Powell said the United States is ready to help countries design programs to address the problem, but starting next year will impose sanctions on countries that do not make such an effort.

Nancy Ely-Raphel, an adviser to Powell who specializes in the issue, said sanctions could include actions such as voting against loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

She said that since the last report was issued, South Korea, Romania and Israel have significantly strengthened their anti-trafficking efforts.

"We hope that other countries will take similar steps," she said.

The report described trafficking in persons as a modern form of slavery.

"Traffickers use threats, intimidation and violence to force victims to engage in sex acts or to labor under conditions comparable to slavery for the traffickers' financial gain," the report said.

Nineteen countries are not doing enough to prevent the "horrific practice" of the forced transport of human beings across international borders, the report says.

The report, which examined 89 countries, said the number of offending countries is down from 23 a year ago. More than a quarter of the countries are in the Persian Gulf region: Bahrain, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The report, issued annually, was prepared in response to legislation approved in October 2000 to highlight the problem in which thousands of victims are taken across international borders to work in sweatshops, construction sites, brothels and fields.

Apart from the Persian Gulf countries, the remaining 14 countries found not to be complying with minimum standards set forth in the legislation are Afghanistan, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia, Cambodia, Greece, Indonesia, Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon, Myanmar, Russia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkey.

All are designated as "Tier 3" countries in the report. Another 52 countries are listed in the "Tier 2" category; they are said to be not meeting the minimum standards but making "significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance."

The Tier 2 countries are Albania, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Gabon, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Israel, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kazakstan, Laos, Latvia, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, Vietnam and Yugoslavia.

Eighteen "Tier 1" countries are described as complying fully with the standards. In this category are Austria, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and Britain. 

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                Foreign ministers back possible role for OAS, the world oldest regional organization, in Venezuela

By Ian James, Associated Press Writer

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, June 5 - Nearly two months after a coup that briefly unseated Venezuela's president, the Organization of American States has offered to help the country in any way needed to ease political tensions and strengthen its democracy.

Venezuela didn't immediately accept the offer included on Tuesday in a declaration adopted at the close of the annual OAS General Assembly. But Venezuelan officials said they were pleased because the open-ended pledge of assistance respects the country's sovereignty.

"Venezuela, of course, is a country that has many problems, and we are trying to resolve them," said Foreign Minister Roy Chaderton-Matos.

The OAS previously condemned the failed coup that briefly drove President Hugo Chavez from power in April.

Investigations into the coup and the killing of dozens of people have made little headway. Several prominent opposition leaders have spurned government calls for dialogue and are looking for ways to unseat Chavez, whose term ends in 2006.

Foreign ministers at the meeting also agreed on a resolution urging Haiti's government and opposition to restart talks on conditions for new elections. Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Haiti has been suspended due to disputed legislative elections in 2000.

On Monday, 30 member states also signed a new anti-terrorism treaty intended to prevent the financing of terrorism, toughen border controls and strengthen cooperation between law enforcement agencies.

The declaration on Venezuela reiterates the OAS's willingness to give any support requested by Venezuela to "consolidate its democratic process."

It also welcomes Venezuela's recent decision to form a Truth Commission to investigate the violence between April 11-14.

The United States, which was slow to condemn the coup, has expressed concern about political stability in the oil-rich South American country and has proposed that the OAS play a role as facilitator.

"A good number of delegates share our concern that the situation in that country remains deeply polarized," said Roger Noriega, the U.S. ambassador to the OAS. "We believe that the OAS has a role and has an obligation to support the process of restoring political stability."

Despite criticism from the United States that talks are progressing too slowly, Chaderton-Matos said advances and setbacks are to be expected.

"The road has many curves, and we prefer not to drive on it with a Maserati but with a tractor. It's less exciting but it's safer," he said.

Meanwhile, El Salvador's government granted political asylum Tuesday to Rear Adm. Carlos Molina Tamayo, one of several Venezuelan officers who took part in the military rebellion.

Salvadoran Foreign Secretary Eugenia Brizuela made the decision after meeting with her Venezuelan counterpart during the OAS meeting, her office said in a statement. Molina Tamayo has said his life would be in danger if he stayed in Venezuela.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 11:41 a.m., Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Haiti condemned over violence against labor activists

By Jim Lobe, OneWorld US
June 5, 2002

The world's leading umbrella organization of free trade unions has condemned the treatment of labor activists by authorities in Haiti, following reportedly fatal clashes last week between plantation workers and guards in the northern part of the country.

The Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) rounded on Haiti Tuesday for its "flagrant violations of workers' trade union rights, including violence against trade union activists" in a new report which calls for "determined measures" to bring the country's labor standards up to levels set over the past five years at World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meetings.

"Haiti has undertaken to comply with numerous international standards...yet it has brazenly failed to do so on numerous occasions," said ICFTU economist Collin Harker. "Haiti maintains practices that are an anomaly in the modern world, and we are calling on its peers in the WTO...to bring pressure to bear in order to force it to join the 21st century."

The ICFTU report, 'Internationally-recognized Core Labor Standards in Haiti'--which uncovers "grave" evidence of bonded child labor on the island, among other rights violations--was released just days after Amnesty International called for an investigation into violence between plantation workers and guards at the Guacimal orange plantation in St. Raphael, which reportedly resulted in the killings of two trade unionists and the detention without charges of seven others, including two reporters.

The plantation has been the focus of rising tension in recent months between the union, Batay Ouvriye First of May, and the company, Produits Agricole Guacimal, which produces orange extract sold mainly to European beverage and liquor companies, such as Remy Cointreau, the famous Paris-based firm that, at least until recently, owned a minority share in the plantation.

The clashes took place on May 27 when plantation workers, accompanied by organizers from Batay Ouvriye and two local journalists, arrived at the plantation to carry out the usual seasonal practice of allocating plots of land to workers who have traditionally grown subsistence crops there.

In the violence which followed, two elderly union members were reportedly hacked to death, while a number of others, including the two journalists, were injured in the melee.

Police later arrested the journalists, Darwin St. Julien from Haiti Proges newspaper and Allan Deshommes from Radio Atlantik, and five other participants in the union's march. They were subsequently transferred to the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince where they have not yet been provided medical care for their wounds, according to Amnesty and Reporters Sans Frontieres, which noted that the mayor of St. Raphael, Adonija Severe, had accused the workers of being "terrorists."

The company and its agents have charged the union with trying to carry out an illegal invasion of its land. The union has argued that the company's local owners, Nonce and Daniel Zephir, and local police and officials have been trying to force its members off the plantation.

Since March, three workers have been thrown in jail without trial, according to the British-based Haiti Support Group which has charged that the company and local officials are violating the workers' constitutional right to join a union.

While Nonce Zephir, who runs the plantation, has said he considers the workers to be casual workers and thus not eligible to join a union, the Support Group and other international union and solidarity organizers have launched a campaign to press Remy Cointreau to use its influence to bring Guacimal to the table

Remy Cointreau and Marnier-Lapostolle, which produces Grand Marnier, have generally preferred Guacimal oranges both because they are organic and because the peeling, which is done at a processing plant in nearby Madeline, is labor-intensive. In the words of one Remy Cointreau executive quoted last year by Multinational Monitor, "There is nowhere that grows oranges with labor as cheap as it is in Haiti." Plantation workers are currently paid about US$1.50 a day.

After meeting with the campaign organizers and insisting for months that it was urging the Zephir brothers to negotiate, Remy Cointreau announced last January that it had decided to stop buying extract from Guacimal, an assertion that was contradicted by Nonce Zephir in the British Observer newspaper one month later.

The company has not replied to an inquiry emailed by OneWorld last month to determine whether it retains its interest in Guacimal.

Copyright 2002 OneWorld.net

                                                                                                                                                                                               2 dead, more than 30 wounded in bus accident in Haiti

By Yves A. Isidor, wehaitians.com executive editor

Cambridge, MA, June 5 - As they long have been doing, on a day early this week they all left their not too pleasant homes hoping to reunite their with their progenies at the very end of the day after long hours of labor.

But not all of the Haitian street vendors, known as Madames Saras, did return homes as planned. Two of them found death after an overcrowded bus in which they were passengers overturned.

The 30 or so people wounded were said to be transported to nearby hospitals and clinics as thousands of Haitians in the capital Port-au-Prince were protesting in front of the Haitian national palace, accusing de facto President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of stealing their hard earned savings after a substantial number of co-operative mini banks became insolvent.

In the southeast city of Jacmel, citizens woke up this week only to find the doors of a co-operative mini bank wide opened after some of them deposited their hard earnings with it days earlier.

Bank executives were no were to be found, and many have reportedly already fled Haiti for the United States and some unidentified African nations.

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 5:12 p.m., Tuesday, June 4, 2002

50 million children lack birth certificates, says UNICEF

By Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 4 (IPS) - More than 50 million children worldwide are being denied the right to an official identity, leaving them vulnerable to child traffickers and child abusers, the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF said Tuesday.

•United Nations Children's Fund •Child Rights Information Network •OneWorld Full Coverage on Children •Consultative Group for Early Childhood Care and Development

The children are being deprived of a recognized name and nationality because they are not being registered at birth, UNICEF said in a 32-page study released here.

"A birth certificate is one of the most important pieces of paper a person will ever own," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "If we do not get it right from the start and register babies, it is an uphill battle from there on."

In 2000, the most recent year with available statistics, more than 50 million children were not registered at birth. This was about 41 percent of births worldwide, according to the study.

In 19 countries including Rwanda, Cambodia, Niger, China, Indonesia, Turkey and Nicaragua, between 26 and 60 percent of all children under the age of five were not registered at birth.

The study, however, singles out six countries - Uganda, the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, and Angola - as waging successful campaigns to raise their birth registration levels.

The high achievers in birth registration include Algeria, Malaysia, Mauritius and Uzbekistan. In Algeria, which ranks number one, nearly 97 percent of all babies were registered within the statutory five days after birth.

Children born into rural communities are less likely to be registered than their urban counterparts. Children born to illiterate parents in countries including Brazil, India, Haiti, Honduras and Peru are less likely to have a birth certificate than those born to literate parents.

In Vietnam, some unmarried women are reluctant to register their child out of embarrassment or out of a mistaken belief that children are only registered if the parents are married, the study said.

Bellamy said proof of age is an important first step in protecting children from age-related abuse and exploitation, including military recruitment and involvement in armed conflict, child labor, and early marriage.

"While birth registration does not of itself guarantee education, health, protection or participation, its absence can put these fundamental rights beyond the reach of those already on the margins of society," the study said.

It added that an unregistered child will be more attractive to child traffickers and does not have even the minimal protection that a birth certificate provides against several forms of abuse, including wrongful detention and prosecution as an adult.

The most common reason for non-registration in poorer countries is that the parents simply cannot overcome the logistical hurdles of getting to the proper office. Governments must, therefore, take steps to solve this problem by decentralizing their registration systems, UNICEF said.

Article 9 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that all children should be registered immediately after birth and should also acquire a name and a nationality.

The Convention has been ratified by 192 of the 193 U.N. member countries, the exception being the United States.

According to the study, the largest percentage of unregistered births is in the developing world, mostly in Africa and Asia. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 70 percent of births went unregistered, as did 63 percent in South Asia.

In sheer numbers, South Asia ranks number one with approximately 22.5 million unregistered children, or more than 40 percent of the world's unregistered births, compared with a total of about 17 million in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the Middle East and North Africa, nearly one-third of the children born in 2000 (about three million) lacked legal recognition of their identity, while in East Asia and the Pacific region, the number of children unregistered was about seven million.

Olara Otunnu, the U.N.'s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said that during his visits to conflict zones he discovered that every time he asked for a child's age, he was told they were 21 years of age. "But they did not look more than 13 or 15 years old," he said.

Otunnu said that one of the obstacles in ferreting out child soldiers was the absence of birth certificates. "It struck me suddenly how difficult it is in any of these situations to tell the age of a young person," he said.

Otunnu pointed out that in many of these societies no records are kept. But even if there were records, he said, they have been destroyed in war.

Currently, the international legal minimum age for recruitment in armed forces is 18.

Copyright 2002 OneWorld.net

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 7:06 p.m., Monday, June 3, 2002

Protesters march to demand punishment for government partisans who killed journalist

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PETIT-GOAVE, Haiti, June 3 - Hundreds of people marched and chanted Monday, demanding punishment for the partisans of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide who hacked a journalist to death six months ago.

"We don't want Aristide! Judge the criminals!" the protesters yelled as they marched under police escort through the coastal town of Petit-Goave.

"The killers have confessed and are at liberty ... We can only conclude the government doesn't want to establish justice and freedom in Haiti," said Michelene Hilaire, secretary-general of Petit-Goave Journalist Association.

Last week, Judge Fritzner Duclair said indictments in the case would not be issued before the end of July because police have not brought one of two main suspects to Petit-Goave for questioning.

Brignol Lindor, 31, was killed Dec. 3, some days after opposition politicians had spoken out on his radio station based in Petit-Goave, an opposition stronghold 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of Haiti's capital (Relevant photos).   

The attack occurred after Petit-Goave's pro-Aristide deputy mayor, Bony Dume, called for "vigilantes" to stop lawlessness by "terrorists."

Dume said Lindor was a member of the opposition, which has been at loggerheads with Aristide's party since flawed 2000 elections. Colleagues and family say Lindor had no political affiliation.

Several days after his killing, members of a pro-Aristide grass-roots group admitted they had killed Lindor, speaking in an interview with Secretary-General Guy Delva of the Association of Haitian Journalists.

Aristide's party has denied it condones such violence, and the government has called for Haitians to join "in the struggle against impunity."

But human rights groups accuse the government of persecuting critics.

"The government has targeted the press because it does not tolerate independent thought and criticism," Petit-Goave journalist Montigene Sincere said during Monday's march.

After an alleged Dec. 17 coup attempt, rampaging Aristide partisans burned down opposition headquarters and threatened journalists. Fifteen fled the country.

In May, the French-based Reporters Without Borders blacklisted Aristide as a "press predator," saying he has blocked a judicial inquiry into the April 2000 killing of the Caribbean country's most prominent journalist, Jean Dominique.

On May 27 reporters Darwin Saint-Julien and Allan Deshommes were arrested as they covered a clash between farm workers and supporters of plantation owners in St. Raphael, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of the capital.

Saint-Julien was struck across the eyes with a machete, and both were taken to the national penitentiary, where Delva said they have been denied medical care and visitor's rights.

Information Undersecretary Mario Dupuy said the journalists allegedly had been in a car with armed assailants.

In Petit-Goave, violence and fear remain. On Friday, journalist Emmanuel Cledanor, who witnessed Lindor's murder, went into hiding. In April, Lindor's father, two brothers, and four sisters fled to France.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                     Foreign ministers from throughout the Americas sign treaty to combat terrorism

By Ian James, Associated Press Writer

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, June 3 - Foreign ministers from throughout the Americas signed a new treaty Monday to prevent and punish terrorism, saying a coordinated response is needed to confront a complicated threat.

"We face a common threat to our security and prosperity, and together we have responded," Secretary of State Colin Powell told the General Assembly of the Organization of American States. "More than ever before, the Americas stand together today against terrorism and for democracy. There can be no doubt of our resolve.

" Thirty of the 34 OAS members approved the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism, which is intended to prevent the financing of terrorism, toughen border controls and strengthen cooperation between the region's law enforcement agencies.

The four nations that did not sign — Canada, Dominica, the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago — need additional time to implement changes required by the treaty, OAS officials said

The treaty, negotiated as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, requires that each country create a financial intelligence unit and implement strict measures to detect cross-border movements of cash that could be used to fund terrorism.

Countries joining the pact also agree to transfer detainees whose testimony is needed in anti-terrorism investigations, and to deny asylum or refugee status to terrorist suspects.

"This isn't a magic solution, but it's going to help," said Foreign Minister Didier Opertti of Uruguay.

Powell said the treaty was "the first new international treaty since Sept. 11 targeted at improving our ability to combat terrorism."

Foreign ministers and secretaries of state also discussed a possible OAS role in easing political tensions in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez was briefly ousted by a military rebellion in April.

"Today, Venezuela's democracy is being tested," Powell said. "The OAS can help strengthen Venezuela's democratic institutions so that they serve the interests of all Venezuelans. Our message is clear and it is constructive."

Leaders also discussed steps toward free trade, drug control and the political situation in Haiti, where an impasse over new elections is holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 3:32 p.m., Monday, June 3, 2002

Foreign ministers of Americas gather for annual assembly, making new commitment to fight terrorism

By Ian James, Associated Press Writer

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, June 2 - Foreign ministers from throughout the Americas gathered for their annual assembly with plans to approve new measures to prevent and punish acts of terrorism.

The Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism, negotiated as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, was to be signed Monday by top diplomats representing many of the Organization of American States' 34 active members.

"These despicable crimes have represented the greatest threat to our collective security," OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria said during the meeting's opening session Sunday night. "Our member states needed to respond to these challenges with decisive action, strong cooperation and firm resolve."

The new treaty is intended to prevent the financing of terrorism, toughen border controls and increase cooperation between the region's law enforcement agencies.

Secretaries of state and foreign ministers from at least 17 countries are expected to sign the treaty during the OAS General Assembly, which runs through Tuesday. Officials said other countries are expected to join later.

The treaty requires that each country create a financial intelligence unit and institute measures to detect cross-border movements of cash that could be used to fund terrorism.

Countries joining the treaty agree to cooperate by transferring detainees whose testimony is needed in anti-terrorism investigations, and the signatories also must deny asylum or refugee status to terrorist suspects.

Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados, whose Parliament last week approved an anti-terrorism bill, said coordinated action is necessary.

"Today, we all live in the shadow of Sept. 11," he said. "That horrific tragedy has cast a dark shadow across the whole hemisphere."

The opening session in the Caribbean country was attended by most of the region's foreign ministers. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was absent, arrived later Sunday night.

Among the topics to be discussed during the meeting were the political situations in Venezuela and Haiti.

OAS officials have been closely watching developments in Venezuela since President Hugo Chavez was ousted for two days in April by a military rebellion and then returned to power.

Gaviria, who recently visited on a fact-finding mission, said: "We came away very concerned with the level of polarization we found in Venezuela — a polarization which stands in the way of democratic dialogue."

He offered OAS assistance and said the South American country "needs the solidarity and cooperation of all the people and governments of this hemisphere."

In Haiti, meanwhile, the government and opposition are locked in disagreement over how to proceed with new elections after disputed legislative voting in 2000.

The OAS is trying to help resolve the dispute, and Assistant Secretary-General Luigi Einaudi said he hoped the meeting would result in "a clear statement of support for further progress."

Foreign ministers also plan to discuss efforts to remove land mines left over from conflicts in Central America and along the border between Ecuador and Peru.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.

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