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Photos: *March 28 *March 26 *March 19 *Mar.13-15 *March 7 *March 3-4 In Books & Arts/In Book Review: *Haitian Quest for Freedom *Haiti: The Fall of the House of Aristide (Haiti's Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy In Books & Arts/Ideas: *What we're fighting for? - The difference between liberty and freedom. In Special Reports: *A Haitian Survivor Mourns, and Keeps Fighting *The philosopher of Islamic terror   In Editorial/Columns: *Waiting in totalitarian dictator Aristide's hell, more Haitians are likely to risk their lives in perilous waters to come to Uncle Sam's paradise

Posted at 11:17 p.m., Monday, March 31, 2003
Haiti's bestial dictator Aristide vows to kill Haitians if they refuse to give up homes and land
By Yves A. Isidor, wehaitians.com, executive editor

Even after more than three generations, the Blain family of the Bel Air section of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, likes to point out, "we might be dirt-poor, but we will always mourn our deads in our simple houses" - with the stress on the last two words.

But if Haiti's uncommonly vicious tyrant Jean-Bertrand Aristide's order, that is "the Blain family and many others must vacate their residences and land, and permanently so, by April 5, 2003, and without being compensated, otherwise the government will not be responsible for the worst thing that could ever happened to them," Marie-Lourde Blain, a family member and longtime Boston's resident Thursday told wehaitians.com, in person, in this case one may understandably feel convinced that the victims, who have vowed to resist at any cost, like many before them, will ultimately be murdered.

How can primitive tyrant Aristide ask those Haitian poor people, whom he has been defrauding, and for many years so, as the more than U.S.$220 million stolen in a pyramid scheme suggest, as reported a while ago by the New York Times' David Gonzalez, to give up their homes and land, without being compensated? A plausible answer from longtime owners-residents like Loulou, Mrs.Hermite, Etienne, Idalia, Abner Blain, Aucar Blain, Jacqueline Blain, Jean-Jacques Zephir, Ivrose Blain, Jacques Target, Garry Target, Roro Target and many others, who called wehaitians.com Tuesday, from a neighbor's telephone, in Haiti, to write a piece in English, they insisted, reflecting their agony, also to alert Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and many others of the same nature, since they consider the barbarian dictator dictator's order to be a gross human rights violation, in an effort to avoid a bloodbath, is that "Aristide told us I need the land to build a public pack, and for all Haitians."

From Amnesty International to Human Rights Watch to the United States Embassy in Haiti to the French Embassy, also in Haiti, and many others, which have long been attempting to promote democracy and human rights in Haiti, attempting to help those poor Haitians, that would truly be, to paraphrase the mantra of one NEGO, "Justice for those poor Haitians." 

Posted at 11:49 p.m, Thursday, March 27, 2003
Haiti new police chief takes office
By Micheal Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 26 - A longtime supporter of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide took office as Haiti's national police chief Wednesday, in a move to satisfy international demands for tighter security ahead of new elections (George Bush burned to death in effigy).

The appointment of Jean-Claude Jean-Baptiste, previously a southern regional chief, followed the resignation of three senior police officials and the issuing of arrest warrants for about 10 government militants.

Human rights groups have accused the 4,000-member police force of rights violations, criminal activity and bias against government opponents.

The shakeup comes before a March 30 deadline set by the Organization of American States for the government to take concrete steps to establish security.

Security is one of many conditions set by opposition parties and other groups for their participation in this year's legislative elections, meant to make up for flawed elections in 2000 that were swept by Aristide's party.

Arrest warrants were issued for Aristide militants in northern Haiti, all accused in attacks on the opposition following an alleged coup attempt Dec. 17, 2001, radio stations reported.

At least 10 people were killed in the 2001 incident, most Aristide opponents.

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

Posted at 6:15 p.m., Wednesday, March 26, 2003
New police chief and arrest warrants for militants aim to satisfy demands in Haiti
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 26 - A longtime supporter of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide took office as Haiti's national police chief Wednesday, in a move to satisfy international demands for tighter security ahead of new elections (photos).

The appointment of Jean-Claude Jean-Baptiste, previously a southern regional chief, followed the resignation of three senior police officials and the issuing of arrest warrants for about 10 government militants. His appointment still must be confirmed by the Senate.

Aristide's opponents remain skeptical of his resolve to improve the 4,000-member police force, which human rights groups have accused of rights violations, criminal activity and bias against government opponents.

"Aristide is replacing one of his cronies with another, and his gunmen remain at large," opposition politician Evans Paul said.

The shakeup comes before a March 30 deadline set by the Organization of American States for the government to take concrete steps to establish security.

"It is the government's responsibility to establish a climate of public security," OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria said. "Both government and opposition must reject violence as a political tool."

Security is one of many conditions set by opposition parties and other groups to ensure participation in legislative elections this year. The vote is to replace flawed legislative elections held in 2000 and swept by Aristide's party.

Jean-Baptiste replaces Jean-Nesny Lucien, who resigned a year before his three-year term expired.

Police spokesman Jean-Dady Simeon on Wednesday confirmed the resignations of Lucien and top police administrators Clarel Alexandre and Ronsard St-Cyr. He said he didn't know when they resigned nor their reasons.

Simeon couldn't confirm radio reports of the resignations of internal affairs chief Harvel Jean-Baptiste, West District police chief Hermione Leonard and Aristide security chief Oriel Jean.

The United States has canceled the tourist visas of Alexandre, Jean, and Leonard for alleged involvement in drug trafficking.

"We need time to evaluate these measures in order to see if they in fact guarantee the civil and political liberties the government has violated," said Edouard Paultre, president of the Protestant Federation.

His group is one of five civil society groups with seats on a nine-member electoral council. But before participating, they are demanding an impartial police force and prosecution of perpetrators of political attacks.

Radio stations reported arrest warrants were issued Tuesday for some 10 Aristide militants in northern Haiti, including Milot town Mayor Jean-Charles Moise, all accused in attacks on the opposition following an alleged coup attempt Dec. 17, 2001.

At least 10 people were killed, most Aristide opponents.

On Tuesday, police raided a shantytown in west-coast Gonaives in an attempt to arrest notorious Aristide militant Amiot Metayer, who's accused of killing an opposition leader.

Radio reports said Metayer got away, and an associate of the gang leader went on Radio Metropole to say he had fled Haiti. The OAS had demanded his arrest months ago.

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

Posted at 1:31 a.m., Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Haiti replaces Police Chief on pressure
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 25 - The government appointed a new chief of Haiti's much-criticized police force Tuesday, amid international pressure to create better conditions for elections.

District chief Jean-Claude Jean-Baptiste was named to head the country's 4,000-member force since, replacing Jean-Nesny Lucien, who resigned, officials said.

Human rights groups have long accused the police under Lucien's authority of human rights violations and criminal activity.

The change in police command comes after an Organization of American States-led delegation last week urged the government take concrete steps to establish security by the March 30 balloting.

The opposition was skeptical about the change in police command.

"It is not a question of who is at the head of the police, but of what kind of system is in place," opposition politician Evans Paul said.

The OAS is working to help Haiti end the political stalemate prompted by May 2000 elections that the opposition said were rigged. The international community has withheld some $500 million because of the impasse.

Last month, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide set up a nine-member electoral council, but civil leaders have refused to name their five delegates until Aristide partisans are disarmed. The opposition also has refused participation until Aristide resigns, which he has refused to do until his term ends in 2006.

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

News Analysis
Haiti's uncommonly vicious tyrant Aristide more sinister game; another criminal appointed police chief
By Yves A. Isidor, wehaitians.com executive editor

CAMBRIDGE, MA., Mar. 26 - International  pressure on Haiti has a habit of causing grossly incompetent and notorious criminal officials to be sacked from the nation's payroll, and humiliately so. Dictator-presidents themselves are consigned to the archives of history.

Haiti's uncommonly erratic totalitarian dictator, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former dirt-poor little man of peasant origins, friendly with international terrorists, and drug dealers, too, under intense international pressure, fired Tuesday his former gardener turned-national-police-chief, Jean Nesly Lucien (photos).

Mr. Lucien, a high school dropout, was replaced by Haitian National Police District Chief, Jean-Claude Jean-Baptiste, who Marie Denise Claude said Tuesday on Haiti's Radio Metropole, in part, engineered the Sept. 30,1991 assassination of her father, the Rev. Sylvio Claude, before brutally participating in person in the lynching of the victim himself.

Mr. Claude, a prominent politician and archi-anti-Aristide's dictatorship, who years before his sad end was repeatedly tortured, and for a longtime so, add being forced several times into exile only to return to Haiti days later, by the Duvalier's dictatorship, was beaten, burned to death and ultimately, his body dragged on the streets of Les Cayes by paid government bandits as they cheered.     

Will Mr. Jean-Baptiste, who, too, presumably knows how enormous Aristide's crimes are, see himself a new Mr. Lucien - not inveighing against organized crimes, including drug trafficking, which critics long ago contended permitted vicious tyrant Aristide to amass by proxy a respectable fortune, size wise, to be specific? 

Many Haitians, who have long been attempting to sing the epitaph of Aristide's bloody regime, provided a number of explanations, all plausible and helpful, as clues to Mr. Jean-Baptiste's anticipated criminal impulses.

"Mr. Jean-Baptiste's appointment, after Mr. Lucien was forced to undergo a Great Purge, as it should be viewed, is something more sinister by bestial dictator Aristide."

"Most pointedly", they added and, with certitudes, "more dangerous than ever."

"Predictably, Mr. Jean-Baptiste will prove to be the subject of Aristide's totalitarian dictatorship excesses - the panicle of the regime notorious crimes."  

"A portrait most likely to surpass that of Mr. Lucien, who humiliately failed a series of secondary-school equivalency tests, or G.E.D., three times in Boston, any time soon in organized crimes (arming notorious junior criminals; defrauding the Haitian people, at gunpoint, too), further disgorged the Haitians, who, in conclusion arguably claimed to have conducted a multifaceted study of Aristide's regime - his most trusted henchman, up to his elbows in blood.  

Posted at 11:17 p.m., Monday, March 24, 2003
Press freedom group stresses threats to media in Venzuela, Haiti, Cuba, and around the world
By Eloy O. Aguilar, Associated Press Writer
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, Mar. 24 - The InterAmerican Press Association, the IAPA, said Sunday that attacks on the press continue around the globe and in the Americas, and singled out Venezuela, Cuba and Haiti for criticism Sunday.

IAPA president Andres Garcia said "attacks against the press continue around the globe and locally."

Garcia called the Venezuelan government "abusive" and accused it of threatening the media daily. Journalists in Venezuela have been threatened and shot at while covering clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters in the last year. Garcia called attempts by the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to impose a media content law as "nothing short of censorship of the press, while it continues to tighten restrictions on the major television networks."

He announced that the IAPA will send a fact-finding mission to Venezuela soon.

Garcia also criticized the Cuban government for the recent arrest of a group of journalists, and expressed concern over Haiti, "where violence against the press continues especially to silence the few voices of dissident radio stations."

Garcia cited new types of threats to the press, especially the electronic media. He referred to the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society, which he compared to UNESCO (news - web sites)-sponsored New World Information and Communication Order in the 1970s.

"This time they are indirectly trying to control the media, especially Internet and electronic media, under the precept that the world is experiencing a transition from the industrial society of the 20th century to information society of the 21st century," he said.

Earlier, Rafael Molina, the head of the IAPA's press freedom commission, said national security is being used as a pretext to clamp down on the media in the United States.

Molina said that after the Sept. 11 terror attacks "restrictions were imposed on the press and there were official suggestions to the media about what to publish and what not to publish, using national security as a pretext."

Molina said among the most extreme cases was last month's expulsion of an Iraqi journalist from the United States who was dubbed "harmful" to the security of the country. Iraq in return expelled four U.S. journalists from Baghdad.

Addressing the second day of the media group's meeting in this Central American country, Salvadoran President Francisco Flores said Sunday press freedom and independent media are the foundation of democracy.

"There is a close relationship between the health of a democratic system and the existence of independent media. More freedom of information and criticism implies more strength for democracy,"

Flores told the midyear meeting of newspaper editors from throughout the hemisphere. Flores noted El Salvador was mainly a source of bad news during its 1980-1992 civil war, but stressed the country is now a functional democracy with individual freedoms.

"Only in freedom can a person develop," Flores said, stressing the need for El Salvador to take on new challenges such as a free trade agreement with the United States.

After his speech, Flores told journalists that El Salvador "has not declared war on Iraq. El Salvador is not part of a military coalition. What we have done is express our support for the United States.El Salvador is ready to help in humanitarian actions when the war is over."

The U.S. government has listed El Salvador as one of more then 40 countries in the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq.

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

Haiti's coffin makers struggle to make a living while forests disappear, environmental woes worsen
By Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writer

FORET DES PINS, Haiti, Mar. 22 - In a musty shop near the capital's dilapidated cemetery, Josue Termidor takes a rasp, gently sanding a coffin made of avocado tree planks. A decade ago, the casket would have been carved from heavy mahogany (environmental)

"All the good wood is gone," says Termidor, 32, his fingernails caked with putty used to seal the brittle wood. "It's got harder to make a living, and the lack of wood makes families disappointed and the dead angry."

Once blanketed by lush forests, Haiti is now nearly 90 percent deforested. Competing against a demand that has far exceeded supply, the impoverished Caribbean nation loses more than 30 million trees a year to provide wood, fuel and work to a desperate population.

"In a good month I earn 200 Haitian (US$40) and that's barely surviving. The peasants cutting down the trees make even less," says Termidor, flanked by a metallic mauve "tete-boeuf" or first-class coffin, considered the Cadillac of caskets.

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, leader of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, has been unable to tackle poverty, unemployment and political instability, let alone the environmental tragedy.

Efforts have been stymied by rivalries between the government and opposition, with millions of dollars in international aid suspended since flawed 2000 legislative elections. Some was earmarked for environmental projects.

"We face a total ecological disaster," Aristide said in an exclusive interview last month. "Misery and the lack of education are making people cut more trees ...

"When you learn how to write 'tree,' you also learn at the same time what to do instead of cutting a tree," Aristide said. "Unfortunately without money ... (there is) less education and more people involved in cutting trees."

Money would allow the government to prosecute illegal loggers and pursue and an aggressive literacy plan to teach people the value of trees, he said.

But trees are vulnerable even at Foret des Pins, the Pine Forest National Park that is one of Haiti's few protected areas.

A "No Tree Cutting" sign hangs above the entrance to the forest, on the border with the Dominican Republic. Trash is scattered about the giant pine trees, which have deep hack marks in their thin trunks. Loggers make nightly journeys here, slowly hacking away at trees until they fall. The next day, they're on a truck to the capital.

"The problem is simple, just stop cutting down the trees," says Joel Joseph, a forest ranger employed by the Ministry of Agriculture. "But you have to have the resources to educate people and to enforce the law. I say the problem is simple, but deep down I know we're headed for disaster."

In 12 years Joseph has watched his forest disappear before his eyes, from 38,000 hectares (93,860 acres) to 14,000 hectares (34,580 acres). Roadblocks are set up to stop illegal loggers and their logs are confiscated. But even if they are caught, the rangers lack the power to arrest them, so most are freed without penalty.

Political instability has also accentuated the despair, pushing hundreds to the forests for a source of income.

"When there are political problems in Port-au-Prince, more people come up here with chain saws," says Joseph.

"Every weekend I try to take my son into the forest to show him the trees. I'm afraid when he's my age, there won't be any left."

The scarcity also affects farmers. With no tree roots to hold the soil, topsoil has disappeared and fewer vegetables can grow. Some farmers also report a change in weather.

"Because there are fewer trees, there's also less rain," says 40-year-old farmer Cedner Jean. "Dew allows us to grow cabbage, potatoes and beans but we can't grow anything else anymore."

In Jean's village of Thiote, just outside the forest, few families have electricity and most use charcoal to cook. An estimated 80 percent of Haiti's 8.2 million people rely on charcoal for cooking.

At Port-au-Prince's main port, battered ships lumber up to the docks to deliver giant white bags of charcoal from other parts of the country. Some carry planks from avocado and mango trees that once provided food.

It takes a dozen planks, which cost Haitian $300 (US$60), to make Termidor's shoddy casket. Each sells for an average of Haitian $1,000 (US$200), and he splits the profit between paying seven employees, the rent and transport for the planks.

Coffins are potent symbols in Haiti, where properly burying the dead is tantamount to ensuring protection for the living. Without sturdy coffins, families risk angering the spirits. But without wood, Termidor risks angering grieving families and his employees.

For Termidor, "It's a good business because more people are dying." When he began 15 years ago he made nine coffins a month. Now he makes 15. "But without trees, we're all going to end up dead."

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

Posted at 12:59 p.m., Friday, March 21, 2003
OAS Mission gives Haiti 10 days to take steps toward establishing secure environment for elections
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 20 - Top international diplomats gave Haiti's government 10 days to establish peaceful conditions for elections and end the country's political and economic crisis, officials said (photos).

The government must "now" to implement a September resolution from the Organization of American States to respect civil and political liberties, reform Haiti's police force and disarm partisans of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, said OAS Assistant Secretary-General Luigi Einaudi.

If it fails, "the international community and many Haitians will be disappointed. That means we will be in a different ball game," Einaudi said Thursday, without elaborating.

Einaudi was leading a delegation of about 20 officials from the United States, Canada, Latin America, the European Union and international financial institutions on a mission to help resolve a political stalemate that has prevented new elections from being held.

Since Aristide's Lavalas Family party swept May 2000 elections that were flawed, the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation has fallen deeper into misery, compounded by the freezing of US$500 million in international aid.

The delegation, which arrived Wednesday, gave Haiti until March 30 to set up an electoral council, Einaudi said, adding that the OAS permanent council would meet April 2 to discuss the situation further.

The government, however, said it was doing its best under strained circumstances.

"The (March 30) deadline is a wish, not an ultimatum," government spokesman Mario Dupuy said. "If the opposition stopped destabilizing the government and the international community released its aid, we would implement (the resolution) more rapidly."

In a meeting Wednesday with Aristide, the delegation failed to obtain a commitment to a timetable for compliance with the OAS resolution, a delegate said on condition of anonymity.

Last month, Aristide established a nine-member electoral council to organize elections, but civil leaders refuse to participate until Aristide's partisans are disarmed, while the opposition says it won't name its delegates until Aristide resigns. Aristide has refused to step down before his term ends in 2006.

On Thursday, about 300 students and teachers demonstrated against the government near the National Palace, until police broke up the protest with tear gas and billy clubs.

Four journalists said on independent radio station Vision 2000 that police had kicked and hit them after they presented their media credentials at the protest. One of the reporters was interviewed while in the hospital with broken ribs.

Police spokesman Jean-Dady Simeon said the demonstration was broken up because it had followed a route that was not approved, and that no journalists had been manhandled by police.

Since November, dozens of anti-government demonstrations have called on Aristide to step down, charging his government is corrupt and incompetent. At least four have been killed and more than 350 injured in clashes with Aristide partisans and police.

The opposition on Thursday remained hostile toward the government, saying it did not trust the resolution would be adhered to.

"The government is more repressive than ever," opposition politician Gerard Pierre-Charles said. "It has not created the conditions of confidence in the electoral process."

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

Posted at 5:19 p.m., Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Turks and Caicos government criticizes Haiti for failing to stem illegal migrant wave
By Nilles Campbell, Associated Press Writer

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, Mar. 18 - Following the repatriation of more than 400 Haitian boat people, a top official in the Turks and Caicos Islands criticized Haiti on Tuesday for not doing enough to stem illegal migration.

The Haitian migrants repatriated between Friday and Monday had arrived last week in several small boats, said Altheus Gardiner, permanent secretary of the Immigration Ministry.

"In my view, I do not think the Haitian government is doing enough to help correct this problem," he said.

The British territory of about 20,000 people maintains Haiti's authorities should increase shore patrols and broadcast more advisories warning Haitians not to attempt illegal voyages.

Some public service announcements already are carried by Haitian radio stations, warning people of the danger and potential to lose the precious money the put into such voyages.

Thousands of Haitians leave their impoverished country every month, risking dangerous trips aboard rickety, crowded boats in hopes of finding better economic opportunities on U.S. shores.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has only about a dozen coast guard patrol boats. But the U.S. Coast Guard also regularly patrols offshore, picking up and returning any Haitians found in international waters.

An average of 400 Haitians arrive monthly in Turks and Caicos, many having been duped by migrant smugglers into thinking they are in the United States, officials say.

A Turks and Caicos delegation traveled to Haiti last year to discuss both illegal migration and the granting of work permits to some Haitians.

The delegation recommended Haiti's government broadcast warnings that smugglers were deceiving migrants by dropping them in Turks and Caicos — about three days north of Haiti by boat — rather than in the United States, which is five times farther.

"I am not convinced that the Haitian government has carried out our request," Gardiner said.

Turks and Caicos "is now being forced to take more drastic measures," Gardiner said. He said possibilities include canceling all work permits for Haitians.

Meanwhile, the British territory is giving its police force more vehicles, equipment and staff to seek out illegal migrants. Authorities say there are thousands of Haitians living illegally in the capital, Providenciales, and surrounding areas.

Haiti's ambassador to the Bahamas, Louis Harold Joseph, is due to visit Turks and Caicos on Thursday to discuss relations.

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

International delegation attempts to end 3-year political crisis in Haiti
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 19 - Senior diplomats from international organizations arrived Wednesday to convince President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his opponents to agree to elections and resolve Haiti's 3-year-old crisis (photos).

"We want elections! Give them to us!" more than 100 Aristide supporters chanted at the airport.

The visitors will emphasize "the international community's firm conviction that all sides in Haiti must honor their obligations ... to end the climate of violence and insecurity," Caribbean Community representative Julian Hunte said.

Hunte, St. Lucia's foreign minister, is leading the delegation along with Luigi Einaudi, the assistant OAS secretary-general who is on his 25th trip here since Aristide's party swept flawed legislative elections in May 2000.

Haiti's politicians have been wrangling ever since, as the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation has fallen deeper into misery, compounded by the freezing of US$500 million in international aid.

The delegation, including some 20 officials from the United States, Canada, Latin America, the European Union and international financial institutions, is to meet Aristide, opposition leaders and diplomats Wednesday. On Thursday they meet civil society leaders and Papal Nuncio Luigi Bonazzi.

Hunte said they would urge the government "to take immediate measures to improve the security situation," and would encourage all sides to form an electoral council.

Last month, Aristide appointed seven members of a nine-member electoral council to organize elections. But only two are willing to take office. Five refuse to be sworn in until the government disarms its partisans, and two opposition blocs refuse to designate members until Aristide resigns.

Both sides have proved intransigent according to the United States, which sent 20,000 troops in 1994 to end a military dictatorship that ousted Aristide.

"Aristide has yet to take the necessary steps to lead Haiti toward free and fair elections," Thomas A. Shannon, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, said on March 12.

He also criticized the opposition, saying "We cannot and will not support any effort to remove President Aristide through violent confrontation."

Since November, dozens of anti-government demonstrations have demanded Aristide step down, charging his government is corrupt and incompetent.

"We are living under a dictatorship, and Aristide is ruling by terror. So long as the terror continues, free and credible elections are impossible," said one opposition leader, Mischa Gaillard.

He spoke Tuesday, when a prosecutor said he fled Haiti fearing for his life because he refused to drop arson charges against an Aristide militant accused of torching opponents' homes.

The government says police haven't arrested gang leader Amiot Metayer to avoid bloodshed.

Prosecutor Henock Genelus — speaking on a radio station by telephone from Dominican Republic — said an Aristide representative ordered him to drop the charges before the arrival of the mission from the OAS, which has urged Metayer's arrest.

Still, government spokesman Mario Dupuy insisted "The government has done everything it can to implement them (OAS resolutions) fully."

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

Haiti reports clashes with armed men in the mountains
By Jane Regan, Special to The Herald

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Mar. 17 -- A band of armed men hiding out in the mountains continues to clash with Haitian police near the Dominican Republic border, but beyond reports of attacks on police stations little is known about their identities, allegiances or numbers.

The Haitian government alleges the band is ''the armed branch'' of its political opposition, the Democratic Convergence, whose members reject the allegation and who say the government is behind the armed group.

''They are former soldiers and they are part of the opposition. They want to overthrow President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,'' Haitian National Police Inspector Jean Dady Simeon said.

''We consider this whole thing a fake,'' said Gerard Pierre-Charles, coordinator of the Organization of People in Struggle and a Convergence member. ``The Lavalas government is doing this to justify its permanent and institutionalized violence against the Haitian people. We do not believe in violence.''

In recent months, the Haitian National Police has come under criticism from local and international human rights groups for irregular and even illegal activities, with the U.S. government blocking the visas of several high-ranking officers for their alleged involvement in the drug trade.

Witnesses confirm the existence of armed men who said they were former soldiers.


In December, men wearing uniforms and carrying guns stopped a car with doctors and Washington-based filmmaker David Murdock.

''If our driver had kept going through it, who knows if they would have opened fire,'' he said last week. He said he felt afraid for Haitians who have to travel that road regularly.


Murdock said the men held him and others at gunpoint, lecturing them on how they would overthrow Aristide. Murdock wrote a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince about the incident.

Still, details of the armed band and its origin are unclear because of difficulties confirming police versions of events. Journalists from the capital and the region have been afraid to investigate because of possible reprisals, and others have been fearful of speaking on the record.

Police have linked the band to numerous attacks in the region as well as to an assault on the National Palace in 2001.

According to Simeon, the armed group is made up of about 50 former soldiers from the Haitian army -- demobilized by Aristide in 1995 -- and is ``the armed branch of the Democratic Convergence.''

The band has killed a judge, a police officer and five civilians, many of them members of Aristide's Lavalas Family party, according to Simeon.

Officer Patrick Samdy, a member of the Haitian police's SWAT team, was ambushed and killed in mid-February when he was delivering ammunition to police in Belladere, Simeon said. A week later, the same group reportedly shot at a police helicopter.


A special police unit followed up with a raid in which two assailants were killed and two assault rifles and some homemade bombs were recovered, according to Simeon. Police also recovered four vehicles, including Samdy's, he said. He added that six of the assailants are in prison, but he did not supply their names.

Journalists have not seen the men allegedly arrested, the weapons recovered or the bodies of the victims.

Last Monday, the band reportedly struck again in the nearby town of Baptiste. They temporarily took over the police station, cut telephone lines, disarmed the officers and then fled to their mountain hideaway.

Simeon said when police chase the ''army,'' its members often flee across the border to the Dominican Republic. However, Dominican authorities said they were unaware of any official complaints filed by the Haitian government. The Dominican ambassador to Haiti was not in the country. Simeon said the men from the mountains were involved in the Dec. 17, 2001, assault on Haiti's National Palace, which was followed by attacks on opposition headquarters and homes by pro-government mobs across the country.

While the government called the attack an ''attempted coup d'état,'' an Organization of American States report last summer said the palace assault was not a coup attempt and that there was police complicity.

Herald staff writer Marika Lynch contributed to this report. Reprinted from The Miami Herald of March 17, 2003.

Posted at 1:19 p.m., Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Prosecutor flees Haiti, saying he feared for life
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 18 - A prosecutor has fled Haiti with his family, saying Tuesday that he feared for his life after refusing to drop charges against a street activist allied with the government.

Deputy prosecutor Henock Genelus, who worked in the west-coast town of Gonaives, spoke to a Haitian radio station by phone from the neighboring Dominican Republic, where he fled with his wife and five children Friday.

"I left to escape being killed," he told independent Radio Signal FM.

He said his concern stemmed from the case of escaped inmate and pro-government activist Amiot Metayer, who broke out of prison last year. Metayer, who leads a group known as the Cannibal Army, was charged with arson for allegedly burning the houses of rivals last year. He also has been accused of other political attacks, though he has not been charged.

Metayer broke out of the Gonaives prison with more than 150 inmates on Aug. 2 when his supporters bulldozed a hole in the wall. He remains free.

The government says police haven't arrested him to avoid bloodshed in the shantytown where he lives with other armed men.

The United States and the Organization of American States, however, have urged Metayer's arrest.

Genelus said a representative of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide ordered him earlier this month to drop arson charges before the arrival of an OAS mission on Wednesday.

Genelus said the representative, Kettelin Thelemaque, told him Aristide "had personally sent him" to order Metayer be cleared "on the grounds his arrest was illegal and detention arbitrary."

Genelus said he refused. In an interview with independent Radio Metropole, Thelemaque denied the accusation, saying the judicial system is independent.

Genelus was the second judicial official to flee the country in a month.

Investigating judge Marcel Jean fled to the United States last month, saying he had been threatened by "people from the National Palace" who wanted him to clear Metayer.

Reports of attacks and intimidation by Metayer's Cannibal Army group have continued.

In November, seven journalists went into hiding after members of the group allegedly attacked a radio station. Six of the journalists left last month for the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

In December, members of the Cannibal Army were accused by witnesses of killing at least one person as they disrupted anti-government demonstrations and set fire to more than 20 houses.

The OAS also has cited witnesses who accuse Metayer of killing an opposition supporter on Dec. 17, 2001, when Aristide partisans went on a rampage following an armed attack on the National Palace. Metayer has denied it.

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

Posted at 5:23 p.m., Monday, March 17, 2003
White-glove farewell to Officer who embraced life of risk
By Dan Barry, The New York Times

His colleagues in the New York Police Department believe that the last words Detective James V. Nemorin heard were "Give it up!" And that is what he did. He gave up his life last week while trying to remove a few more illegal guns from the unpredictable streets of his adopted country.

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Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

A see of police officers lined the streets in Flatbush, Brooklyn, as the funeral procession for Detective James V. Nemorin passed.

Risk is an accepted part of what it means to be a police officer, especially for those working undercover, as Detective Nemorin and Detective Rodney J. Andrews were when they were shot, execution-style, from behind. Another accepted part of being a police officer is that when a comrade dies in the line of duty, you dress in your formal blues and snap a white-gloved salute as the hearse passes by.

And that is what Detective Nemorin's colleagues did. As yesterday's weak morning sun inched above the buildings of Flatbush, Brooklyn, they mustered outside Our Lady of Refuge Roman Catholic church — 10,000 of them, according to police officials — and stood at attention for a 36-year-old man who leaves his wife, his parents, and three children no older than 7.

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Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Rose-André Nemorin, wife of Detective James V. Nemorin, at his funeral yesterday at Our Lady of Refuge Roman Catholic church in Flatbush, Brooklyn. About 10,000 police officers attended.

Stretched across the police shields pinned to each blue uniform were black mourning bands — available through the department.

On Tuesday, there will be a funeral in Queens for Detective Andrews, who was 34 and the father of two. And sometime in the future there will be dispositions in the cases of the six young men who are being held in the slayings of the two detectives. Yesterday, though, was for Detective Nemorin, a man who used to be called "Haitian Sensation" by his police buddies, and "Little Darling" by his seven siblings.

Family members say that from the moment Detective Nemorin arrived in New York from Haiti, at the age of 21, he wanted to be a police officer. He earned an associate's degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and joined the Police Department in 1996. Within a few years he was working undercover to make drug arrests and then, last fall, to remove guns from the streets. He routinely demonstrated the gift for improvisation that is called upon in the dangerous theater of the streets.

Last Monday night, Detectives Nemorin and Andrews were doing their high-risk act again, posing as two men eager to buy a Tec-9 pistol. But a hilly stretch of Staten Island interrupted the radio signals of their backup teams; communication was lost. According to the police, a man in the back seat of their car said, "Give it up!" and then shot them both in the back of the head with a silver .44-caliber Rossi revolver.

Law enforcement officials said yesterday that they were tracing the ownership history of both weapons. They said that agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and city police detectives would travel this week to North Carolina and to Decatur, Ga., where they think the murder weapon was sold at a gun store in 1993.

Yesterday's focus, though, was entirely New York, where the deaths of the two men served as reminders that heroism and danger are not revealed only on foreign battlefields or in catastrophes like the collapse of the World Trade Center, but also in places as ordinary as Staten Island. That is why 10,000 police officers came to Brooklyn yesterday, and why some residents of Flatbush leaned out of their apartment windows, and why a stretch of Ocean Avenue fell so quiet that the wind's rustling of a tree's browned leaves sounded almost intrusive.

Everyone, it seemed, was facing the doors of Our Lady of Refuge Church, whose welcome sign reflected the multicultural makeup of its congregation. Sunday Masses are said in three languages, the sign said: English, Espanol and Haitienne.

At 9:30, a police official shouted "Detail, ten-hut," and officers standing six and seven deep along three blocks of Ocean Avenue snapped to attention. First, 119 police motorcycles rumbled slowly north past the church, followed by a black car with an oversized police shield made of flowers in its open berth. Then 50 bagpipers marched into sight, their instruments silent; then 21 drummers keeping a funereal beat on instruments draped in black cloth.

Finally, at 9:40, a black hearse pulled up in front of the church. As the flag-draped coffin slipped onto the shoulders of eight police officers, thousands of police officers saluted. Bagpipes played "Amazing Grace," but rising above their keening were the wails of family members, wails that continued well after the bagpipes' last sighs. The only sounds then, besides the wind and the whir of police helicopters above, were the clicks of mourners' shoes against the city's hard pavement, as people, black, white and brown, filed into the church.

"Detail, fall out," a police official shouted, and thousands of police officers tried to stand at ease. Some chatted; others listened to the tinny sounds of the funeral Mass flowing through a loudspeaker.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg spoke of the city's outrage over "the cold-blooded murder of a police officer." He spoke of the Police Department's "twilight struggle" to remove guns from the city's streets. And he assured Detective Nemorin's widow, Rose-André, "We will never forget him."

Others spoke as well. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly used the language of Creole to extend the Police Department's condolences. The Rev. Michael Perry invited everyone to recite the Lord's Prayer for a man who could no longer do it himself. And Detective Nemorin's father, Aubriant, used the occasion to speak directly to his dead son.

"Your mother told me to tell you, `May the sorrow be light upon you; may the peace of God be with you," the father said. "Thank you, my son. Goodbye. Goodbye."

When the mourners emerged from the church, there, standing at attention, were thousands of comrades of a Haitian immigrant who became a New York City police officer. The eight pallbearers carefully guided the coffin back into the hearse, which pulled away, bound for a cemetery on Long Island.

The anguished cries of a woman rose above a single trumpet's farewell, piercing the structured formality of it all. She collapsed, sobbing, into the arms of a police officer. Other officers rushed to help.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 2:19 p.m., Friday, March 14, 2003

Police release jailed women's rights activist in Haiti

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Police freed a prominent women's rights activist and her husband after jailing them for five days without charge (photos).

Carline Simon and her husband Serge were released late Thursday, their lawyer Osner Fevry said Friday.

Simon, who has previously spoken out against the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, spoke out against her detention in a radio interview hours later.

"The experience reinforced us in our determination to continue the struggle for the liberation of the people, held hostage by a dictatorship," she told the Haitian station Radio Kiskeya.

The Simons were jailed Sunday after armed men disrupted a meeting they were holding on women's rights in a seaside slum. Supporters of Aristide said on national television they had threatened the couple because the two were handing out money and weapons to incite an uprising.

Police who arrived in the slum said they found an unspecified number of automatic weapons in the couple's car and detained the two for possessing prohibited weapons.

No formal charges were filed, though Haitian law requires suspects be charged within 48 hours or released.

Residents who witnessed the detention said there were no guns at the meeting or in the couple's car.

Government prosecutor Josue Pierre-Louis ordered the couple released Monday, but police didn't immediately execute the order.

Their detention provoked criticism by human rights activists in Haiti and some foreign governments.

The U.S. Embassy on Wednesday denounced the detention as "arbitrary," and on Thursday France called for the couple's immediate release.

Police said there was no connection between the couple's detention and the fact that, two days before her arrest, Carline Simon led about 100 women on an anti-government march to protest economic conditions and urge Aristide to resign.

Since November, dozens of anti-government demonstrations have called for Aristide's resignation. At least four people have died and more than 350 have been injured in clashes involving demonstrators and police. The president has said he will serve out his term, which ends in 2006. (mn-imj)

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                            Posted at 10:29 p.m., Thursday, March 13, 2003 

Haitian police ignore prosecutor's order

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 12  - A top prosecutor has ordered Haiti's police to free a prominent women's rights activist who was jailed along with her husband for allegedly possessing illegal weapons (photos).

But Carline Simon and her husband Serge remained in a police station Wednesday despite the lack of any formal charges against them, their lawyer Osner Fevry said.

Police detained the two Sunday after allegedly finding an unlicensed automatic weapon in their car, police spokesman Jean-Dady Simeon said. Two days earlier, Carline Simon had led a group of 100 women in an anti-government protest march.

Haitian law requires charges be filed within 48 hours after a suspect is detained. Government prosecutor Josue Pierre-Louis ordered the couple released Monday, but police refused.

"The order is not binding because they were caught red-handed," Simeon said on state television.

In a statement Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy expressed concern about their "arbitrary" detention.

"Arbitrary arrests are the very signs of political repression of dissidents. Such repression is unacceptable in a democracy," the embassy said.

The couple was detained Sunday after residents called police to report that an armed group was threatening the two and other activists at a meeting on women's rights in the seaside shantytown of La Saline.

Supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said on national television that they threatened the couple because the two were handing out money and weapons to incite an uprising.

Resident Venel Belony, however, said he witnessed the detention and that there were no guns at the meeting or in the couple's car.

"There was nothing (but a placard) in their vehicle. If weapons were found, it was because (the police) put them there," Belony told independent Radio Vision 2000.

The couple was crowded in with 54 other inmates in a 25-square-meter (270-square-foot) cell at the suburban Delmas police station, Fevry said.

Police have said the detention of Carline Simon — who heads the group Women the Rising Sun — had nothing to do with the demonstration she led on Friday.

She called the march to protest economic conditions in Haiti and urge Aristide to step down early. The president has said he will serve out his term, which ends in 2006.

Police dispersed Friday's protest, saying demonstrators had not kept to an approved route. On Monday, police dispersed another demonstration by women's rights groups and briefly detained protest leaders. No reason was given.

Since November, dozens of anti-government demonstrations have called for Aristide's resignation. At least four people have died and more than 350 have been injured in clashes with police and Aristide supporters.

Human rights groups both in Haiti and overseas have criticized what they say is a deterioration of the human rights situation under Aristide.

Aristide's government also has faced stiff opposition since disputed 2000 legislative elections swept by his Lavalas Family party. The international community is withholding millions of dollars in aid and loans until the government and opposition agree on holding new elections. (mn-kd/imj)

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                       Human rights advocates criticize jailing of women's rights activist in Haiti

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

Human rights advocates criticize jailing of women's rights activist in Haiti 1 hour, 45 minutes ago

By MICHAEL NORTON, Associated Press Writer PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Human rights advocates on Thursday criticized the jailing of a women's rights activist and her husband on accusations of possessing illegal weapons, saying they should be freed because they have not been charged with any crime.

Carline Simon and her husband Serge have been in jail since Sunday, when police detained them as they held a meeting on women's rights. Police said they found an unspecified number of automatic weapons in the couple's car. No formal charges have been filed, though Haitian law requires suspects be charged within 48 hours or released. Government prosecutor Josue Pierre-Louis ordered Monday that the couple be released, but police said the order did not hold since the couple was caught "red-handed." A judge in suburban Delmas, where the couple is being held, referred the case Thursday to a civil court in the capital, Port-au-Prince, the couple's lawyer Osner Fevry said. The Port-au-Prince court clerk, however, refused to receive the case because the government prosecutor had already ordered a release, Fevry said. "The Simons are no longer in legal detention. The police are holding them hostage," said Fevry, who said he would appeal to the international community to pressure President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to have them released. The U.S. Embassy on Wednesday denounced the detention as "arbitrary," and on Thursday France also called for the couple's immediate release. "It demonstrates the extent to which the police have been politicized," said Marie-Yolene Gilles, spokeswoman for the National Coalition of Haitian Rights. Human rights lawyer Renan Hedouville said the couple's detention suggests Haiti "is being governed by a totalitarian, iron-fisted regime." Police have said there is no connection between the couple's detention and the fact that, two days before her arrest, Carline Simon led about 100 women on an anti-government march to protest economic conditions and urge Aristide to resign. Since November, dozens of anti-government demonstrations have called for Aristide's resignation. At least four people have died and more than 350 have been injured in clashes with police and Aristide supporters. The president has said he will serve out his term, which ends in 2006. (mn-kd/imj)

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                           New York City to pay $2.25 million in killing of guard by police

By William Glaberson, New York Times Writer, Mar. 13, 2003

New York City has agreed to pay $2.25 million to the family of Patrick M. Dorismond, an unarmed black security guard who was fatally shot by a Hispanic detective three years ago, concluding a civil suit in a case that became a volatile symbol during the Giuliani administration.

The killing outside a West Side bar was seen by some as an emblem of concerns about racism in law enforcement and of the temperament of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. He refused at first to meet with the victim's family or to express sympathy and released Mr. Dorismond's sealed juvenile arrest record, saying he did so to show that the victim was not "an altar boy."

Yesterday, the city's lawyers issued a statement describing the March 16, 2000, shooting of Mr. Dorismond as a tragedy and repeating the conclusion of a grand jury that no one intended the gun to go off.

"The city continues to feel deep sympathy for the Dorismond family on the accidental death of their son and father," said the statement from Muriel Goode-Trufant, the chief of the City Law Department's special federal litigation division. The statement continued, "Under all the circumstances," it was appropriate to compensate Mr. Dorismond's family. Mr. Giuliani eventually said he had made a mistake in not clearly expressing sympathy. The settlement, first reported yesterday in The Daily News, was reached Monday night.

Derek S. Sells, a lawyer for the Dorismond family, said the family continued to believe that criminal charges should be filed against the detective, Anthony Vasquez. "There's no amount of money that can replace Patrick," Mr. Sells said. "The family is more concerned with trying to achieve complete justice." The grand jury that heard evidence from the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, decided not to indict the detective in July 2000. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan then said that they would review whether any federal civil rights laws had been violated.

Mr. Sells said yesterday that the family remained hopeful that Detective Vasquez would be charged. Detective Vasquez has said race played no role in the shooting. Yesterday, Marvin Smilon, a spokesman for the United States attorney's office in Manhattan, said the federal prosecutors could not comment because "the case is still open." Detective Vasquez's lawyer, Philip Karasyk, yesterday described Mr. Dorismond's death as a tragic event but said there was no basis for prosecution. "We feel justice has been done," Mr. Karasyk said, "when the grand jury determined there was no criminal conduct on the part of Detective Vasquez." Mr. Karasyk said his client, who was on modified duty for a time after the shooting, was restored to full duty last fall. Mr. Morgenthau said after the state grand jury inquiry that the evidence showed that Mr. Dorismond, 26, was offended when Detective Vasquez, an undercover narcotics detective, asked him if he had any crack cocaine as he waited for a taxi outside the Wakamba Cocktail Lounge, a bar on Eighth Avenue near 37th Street.

Mr. Dorismond was killed by a bullet fired from a 9-millimeter pistol, at a range so close it was touching his clothing. Mr. Morgenthau said the grand jury had concluded that Detective Vasquez and Mr. Dorismond struggled over the detective's gun after a confrontation and that the detective "did not intentionally pull the trigger." Kevin Kaiser, a friend of Mr. Dorismond who was with him at the shooting, also sued the city, claiming that he was assaulted by the police and suffered psychological distress. His lawyer, Sanford A. Rubenstein, said yesterday that he expected settlement talks to begin soon. The death of Mr. Dorismond drew wide attention, in part because it came while other issues were swirling around Mr. Giuliani, including criticism by some who said minorities bore the brunt of his aggressive law enforcement polices.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 11:16 p.m., Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Haitian voodoo man kills one man and wounds two others

ALBANY, Ga., Mar. 11 - A Haitian immigrant farmworker told a judge he killed one man and wounded two others because he believed they had placed a voodoo hex on him.

Reynold Calixte, 43, pleaded guilty but mentally ill last week to murder and aggravated assault and was sentenced to life in prison.

Calixte shot Stephen Dameus, cut his throat and stabbed him in the chest in a motel in 2001. He also attacked two men he believed helped Dameus, shooting one in the foot and the other in the abdomen.

Calixte believed Dameus had put a fatal hex on him by sprinkling black powder on his bus seat, shoes and pillow, prosecutor Gregory Edwards said.

Defense attorney Willie Weaver said Calixte thought the only way to save his life was to kill Dameus. He did not have enough money to return to Haiti and see a witch doctor to lift the curse, the lawyer said.

Calixte cut his own throat during the attack and asked officers to kill him when they arrived.

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                        Heavy Haitian migration into Bahamas strains services, prompts call for tougher line on deportations

By Stevenson Jacobs, Associated Press Writer

NASSAU, Bahamas, Mar. 11 - The number of illegal Haitian migrants landing in the Bahamas has nearly doubled in two years, straining social services and boosting fears by U.S. officials that the exodus will reach American shores.

"People here don't respect Haitians," said Raymond Marcellin, 28. He is one of an estimated 60,000 Haitians who live illegally in the Bahamas and have increased the country's population by one sixth.

Haiti's dismal economic and political instability prompts thousands each year to make the dangerous journey in rickety homemade boats that sometimes capsize. It's not known how many have died trying to escape.

Last year authorities captured 4,220 Haitians in Bahamian waters — the highest number in 10 years — compared to 2,868 in 2001, according to the Bahamian Defense Force.

The influx has divided Bahamians between those who take advantage of cheap Haitian labor and those demanding a strict policy of mass deportations to lighten the strain on social services.

"They use our hospitals, our social system, they clog up our schools and take away from Bahamians," said Theodore Roberts, a 31-year-old technician. "They just keep coming and don't give back anything."

Officials say one-third of public school students are children of Haitian migrants and seven of 10 maternity patients are Haitian.

The Bahamian government has boosted security patrols along its shores with more boats and air surveillance.

Fearing an exodus to American shores reminiscent of the 1990s — when Haitians were fleeing a murderous military dictatorship — the United States is helping the Bahamas with increased aid and U.S. Coast Guard patrols.

"When Haitian immigration picks up in the Bahamas, it picks up in the United States, too," U.S. Embassy spokesman Brian Bachman said.

He called the increase a "temporary spike ... not mass migration."

Many Haitians come to the Bahamas with plans to work for a few months to save up for the trip to the United States, Bahamian officials say.

Bahamians argue they need more U.S. help since tougher American immigration policies are causing Haitians to remain in the Bahamas instead of trying to reach the United States. In December 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush ordered that illegal Haitian migrants who reach the United States be detained while their applications are processed. Before they were released to family members.

"Migration is everybody's business," said Immigration Minister Vincent Peet. "We don't think the world should allow the Bahamas to deal with this by itself." Most migrants leave from Haiti's barren north, paying US$500 to $5,000 for passage to this idyllic island chain. In November, the bodies of four men believed to be Haitian migrants were found floating in Nassau harbor, near the dock where cruise ship tourists shop in duty-free stores. Other migrants are abandoned on one of more than 700 uninhabited islands, where they stay with no water or food until someone finds them, dead or alive.

Those who make it to land undetected endure poverty not that different from that in Haiti, squeezed into ramshackle villages without running water or electricity on the outskirts of Nassau and around several small keys.

In one shantytown, residents say the threat of random raids weighs heavily on their minds. The poorly dressed Creole speakers are easy to spot in this relatively wealthy English-speaking country.

"If the police catch us, they'll rob us," said Marcellin, the Haitian immigrant. He pointed to a large gash in his palm, an injury he said he got from a fall while running from the police.

While Haitians live here in hopes of someday reaching the United States, many get jobs not wanted by educated Bahamians — such as gardening, cleaning hotels and homes and laboring in construction.

The Bahamas repatriated more than 3,000 Haitian migrants last year, at a cost of over US$1 million. But the country has no plans to deport them all.

"It's a failed policy because it has not stemmed the tide," said Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell. He said officials are exploring new ways to tackle the problem, such as guest worker visas and closer ties with the Haitian government.

Most concede that the immigration will continue as long as Haiti's problems persist.

An electoral dispute between President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government and the opposition is in its second year and led donors to suspend hundreds of million of dollars in aid.

"There is a lot of misery," said Louis Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to the Bahamas. "When people are suffering, they'll leave any way they can."

In a Nassau detention center, Haitian immigrant Pierre Joseph sits in a pink tank top and orange swim trunks, waiting for word on when he'll be sent home.

During a five-day, 100-mile (160-kilometer) journey, he and seven other men endured rough seas and a storm that nearly tore apart their homemade sloop.

When a Bahamian Defense Force boat stopped them near shore, all were limp from dehydration, heat exhaustion and seasickness.

"I wasn't afraid to die because I knew I had to leave," said the 27-year-old potato farmer. "There's no hope in Haiti."

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                        Judges in Haiti suspended three-week strike, return to work

By Micheal Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. - Haitian judges returned to work Tuesday three weeks after they went on strike to protest the suspension of a judge accused of wrongly releasing a man in a drug trafficking case.

Judges plan to hold court for a month "in the interest of the population in general and of litigants," but could resume their strike if the government doesn't meet their demands, said Jude Baptiste, secretary-general of the National Association of Haitian Magistrates.

The strike, which began Feb. 17, paralyzed court proceedings in the capital of Port-au-Prince and other cities across the country. It occurred in reaction to a Justice Ministry decision to suspend Judge Josiard Agnant after he dismissed a drug trafficking case, citing lack of evidence.

The judges say the government overstepped its powers and that judges can only be disciplined after being tried before a judicial panel.

Baptiste criticized Justice Minister Calixte Delatour for refusing to go back on his "illegal, arbitrary, and unconstitutional" order to suspend Agnant.

The man freed in the case, Salim Jean Batrony had been charged with possession of 128 pounds (58 kilograms) of cocaine. The judge insisted there wasn't enough evidence to go to trial.

Sen. Pierre Sonson Prince, a member of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's governing party, charged Batrony had paid a bribe of US$300,000 to be freed. Agnant denied the allegation.

Batrony was arrested May 31 by the Haitian police and agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Batrony was "well-known in Port-au-Prince as a drug trafficker," the U.S. Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs said in a report this month.

U.S. officials have criticized Haiti's response to drug trafficking, saying in this month's report that corruption and weak law enforcement contribute to the problem. Last month, U.S. President George W. Bush signed a waiver for Haiti to continue receiving U.S. aid in spite of its performance in fighting drug trafficking. U.S. aid of $57 million a year is being channeled through nongovernment organizations.

The Haitian government has said it is doing its best to cooperate in anti-drug efforts but is hampered by a lack of money, equipment and adequately trained police.

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 2:01 p.m., Monday, March 10, 2003

Police in Haiti detain women's rights activists

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 10 - Police detained a women's rights activist three days after she led an anti-government demonstration, a human rights leader said Monday (photos).

Police picked up activist Carline Simone and her husband, Serge Simone, Sunday afternoon in the seaside shantytown of La Saline, said Pierre Esperance, director of the National Coalition of Haitian Rights.

Police were responding to threats by an unidentified group of armed men, which the couple said were made as they prepared to meet a group of women. Later, police took the couple from a downtown police station to another station in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas, where they were jailed, Esperance said.

Police spokesman Jean-Dady Simeon said no information about the case was immediately available. Esperance, who visited the couple, said they had not been charged.

Simone, who heads the woman's rights group Women the Rising Sun, led a demonstration of about 100 people Friday to protest economic conditions in Haiti and call for the resignation of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

"The government shouldn't think we're zombies," she said, demanding the government return to its former policy of subsidizing gasoline. The government halted fuel subsidies on Jan. 1, and since then, the price at the pump has nearly tripled. Transportation costs have doubled, and the price of staple food products has risen 60 percent.

Since November, dozens of anti-government demonstrations have been calling for Aristide's resignation. At least four people have died and more than 350 have been injured in clashes with police and Aristide supporters.

Police dispersed Friday's protest, saying demonstrators had not respected the announced route.

Human rights groups both in Haiti and overseas have criticized what they say is a deterioration of the human rights situation under Aristide.

Last week, the European Union said in a statement that it is "alarmed at recent reports of increases in threats and intimidating behavior toward journalists and human rights and opposition militants... by armed individuals" loyal to the government.

Aristide's government has faced stiff opposition since disputed 2000 legislative elections that were swept by his Lavalas Family party. The international community is withholding millions of dollars in aid and loans until the government and opposition agree on holding new elections.

While Aristide has pledged new legislative elections this year, the opposition has resisted, saying the government first must guarantee security and bring perpetrators of political violence to justice.

In spite of opposition demands that he step down early, Aristide has said he will serve out his term, which ends in 2006.

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                     Twenty years later, Catholic Church echoes pope's plea for change in Haiti

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 9 - Twenty years on, Pope John Paul II's dramatic call for change in Haiti still reverberates.

Then, it tolled the knell for Haiti's 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship.

Today, the Catholic Church's plea for change suggests that Haiti's first freely elected leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, resign.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 sang "We're working to save the country, Hallelujah!" at a Mass in Port-au-Prince cathedral to commemorate the papal visit. The church also opened a new parish outside south-coast Jacmel town.

With tens of thousands of people watching on March 9, 1983, John Paul stepped off the plane, bowed to kiss Haitian soil, and his skull cap fell off.

'"The government is going to fall,' the people said, interpreting it as a sign," recalled Lilas Desquiron, now minister of culture.

Then, in heavily accented Creole, the pope uttered the unforgettable words: "Fok sa chanje!"

For many, "Things have got to change!" meant the end of the Duvalier dynasty.

For Bernadette Jean-Pierre, 62, who said she was at the airport that day, "the pope brought deliverance with him." "Today, we are in need of a second deliverance."

People began fighting back and eventually, with the backing of the United States and the Vatican, the Haitian army ousted Jean-Claude Duvalier. He fled to exile in France Feb. 7, 1986.

"We left the cycle of dictatorship to attempt the difficult road of democracy. Things changed irreversibly," said Desquiron.

Government opponents disagree.

"The Pandora's box was opened. The people clamored for economic and civil liberty. Our rulers have tried to force them back into the box ever since," said Haiti's foremost novelist, Gary Victor.

In January, he endorsed a declaration from 184 civil groups demanding an end to "the climate of terror" allegedly fostered by Aristide.

The European Union said Friday it is alarmed at "reports of increases in threats and intimidating behavior" toward journalists, human rights and opposition militants, and civil society and trade union leaders.

When the pope visited, Aristide was a firebrand slum priest who inspired the poor to stand up against state-sponsored terrorism. His superiors accused him of preaching violent class struggle, and he was expelled from the Salesian Fathers in 1988.

In December 1990, Aristide was elected in a landslide.

Days before his ouster by the army, in September 1991, Aristide addressed the U.N. General Assembly.

"He tried to ridicule the pope and the church," suggesting their alleged hostility was "racist," said Monsignor Guire Poulard, vice president of the Haitian Catholic Bishops' Conference.

In October 1994, U.S. troops restored Aristide. In 1996, constitutionally barred from serving consecutive terms, Aristide hand-picked Rene Preval, who warmed the bench for him until he was re-elected in 2000.

Still, little was done to relieve the deep poverty suffered by three out of five Haitians, who number 8.2 million, while a new elite surrounding Aristide lives high off the hog and is accused of corruption.

Economic hardships were compounded by a political morass over contested 2000 legislative elections swept by Aristide's party.

Aristide's pledge to hold new elections this year seems unlikely since the opposition — which accuses him of trying to establish one-man, one-party rule — refuses to participate.

The international community is withholding millions in aid as a result.

Since November, dozens of demonstrations have demanded Aristide resign. Clashes with police and Aristide partisans have left at least four dead and 350 injured.

"The hideous specter of fratricidal civil war is on the horizon," the Bishops' Conference warned Nov. 29.

Pointing to the ominous parallel with 1986, the bishops suggested Aristide "renounce power voluntarily for the greater good of the nation."

They expressed disapproval of the growing cult of Aristide's personality and urged his supporters "to fix their gaze not on a man but on the nation."

Poulard was outspoken: "Aristide and his ruling circle are riding high, but the people are sinking in misery. If the pope came to Haiti today, his message would still be 'Things have got to change!'"

Today, it's the protesters who echo John Paul's warning that the government "always pay attention to the cry of the poor and not disappoint their hopes."

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                       Posted at 12:15 a.m., Saturday, March 8, 2003

EU alarmed over threats to Haitian human rights and opposition activists

By The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece, Mar. 8 - The European Union (news - web sites) expressed alarm Friday at increased threats against journalists, human rights and opposition activists in Haiti, urging the government to crack down on all acts of intimidation (photos).

"The European Union is alarmed at recent reports of increases in threats and intimidating behavior towards journalists and human rights and opposition militants as well as towards civil society and trade union leaders," it said in an announcement.

It place the blame on "armed individuals many of whom belong to popular organizations or mafia groups."

Greece holds the EU presidency.

Human rights groups are urging the government to bring to justice those responsible for a Dec. 25 attack on the home of Michele Montas, a reporter for Radio Haiti-Inter, in which a bodyguard was shot and killed. New threats have come in since then and Radio Haiti-Inter shut down its operations Feb. 22.

The EU urged Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to end these incidents, "which are contrary to the rule of law and democracy and to re-establish good governance in order to set the country on the road to peace and prosperity." The EU also said it wants a provisional electoral council to be established for future elections. The EU will also "lend its support to a gradual process of returning to the rule of law."

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 1:19 a.m., Wednesday, March 5, 2003

IMF criticizes Haiti for poor economic policies

WASHINGTON, Mar. 3 -(Dow Jones)- Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, must dramatically improve management of its economy, the International Monetary Fund said Monday (.

The IMF "expressed deep concern about Haiti's worsening economic and social conditions, and in particular, the widening of the fiscal deficit, the accumulation of external arrears, and further increases in poverty," the IMF said in a press summary of its annual "Article IV" review of the economy.

Haiti's economy has worsened during the last two years, with rising deficits financed mainly by the central bank and through accumulation of arrears. International reserves held by the central bank have declined from efforts to support the currency, the gourde ($1=HTG41.00), which has also fallen in value.

"Political difficulties have deterred the authorities from taking corrective measures aimed at stemming the loss in international reserves, containing inflation, and promoting growth," the IMF said. Top priorities for 2003 should be rebuilding central bank reserves, now at $45 million or two weeks of imports, and containing inflation.

The government needs to improve transparency and accountability of its spending, the IMF said. The IMF "emphasized the importance of strengthening cash management by restricting the use of discretionary ministerial accounts."

The IMF also recommended enhanced banking and credit supervision, and action to privatize state-owned firms in the energy, telecommunications and transportation sectors.

-By Elizabeth Price, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9295; Elizabeth.Price@dowjones.com 

Copyright © 2003 Dow Jones.

                                                                                                                     Aristide opposition grows in a beleaguered Haiti coalition of business, unions, student groups and others denounces government

By Matthew Hay Brown, Courant Staff Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 3 -- They gather behind locked gates, in a house guarded by young men with pump-action shotguns, high in the hills above the capital.

An odd collection of business owners and labor leaders, professionals and factory workers, many of the men here once tried to mediate between President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and opposition politicians in their dispute over flawed elections.

Now they meet on their own, plotting strategy, issuing communiques and denouncing the government.

As the hemisphere's poorest nation slides back toward chaos, they say Aristide has not done enough to resolve the three-year deadlock that has led international donors to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

"We're trying to tell the powers that be that they are failing in the way they are running the country," said labor leader Joseph Montes.

As the stalemate grinds on, opposition to Aristide is growing, drawing in one-time supporters.

In scores of demonstrations since November, tens of thousands have taken to the streets to demand the resignation of a government they say is incompetent, corrupt and intolerant of dissent.

In recent weeks, they have been joined by a broadening array of individuals and institutions from civil society.

Doctors, teachers and others have joined strikes for more pay and better working conditions, and an unprecedented coalition of manufacturers' associations and labor unions, professional guilds and student groups, human rights advocates and journalists' organizations is calling on Aristide to create the conditions for free, open and credible elections.

Others are simply fleeing.

Last fall's grounding of 235 Haitians and Dominicans off Virginia Key in Miami's Biscayne Bay, and their televised scramble for shore, was the most visible in a growing wave of people trying to get off the island.

Experts fear the largest exodus may be starting since the thousands of Haitians who attempted the dangerous passage during the coup that ousted Aristide from 1991 to 1994.

Police apprehended 19 Haitians who landed at Palm Beach County last month. The Coast Guard intercepted a dozen more in a boat off Miami earlier in February. Five Haitians drowned in January while attempting to reach the U.S. Virgin Islands; 59 others were detained.

It is not known how many have slipped past authorities. Cesar Gaviria, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, said Haitians are using migration "as an escape valve from the country's problems."

Aristide Claims Support

Artistide - once seen as the best hope for this Caribbean nation of 8 million after three decades of brutal Duvalier family rule - blames the upper classes, opposition politicians and the international community for blocking progress.

"Yes, we may have less [support] than we had in 1990," the former slum priest said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "But I think the huge majority of the Haitian people continue to support me. And if you compare what I have and what the one who comes behind me can get - there you will see a huge margin of difference."

Indeed, supporters of the government have disrupted protest demonstrations and staged mass rallies of their own. At least five Haitians have been killed and more than 350 injured in the clashes.

"Life is impossible," said Montes, the labor leader. "Every sector in the country is threatened."

The current unrest dates to the parliamentary elections of May 2000, widely seen as flawed. Aristide's Lavalas Family party swept the polls, but observers say some of the races should have gone to a second round.

The United States, the European Community and other foreign donors have frozen grants and loans totaling $500 million - the size of Haiti's national budget - while the Organization of American States and others attempt to mediate between the government and the main opposition parties.

The suspension of aid has further impoverished a poor nation. The average Haitian lives on $250 per year; unemployment is estimated at 70 percent.

"I can't buy coffee. I can't buy kerosene for my lamp," 61-year-old Elgira Mondesir said at a recent anti-Aristide rally in the northern city of Cap-Haitien. "I'm here because I'm fed up."

Democracy Hopes Ebb

Aristide has pledged to hold new legislative elections this year, but opposition politicians have refused to participate without security guarantees. Negotiations remain deadlocked; Gaviria, the OAS general-secretary, has said "the window for democratic elections has narrowed drastically."

Aristide's supporters have broken up opposition demonstrations, and the government is accused of funding and arming political gangs to rally support and intimidate dissent. The U.S. Committee for Refugees reported more than 150 "political murders, suspicious disappearances or deaths, and quasi-political gangland slayings" in Haiti in the past year.

Aristide faces growing pressure from the international community to bring to justice supporters who commit crimes in his name.

Without guarantees of law and order, the coalition of more than 180 civil-society institutions has said it will not support elections. The coalition has demanded authorities prosecute criminals, protect civil liberties, free political prisoners, allow peaceful demonstrations and guarantee freedom of the press.

"We fought for democracy," said school Principal Jean Lavaud Frederick, head of an educators' union. "The government we put in place is the obstacle.

"We are saying no to arbitrary war, no to misery, no to poverty, no to disappearances, no to summary executions."

Ominously, conditions here have led some to grow nostalgic for the Duvaliers. Tens of thousands were killed and hundreds of millions of dollars stolen during the nearly 29-year reign of President-for-Life François "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude, known as "Baby Doc."

Jean-Claude Duvalier, exiled in 1986, has said he wants to return.

"At least under Duvalier we could make ends meet and send our kids to school," said Rosegard Lundi, a former Duvalier henchman and now a struggling electrician. "I'd campaign for him."

Ely Merisier said he was "full of hope" when Jean-Claude Duvalier fell, and again when Aristide came to power.

"Now neither Aristide, nor the opposition, nor the international community can save us," the wedding photographer said. "Only God."

Copyright © 2003 by The Hartford Courant

Escaping from poverty and uncertainty, Haitians dance and drink troubles away in "Carnival of Rebirth"
By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 3 - Taking a break from growing poverty and political uncertainty, hundreds of thousands of Haitians sang, danced and drank away their troubles at carnival celebrations with the wishful theme of rebirth (photos).

Revelers in flowing purple and white robes cracked bullwhips amid the crowds Monday night as part of a ritual meant to chase away evil spirits. Some people paraded about with painted faces, capes and feathered headdresses.

The three-day carnival that ends Tuesday is traditionally a time of all-night parties and escape from daily life. But increasing poverty has put a damper on the celebrations — as has a lack of biting social criticism usually aimed at politicians.

"I really want to go, but I don't have bus fare. If I did, I would have nothing left over for food," said Ketly Pierre, an 18-year-old who lives outside the downtown capital where bands ride on floats.

Poverty has worsened in recent months as fuel and food prices have shot up and the currency has fallen.

No violence was reported in the celebrations, but about 140 people were slightly injured amid pushing and shoving in the crowds, government broadcaster Television Nationale reported.

Throngs followed a score of bands playing dance, rap and Vodou-style "roots" music on floats that streamed past the National Palace into Champs de Mars plaza.

More than 1 million Haitians were expected to participate in the all-night parties by "Mardi Gras," Fat Tuesday.

"Renaissance in Haiti is possible," President Jean-Bertrand Aristide declared at the National Palace on Sunday. He hoped that "the crisis will have ended" by next year — when Haiti celebrates 200 years of independence — and that "the country will move twice as quickly on the road to economic renaissance."

Some floats bore historic slave figures who fought Napoleon's army to make Haiti the world's first black republic in 1804.

The parties often are accompanied by songs that make sly jabs at politicians. Many songs broadcast on Haitian radio criticize high living costs and alleged government mismanagement.

But few bands were critical at Sunday's government-sponsored parade, and many groups sang slogans accusing the government's opponents of divisiveness.

"We don't have the right to squabble!" sang Koudjay, one of five bands subsidized by the government, which spent 60 million gourdes ($1.4 million) on Carnival celebrations, up from 20 million gourdes ($800,000) in 2002.

Missing from the lineup was the famous roots band Boukman Eksperyans, which has been critical of Aristide's government.

"The government wants to control the Carnival, but its spirit is uncontrollable," said Boukman leader Theodore Beaubrun Jr. "Carnival is both individual therapy and social criticism."

He said the government's policies have failed to lift Haitians from poverty and that "if Aristide doesn't change his government, he will have to step down."

Aristide has resisted opposition demands to resign, including demonstrations that began in November in which four people were killed and 350 wounded. He also has resisted pressure from the international community, which is withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in aid over the holding of new legislative elections, which Aristide has promised this year.

Some opposition leaders called for a boycott of carnival, but they were largely ignored.

Many Haitians said carnival should remain a rare time of unity.

"Rich and poor, light-skinned and dark celebrate carnival together — a living symbol of unity," Culture Minister Lilas Desquiron said. (mn-imj/maf)

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 2:10 p.m., Monday, March 3, 2003

Radio station's closing 'jeopardizes' every independent journalist in Haiti

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Mar. 2 - The closing of a radio station in Haiti more than a week ago because of more threats has "jeopardized" every independent journalist in Haiti, a human rights group said Sunday (Haiti the Fall of the House of Aristide - a must-read book).

Radio Haiti-Inter shut down its operations Feb. 22. Human rights groups are urging the government to bring to justice those responsible for a Dec. 25 attack on the home of station journalist Michele Montas in which a bodyguard was shot and killed. New threats have come in since then.

The station "has been the beacon of press freedom in Haiti for many years and its closing because of threats to its staff means every independent journalist in Haiti is in jeopardy," said attorney Renan Hedouville, director of the Lawyers Committee for Individual Liberties.

Rights groups have also urged action in bringing to justice the killers of Montas' husband, journalist Jean Dominique, who was shot and killed at the station in 2000.

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.

"The government has not assumed its responsibility to protect Radio Haiti Inter," Hedouville said.

Media freedom groups have faulted the government for failing to bring Dominique's killers to justice. They have accused the government of tolerating attacks on journalists — charges the government denies.

Aristide's office said he has visited Montas to assure her the government is committed to advancing the investigation into Dominique's killing. Montas said she believes the two gunmen who attacked her home were trying to kill her because of her demands for justice in her husband's killing.

Montas said the attack was linked to an anticipated indictment of her husband's killers. An investigating judge had promised an indictment by the end of this month. Montas has criticized the investigation's slowness. (mn-fg)

Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                      Politics: U.S. must reverse neglect of Latin America

By Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service Writer

WASHINGTON, Feb 28 (IPS) - Increasing disillusionment in Latin America with democracy, market-centered economies and constructive ties to the United States should prompt Washington to pay much closer attention to the continent, says a new report by the Inter-American Dialogue (IAD), a Washington-based think tank.

Only on the trade front has the administration of President George W. Bush acted to promote stronger relations with Latin America, particularly since the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, according to the 41-page report, 'The Troubled Americas', released Friday.

But in other areas, U.S. policy has been characterized by ''a very high degree of neglect'', says Peter Hakim, the Dialogue's president. ''It used to be said that the U.S. only pays attention to Latin America when there's a crisis, but now there's a crisis in half a dozen countries, and we're still seeing neglect.''

''We applaud the (President George W.) Bush administration's leadership in advancing U.S.-Latin American trade ties,'' says the new report's introduction by Hakim, U.S. co-chair Peter Bell, and Latin American co-chair and former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who was also on hand for the report's release.

''We express concern, however, that Washington is not as decisively engaged with other hemispheric challenges - at a time that America needs U.S. cooperation and support to deal with a set of particularly difficult problems.''

Continued neglect of crises like those in Argentina, Venezuela, Haiti and most recently Bolivia, will inevitably undermine Washington's trade agenda in the region, added Hakim.

For his part, Cardoso, who handed over power after eight years in office to his successor, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, just last month, stressed that the entire hemisphere must address how constraints on the budgets and abilities of Latin American governments to tackle serious problems in their countries is undermining or damaging new democracies throughout the region.

While democratic institutions in the continent are today ''much stronger than 10 or 20 years ago,'' they are also being tested by their inability to better the lives of their people, he said. ''As income statistics make clear, the majority of citizens (in Latin America) are no better off today than they were one or two decades back,'' adds the report, the latest in a series of assessments published every two years by the Dialogue.

Cardoso also warned that the international situation, particularly the behavior of the United States, is likely to have a major impact on the health of democratic institutions and the rule of law in Latin America.

The 20-year-old Dialogue consists of 100 prominent figures in politics, government, academia, business, media, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) divided equally between the United States and Canada on one hand, and Latin America and the Caribbean on the other.

The latest report offers some bright news, noting overall progress in political and economic reform in the region over the past 20 years. Three ''powerful ideas'', the report says, have gained widespread support over the period.

These include the notion that democracy and elections are the only acceptable way to gain and exercise political power; that the region's economies should be re-organized along market lines and opened to international trade and investment; and the view that Latin American nations needed to build constructive relationships with Washington in order to succeed economically. ''These ideas continue to hold sway in nearly every country of the region,'' the report concluded, ''but their credibility has diminished because of Latin America's economic and political shortfalls in recent years, coupled with a disappointing lack of commitment from Washington''.

While skepticism about each of these notions has grown steadily - the Dialogue first began warning about the trend six years ago - ''no one has come up with better or more powerful alternatives to replace these ideas. The central challenge is still to make them work in practice''.

The reports points to Mexico and Chile as bright spots for having avoided social and political unrest, while Costa Rica, Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil have all become ''vibrant democracies'' with strong parties and active civil societies.

In addition, Bush's success in gaining fast-track trade negotiating authority from Congress has also given new impetus for rapidly growing ties between the United States and Latin America. ''The successful negotiation of a strong (Free Trade Area of the Americas) would be a giant step forward for inter-American relations,'' the report says, noting however that a final FTAA agreement by the 2005 target date ''will not be easy''.

But major challenges also loom. ''Argentina's economic and political turmoil is a collective problem for every nation of the hemisphere,'' it says, urging Washington ''not (to) wait on the sidelines for the new Argentina government to struggle on its own''.

Ongoing political crises in Venezuela and Haiti, in which the Organization of American States (OAS) has tried to mediate, should also be considered ''shared problems for the entire hemisphere'', while Colombia's national security problems are ''far and away the most dangerous in the hemisphere'', and President Alvaro Uribe's military build-up not only may put the country's ''economy in peril'', but also raise ''the prospects for a wider and dirtier war'' that may create more refugees and disruption and make peace negotiations more difficult.

Perhaps the key country, according to the report, will be Cardoso's Brazil and the ability of Lula to transform his ''enormous political support and good will'' to make good on his campaign promises to reactivate economic growth, attack poverty, hunger and race discrimination and push the social agenda faster and harder than his predecessors.

''If Lula succeeds, even modestly, not only would the prospects of economic recovery improve throughout Latin America, but the region's otherwise dispirited politics would also receive a substantial boost,'' the report concludes.

Copyright © 2003 OneWorld.net

                                                                                                                                                                                      Posted at 12:45 p.m., Sunday, March 2, 2003

Amid turmoil, Haitians unsure about 'carnival'
By Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald Writer

With Haiti's currency collapsing, the price of gas skyrocketing and many residents unable to afford even the basics, Haitians both on the island and in South Florida are debating whether their country's annual kanaval celebrations should take place this weekend.

The discussion rages on Creole radio in Miami and in Haiti. A carnival song about the country's economic crisis has become a popular request.

Even Michel Martelly, aka Sweet Micky, one of the country's most popular and colorful compas performers, remains torn over whether he will perform at Haiti Kanaval. The three-day carnival, marked by dancing in the streets, kicks off Sunday evening and ends Ash Wednesday morning in the cities of Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. Full story at Miami Herald

Copyright © 2003 Miami Herald and KnightRidder.com   

                                                                                                                        Jamaica still leading Caribbean drug route

By Reuters

MIAMI, March 1 (Reuters) - Jamaica, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic are major Caribbean transit routes for South American drugs headed for the United States, while Haiti is a key conduit plagued by corruption, according to the annual U.S. report on the global drug trade released on Saturday.

South American narcotics also move to a lesser degree through Trinidad and Tobago, the Dutch Antilles, Cuba and the tiny islands dotting the eastern rim of the Caribbean Sea, a law enforcement nightmare with thousands of islands.

The Caribbean is a major battlefield in America's drug war, along with the U.S.-Mexico border. Cocaine cartels have sophisticated distribution networks using small planes, fast boats and couriers, or "mules," to move drugs around.

The U.S. government estimated between 10 and 15 percent of the cocaine headed to the United States flowed through the Bahamas-Cuba-Jamaica corridor, where traffickers use fast boats, darkness and thousands of miles of remote shoreline to hide their activities.

Jamaica continued to be the leading transit point in the Caribbean for South American cocaine shipments and was also the region's top marijuana producer, the report said. The Jamaican government estimates more than 2.2 million pounds of cocaine pass through the island each year, with 70 percent bound for the United States and the rest to Britain.

While noting that the government of Prime Minister P.J. Patterson unveiled a sweeping anti-crime package after it was reelected last October, the report said corruption continued to undermine the drug fight.

"The government of Jamaica has not prosecuted any senior government officials for facilitating the illicit production or distribution of such substances or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions," it said.

A failing economy, corruption, a weak police force and faltering democratic institutions combined to make politically troubled Haiti a key stop for drug runners shipping cocaine to the United States, Canada and Europe, the report said.

In 2002, U.S. agents seized more than four tons of cocaine hidden in ships arriving in Miami from Haiti, the report said. "

Accusations continue to surface that members of the government ... most notably the Presidential Security Unit and Palace Guard, were actively involved in drug trafficking," it said.

The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is a major transit country for cocaine and heroin but the government cooperates closely with the United States in the drug war, the report said.

Closest to U.S. turf, the Bahamas is the least populous of the major transit routes with just 300,000 people but among the most troublesome with 700 islands and cays that provide hundreds of hiding places for smugglers.

The Bahamas is home to about a dozen major trafficking organizations, some of which offer money-back guarantees to Colombian and Jamaica cartels to transport their drugs to the United States, the report said.

Cuba's decaying infrastructure, declining budgets and fuel shortages hamper anti-drug efforts and the communist government provides "limited, case-by-case" cooperation to the United States in the drug fight.

Copyright © 2003 Reuters Limited

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 3:19 a.m., Saturday, March 1, 2003

Trapped in the Titanic?

By Jane Regan, Latin America Press Writer, Feb. 28, 2003

Overcrowding and a corrupt, inoperative judicial system make prison a nightmare for inmates.

"I’ve been in here for six years," said Gustave Loiseau as he peered through the bars of the section of the National Penitentiary known as the "Titanic" because it towers over the rest of the antiquated complex. "I came when I was 22. They found drugs in the car. I don’t deny it. But all the guys I was with got off, because they had the money to pay bribes."

Like more than 80 percent of the 3,500 men and women in Haiti’s prisons, Loiseau has never had a trial. He has spent the past six years in a four-square-meter cell with 20 other inmates and six beds (photos)..

"You have to pay to get a bed," said Loiseau, who sleeps on the cold concrete floor like most prisoners. Except for a few authorized latrine breaks each day, a plastic bucket and plastic bags serve as a toilet.

Inmates say the two meals a day have improved, there is a daily recreation break, and two prison facilities have new computer centers where a lucky few can take classes. For most, however, life in prison is a matter of waiting.

"All I want is to stand before a judge," Loiseau said as he gripped the bars.

"Things have improved in Haiti’s prisons," said Marie Yolene Gilles, who heads the monitoring program for the non-governmental National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) "But if the penitentiary were respecting international norms, everyone would have a bed and there would not be 1,700 people in those buildings."

Last October, the NCHR sent observers into most of the country’s prisons and interviewed inmates, officials and judges. As a result of the group’s lobbying, about 500 men and women, most of whom were imprisoned on charges of petit larceny, were released. One man in the National Penitentiary "had been arrested seven years ago on La Gonâve Island because he was a stranger in the area," Gilles said. The man, who had never been charged with any crime, was among those released.

Except for the "Titanic" building, where such renowned prisoners as former military dictator Gen. Prosper Avril (1988-90) are housed on the upper floors, the rest of the National Penitentiary was built in the early 1900s. A new coat of paint covers the crumbling walls, but little has changed for prisoners since then. Most palpable is the overcrowding. More than 100 men are crammed into the chapel, which was built in 1908.

Women and children are held across town at the Fort National prison, which, like the rest of the system, violates many international conventions and even Haitian prison regulations. Women who were pregnant when they were imprisoned are now caring for babies within its walls, and about a dozen boys and half a dozen girls are among the inmates.

In February, women’s rights organizations learned that a health worker had raped a 17-year-old inmate who had become pregnant and given birth to a child last October. The groups are demanding justice for the girl, who was imprisoned after allegedly stabbing a man who was part of a group attempting to rape her. Haiti has no juvenile detention center.

While Haiti’s prisons have not been the scene of large riots, like other Latin American penitentiaries, in November 2001 five prisoners were killed by police who ended a raucous protest against the death of an inmate who had been beaten by a guard.

According to the NCHR and other observers, the biggest problem is not the prison system itself, but the country’s corrupt and inefficient police force and its antiquated and nearly inoperative judicial system.

Like Loiseau, many prisoners tell tales of being blackmailed by lawyers, judges and other officials. Those who cannot pay up can be stuck behind bars for years, while other accused criminals walk free.

In an open letter to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide after its "Prisoners’ Month" campaign last October, the NCHR deplored the fact that high-profile cases — such as a 1987 massacre of hundreds of peasants in Jean-Rabel, the murders of two priests in 1994 and 1998, and the 2001 slaying of journalist Jean Dominique (LP, Oct. 21, 2001) — have never been resolved.

In a speech on Jan. 1, Aristide gave a sort of response when he called on the judicial system to move more quickly and said, "The struggle against impunity must continue because social peace and respect for human rights are intertwined."

But with political prisoners like Rosemond Jean — leader of a group of victims of a credit union scam (LP, Sept. 23, 2002), who was illegally arrested several months ago — still behind bars, many doubt Aristide’s promises. National and international human rights groups regularly issue reports charging that Aristide and his government have done little to reduce impunity or human rights violations and crimes, which have sometimes been committed by his partisans (LP, Aug. 12, 2002).

While Minister of Justice Calixte Delatour recently announced that "2003 will be the year of justice," he is remembered for having collaborated closely with the military regime that staged a coup 1991, after Aristide was elected president for the first time (LP, Nov. 4, 2002). During that regime, which remained in power until 1994, between 3,000 and 5,000 people were assassinated, including some of those named in the NCHR letter.

Meanwhile, Loiseau and his cellmates are quietly desperate, hoping that occasional visits from reporters and representatives of human rights groups will call attention to their cases. As Gilles and a journalist recently left the "Titanic," a dozen men stretched their long, thin arms through the bars and called out, "Don’t forget us!"

Copyright Noticias Aliadas/Latinamerica Press 2002 Independent

                                                                                                                         Haiti's Muslims say a "Big No" to war

By Haiti Press Association

Port-au-Prince, 26 February 2003 -(AHP)- In Port-au-Prince, dozens of Muslims took part in a peaceful march to denounce the impending US war against Iraq.

"No to war, long live peace, long live solidarity," chanted the demonstrators who see the war as one that aims to spill Iraqi blood in order to take control of the country's oil reserves.

Théodore Beaubrun Junior (Lòlò) of the racines band, Boukman Eksperyans, who participated in the demonstration, wondered why Iraq was being targeted when it is not the only one to possess murderous weapons. "All of them must disarm," he said.

Numerous other demonstrators denounced the fact that across the world millions of people die each year because they lack food or water, while billions of dollars are being spent on preparing for the war against Iraq. Others made a connection between the preparations for war in Iraq and the fuel crisis in Haiti.

The demonstrators called on the world's pacifists to continue with their opposition to the warmongers.

(translated from French by Charles Arthur for the Haiti Support Group) ______________________________________________

See the Haiti Support Group web site: www.haitisupport.gn.apc.org  

The Haiti Support Group - solidarity with the Haitian people's struggle for justice, participatory democracy and equitable development, since 1992.

                                                                                                                Remittances to Latin America up 18% to $32 billion in 02

By Mike Esterl, Dow Jones Newswires

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones), Feb. 28 - Remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean jumped 18% to more than $32 billion in 2002, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

The region corralled about 31% of the $103 billion in money that immigrants living in developed economies sent to their home countries in emerging markets globally, the IDB said in a press release Thursday.

Nearly 78% of the remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean came from immigrants working in the U.S., with much of the remainder flowing from Japan, Spain and Canada.

Mexico continued to be the largest recipient in the region, capturing $10.5 billion.

Remittances accounted for more than 10% of gross domestic product in Nicaragua, Haiti, Guyana, El Salvador, Jamaica and Honduras, the IDB reported.

But costs associated with remittances to the region rose to around $4 billion last year.

"Costs are higher to send money to Latin America and the Caribbean because banks are less involved in these transactions than they are in other regions of the world," Donald F. Terry, who heads the IDB's Multilateral Investment Fund, said in the press release.

Mike Esterl, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-4026; mike.esterl@dowjones.com

Copyright © 2003 Dow Jones 

                                                                                                                           OAS - Reschedules high level delegation visit and announces additional support for the special mission in Haiti

Cortesy of Mr. Stanley Lucas of The International Republican Institute (I.R.S.)

Feb 27, 2003 

Organization of American States (OAS) Assistant Secretary General Luigi R. Einaudi announced today that the High-level Delegation visit to Haiti, originally scheduled from February 16 to 19 (but postponed because of the inclement weather in the US at that time) will now assemble in Miami March 18 and visit Haiti from March 19 to 21, 2003.

The delegation will be led jointly by Senator the Hon. Julian Hunte, Minister of External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation of St. Lucia and Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council for Foreign and Community Relations, and Organization of American States (OAS) Assistant Secretary General Luigi R. Einaudi.

The delegation is expected to be virtually identical to the originally scheduled one, including Bahamas' Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Frederick Mitchell, the United States Presidential Envoy for Western Hemisphere Initiatives, Ambassador Otto J. Reich and the Chairman of the OAS Permanent Council and representatives from Mexico and France. The European Union will be represented and the international financial institutions will be present as observers. Should Canada's Secretary of State for Latin America, Africa and Francophonie, the Hon. Denis Paradis, be unable to participate this time. Canada would be represented at a senior level in any case.

The Assistant Secretary General indicated that the situation in Haiti remains troublesome. He reiterated the sentiments expressed in a statement issued on February 19 by the OAS Special Mission for Strengthening Democracy in Haiti, which stressed "firm support for the rapid implementation of Resolutions 806 and 822 of the Permanent Council of the OAS, by all sectors involved."

Einaudi underscored that urgent implementation of these Resolutions, including improved security and credible elections this year, remains the optimal route for tackling the political, economic and social development problems confronting Haiti. This will be the goal of the High-level Delegation when it visits Haiti.

The Assistant Secretary General also welcomed new contributions to the Special Mission from the Government of Argentina ($6,000) and from the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians, Inc. (NOAH) ($10,000) to assist the Mission's efforts to help achieve a lasting peace and establish a solid foundation of democratic institutions in Haiti.

4-month-old's death remains mystery
By WPBF The WOBFChannel.com

Miami, FL, Feb. 28 - Following an autopsy on a 4-month-old boy, all police know is that the body showed no signs of trauma, but what killed the infant is still a mystery.

Police say the infant's aunt rushed into Coral Springs Medical Center this morning, desperately looking for help.

"When I walked inside, the lady was just going berserk," said Jeremy Porthilo, who was at the hospital at the time. "The baby didn't look good."

The medical examiner said that the cause of death cannot be determined until toxicology tests are completed.

Sgt. Richard Nicorvo of the Coral Springs Police Department said it is possible the baby's death was caused by a "pre-existing medical condition."

As of late Friday, police had not released the infant's name. They were waiting until they notified the baby's mother, who police say is currently in Haiti  

Copyright 2003 WPBF The WOBFChannel.com                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

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