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Posted at 7:25 p.m., Friday, May 31, 2002

Haitian Grandmother killed in head-on crash

By Yves A. Isidor, wehaitians.com executive editor

Death visited the Ambroise's family yesterday when Edwige Ambroise, 53, of the Boston's section of Dorchester, was killed after a head-on collision on Route 28 in the nearby city of Quincy.  

The fatal accident, which seriously injured two senior citizens from the Massachusetts Southeastern City of Taunton, left the Haitian grandmother's 7-month-old grandson unharmed, police said.

The accident, according to State Police, occurred after Harold Wilson, 42, who was driving north about 7:50 a.m. crossed the center line and struck an oncoming car driven by Ms. Ambroise, who thereafter was pronounced dead at the scene.

"Wilson suffered injuries, but were not considered to be life threatening," State Police Sergeant David Paine said. 

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 3:19 p.m., Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Haiti Floods kill a dozen people, several still missing  

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 29 - Torrential rains killed at least a dozen people in Haiti and left 1,000 people homeless, a government official said Wednesday as workers continued the search for 18 missing.

Heavy rains battered the eroded hills of the southern peninsula from Friday to Monday, carrying away people, their homes and livestock, and destroying fields, said Civil Defense Director Yolene Surena.

"Fortunately, the heavy rains have stopped and we can organize relief for the victims," said Surena. Government officials were interviewing families and searching through debris for those missing.

Country roads were cut off and bridges swept away when streams overflowed their banks from the southcoast town of Les Cayes, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the capital Port-au-Prince, to Anse D'Hainault, about 220 kilometers (138 miles) west of the capital.

Surena blamed much of the flooding on Haiti's environmental degradation. For years, poverty-stricken peasants have been cutting down trees to make charcoal, which is used as domestic and commercial fuel.

At the current rate of erosion, there will not be any arable land in Haiti by the year 2040, ecologists say.

Most of the deaths occurred when the people attempted to cross swollen streams and rivers, Surena said.

One victim reportedly died when his house, built on an eroded river bank, collapsed.

Six hundred families lost their homes in flash floods and landslides but Surena said as many as 1,000 will be left homeless.

A 4 million gourdes (dlrs 160,000) government emergency fund will be used to meet the victims' immediate needs.

WHO and UNICEF have pledged assistance to repair the drinking water systems damaged in 12 towns.

The Organization of American States on Tuesday contributed dlrs 20,000 to help with recovery efforts.

Rains also pounded Jamaica this week, causing at least six deaths and widespread damage throughout the central parts of the island.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 9:57 p.m., Monday, May 27, 2002

                                                                                                                                                                                          Haiti: Farmers Protest Duty-Free Industrial Zone

By Ives Marie Chanel, Inter Press Service Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, May 27 (IPS) - Small-scale farmers in the northeast are protesting construction of an export-processing zone on the border with the Dominican Republic, saying the project will destroy arable land.

The farmers, affiliated with the Frontier Solidarity Network, also say Haitian and Dominican officials failed to consult them and other local residents before deciding to build the duty-free industrial park.

The idea was first presented to the Haitian government in December 2001 and is the brainchild of Dominican investors, who have secured financing from Groupe M, SA, a Dominican financial group.

Groupe M plans to invest enough to create 1,500 jobs during the project's first three years and project sources anticipate raising that number to 8,000 as textile factories set up production operations aimed at the U.S. market.

The farmers say the government-selected, 15,000-hectare construction site sits on cultivable land in the Maribaroux region.

President Jean Bertrand Aristide and his Dominican counterpart, Hypolito Mejia, attended the Apr. 8 groundbreaking. Aristide said similar projects are being planned elsewhere along the 360-kilometer border. Mejia added that construction had begun in several Dominican border towns.

Non-governmental human rights and environmental organizations also have protested the project, saying it will have disastrous consequences for the environment and for the quality of life of the local population.

The Haitian Advocacy Platform for Alternative Development (PAPDA) and the Refugee and Repatriates Support Group (GARR), in a statement, expressed their ''keenest concern and indignation regarding initiatives which will effect Haiti's future, but which were undertaken in quasi-secrecy''. ''

We want to know if the government has a plan for the northeast. What is it that they want to accomplish? There are studies that have been done. They talk about tourism and building hotels, but the whole thing seems murky right now'', one activist told IPS.

A hotelkeeper wondered whether it made sense to build an industrial zone next to an area where officials have announced plans to promote eco-tourism and attract golfers.

Earlier this month, the environment ministry asked government higher-ups to pick another site; officials have not responded.

In Haiti's northeast, farmers cross the border each day to work in the rice fields and sugar plantations of the Dominican Republic.

Because of drought and lack of training, the past 16 years have seen rice fields disappear from the Maribaroux plain, some 340 kilometers north of here.

In this region, considered one of Haiti's poorest, the government and non-governmental organizations have no presence. Farmers are forced to accept loans at exorbitant interest rates, sometimes up to 85 percent, to buy planting supplies. Crops sometimes fail because of extreme weather.

On the other side of the border, there is work in the rice and cane fields of Manzanillo and Monte Christi.

Dominican small-scale farmers, attracted by jobs in the tourist industry, leave agricultural work available to Haitians. The Haitians are paid one-fifth what Dominicans were paid but for the border crossers, earnings nevertheless amount to twice what they can earn at home in Haiti.

However, the road to a job in the Dominican Republic is full of risks. Growers and Dominican soldiers regularly hunt down Haitians and rob or kill them, at times mistaking the farmers for the area's numerous cattle thieves.

Daily forced migration is more and more common, given the region's growing impoverishment. Population density is such that there are only 0.3 hectares per person of arable land.

The 15,000 hectares of land owned by the government and chosen for the export-processing zone were abandoned in 1984 after being leased and farmed by North American companies interested in cattle breeding and sisal production.

The government's decision to turn the land over to industrial development has proven provocative: The Association of Small Planters of the Northeast (APPNE) recently occupied some 2,500 hectares. The group's 2,000 members farm under makeshift conditions with no title to the land.

In 1996, former President Rene Preval tried to revive rice production in the region. The APPNE farmers have restored a small irrigation system on the land and are now growing rice on more than 600 hectares.

Copyright 2002 OneWorld.net

Haitian Businessmen In Get-Rich_Quick scheme prey on lesser educated

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 5:49 p.m., Monday, May 27, 2002

Center to meet needs of Haitians

By Kelly Brewington, Sentinel Staff Writer
May 27, 2002

D'Haiti Ryffelle, a dishwasher at a Thai restaurant in south Orlando, needed advice.

The 35-year-old Haitian immigrant was down to his last dime after scraping together $500 to apply for permanent residency.

Then he heard about a two-room office in a shopping center on West Colonial Drive, where he received free advice on immigration.

There, he also found resources for finding a better job and basic computer and English courses.

"I couldn't believe it when I learned this would be free," said Ryffelle, through an interpreter.

The office is being hailed as the first solid attempt to establish a community center to serve the estimated 30,000 Haitians in Central Florida.

Getting to this point hasn't been easy. Other centers have come and gone because of money troubles and a lack of unity caused by divisive political beliefs.

Joseph Barthelemy, a 33-year-old computer science specialist, and four friends hope their center will establish solid roots.

"There are so many needs," he said. "There are so many new Haitians here who don't know the system, don't know the language; they don't know how to get around day to day. Many people are working three jobs at hotels because they don't know where to go to better themselves."

As with many immigrant communities, a loose network of established Haitian professionals has helped guide newcomers struggling to find a job, searching for health care or trying to navigate such basics as opening a checking account.

Haitians have for decades fled to Florida because of political repression and economic hardship in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

South Florida has one of the largest Haitian populations in the country, but Central Florida's Haitian community is also growing, with migration from South Florida, other states and directly from the island.

Exact figures are hard to come by, but a 2000 U.S. Census survey estimated about 30,000 people of Haitian ancestry live in Orange, Seminole, Lake and Osceola counties.

Members of the local community think the numbers are at least double that. More precise figures will be available from the census later this year.

Signs of Haitian newcomers are everywhere, from French and Creole interpreters in courts and schools, businesses, bands and soccer teams made up of Haitians and AM radio packed with Haitian programming.

Sheriff's Office liason

The Orange County Sheriff's Office recently named Deputy Elise Camille as its liaison to the Haitian community.

Camille, 31, launched a cable television show in Creole that will air next month.

Camille, the only Haitian deputy at the Sheriff's Office, has been one of the community's strongest advocates. The office receives 911 calls in which people ask to speak to Camille directly.

The calls aren't always emergencies. People want to know how to apply for a green card, how to avoid being evicted or what to do if their drivers licenses are suspended.

"It's things we take for granted," said Camille, who arrived in Orlando a decade ago from Haiti knowing no English. "There is so much they don't understand. And as a result, people are being taken advantage of."

Jacquelin Daquin has the same kind of reputation among Haitians. His desk at Haitian Quality Services is cluttered with a computer, papers and three phones, which ring constantly.

Daquin, who charges clients for immigration help, tax preparation and bail bonds, is generally thought of as a man with all the answers. Some call from work when they need to communicate with their boss, but have no one else handy to translate.

"This is why we need a center," said Daquin, 44.

The Rev. Serge Bonhomme, 45, sees challenges daily through his day job as a court and immigration interpreter and in his ministry at Galilean Family Worship Center in south Orange County's Oak Ridge neighborhood, which has a large concentration of Haitian immigrants.

He also watched efforts to help Haitians falter.

Politics carries over

In Haiti, people are either pro-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, or against him. Each side blames the other for the political unrest that grips the country, and that divisiveness has carried over here, he said.

"Everyone wants to make their own political ideas work, and that makes our community suffer," said Bonhomme, who arrived in Central Florida from Haiti in 1985.

Haitians radio programs, from short-wave to AM stations, are popular and often have political overtones.

Haitian politics overshadows local issues, said Daquin, who also has an AM radio show, but focuses on domestic news. "People are so involved with what is going on there, they haven't tried to learn the issues here," he said. "And these issues are the ones that really affect them."

Many Haitians have not planted roots in the community because for years, they have intended to return to their island home, said Dina Paul Parks, executive director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights in New York.

Aristide became the country's first elected president in 1990, only to be ousted by military coup and later reinstated.

Many expected Aristide's administration to improve conditions compared with those under the island's dictators. Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, whose family dynasty was backed by the Tontons Macoutes militia, ruled for 29 years.

"Many have been exiles in waiting," she said. "But things are not changing as much as we would hope. Many would say things have gotten worse."

Center relies on donations

Some community centers in Central Florida failed because they charged poor people for help advertised as free, which has made some people leery of such efforts, Camille said.

Barthelemy's group applied for nonprofit status, but so far is relying on savings and donations.

Parks thinks the estimated 1.5 million Haitians nationwide are starting to work together

"We are starting to ask how do we start looking beyond our little neighborhood and our families? What strategic way can we look forward?" she said.

Kelly Brewington can be reached at kbrewington@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6186.

Copyright 2002, Orlando Sentinel

                                                                                                                                                     Sixth day of torrential rains in Haiti cause at least 10 deaths

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 27 - At least 10 people died and almost 100 families were left homeless in the southern peninsula of this Caribbean nation, as torrential rains pounded Haiti for a third day Monday, causing flooding and landslides.

Heavy rains have battered the eroded hills of the southern peninsula since Friday, carrying away people, their houses and livestock, and destroying fields.

Country roads were cut off and bridges swept away when streams overflowed their banks from southcoast Les Cayes, about 150 kilometers (94 miles) southwest of the capital, to Anse D'Hainault, on the tip of the peninsula, about 220 kilometers (138 miles) west of the capital.

On Friday afternoon, two men drowned when they tried to swim across the swollen river at Port-a-Piment, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Les Cayes. Others died when their houses, built on eroded river banks, collapsed. Ten bodies were recovered; it is not clear how many others were missing.

The government will give about 89 people made homeless 50 gourdes (about dlrs 2) a day to meet their needs, said Yolene Surena, civil defense director.

An emergency fund also will be used to help them and other homeless families rebuild their homes, she said, but did not give details.

The rains are likely to continue until Thursday, said meteorologist Renan Jean-Louis.

"The state of the environment is a major causal factor" of the disaster, he said. For years, poverty-stricken peasants have been cutting down trees to make charcoal, which is used as domestic and commercial fuel.

At the current rate of erosion, there will be no arable land in Haiti by the year 2040, ecologists say.

Rains also pounded Jamaica this week, causing at least five deaths and widespread damage throughout the central parishes of Clarendon, St. Ann's and St. Catherine. The rains there were expected to continue through Wednesday. 

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                               A look at Pope John Paul II's Travels

By The Associated Press

May 26 - Here is a look at the trips of John Paul II, the most-traveled pope, who by Vatican statistics has traveled nearly three times the distance between the Earth and the moon.

_In 24 years as pope, John Paul has visited more than 140 countries on 96 different trips.

_On average, the pope has traveled to eight countries a year. He registered the fewest stops in 1994 — just Croatia — and the most with 16 countries in 1985.

_His first foreign trip was to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas Jan. 25-Feb. 1, 1979. His second was to his home, Poland, in June of that year.

_In 1985, the pontiff went to 16 countries on four separate tours: Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Trinidad, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Togo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Zaire, Kenya, Morocco, Switzerland and Liechtenstein

_He visited nine countries on March 2-10, 1983: Portugal, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Haiti.

_In recent years, John Paul has stuck to more limited itineraries and shorter visits. His 96th tour took him to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, his 95th to Kazakhstan and Armenia, and his 94th to Ukraine.

_Two countries the pope has not yet visited: China and Russia.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                      Posted at 2:19 p.m., Thursday, May 23, 2002  

Haitians are second prize winners in the multi-state 'Big Game' lottery

By Yves A. Isidor, wehaitians.com executive editor

For a few Haitians, the first few months of  this year have not been bad at all.

According to the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission, on April 16, 2002 Marc Pierre of the Boston's section of Roxbury, a Big Game second prize winner, won $150,000.

On April 5, 2002, Paul St. Andre of North Grafton, MA became $150,000 richer.

Sure Pierre Gedeon of the town of Randolph, MA could just three days earlier say I am no longer penniless. He won $150,000 in the Big Game drawing of April 2, 2002.   

                                                                                                                                                                                     Justice poster boy faces deportation

By Hillary Chabot, Chronicle Staff

May 21, 2002

Bertrand Lamitie, a Haitian father of two who has lived in Cambridge most of his life, was thrust into the spotlight last August by a Middlesex judge who wanted to make a point: The Middlesex District Attorney’s office is letting race influence their sentencing.

Once the spotlight faded, however, 25-year-old Lamitie pled guilty to possessing crack and was sentenced to six months in state prison, He was recently shipped to Oakdale, La. in March to face deportation proceedings. According to Lamitie’s lawyer, Harvey Bazile, the Cambridge man has little chance of avoiding deportation.

Last August, Judge Severlin B. Singleton III used the cases of Bertrand Lamitie, a black man, and Jared Cedrone, a white man, to highlight racial differences in sentencing. Both were arrested while carrying fairly small amounts of cocaine within a school zone in Cambridge. Lamitie, a first-time offender, was sentenced to six months in jail. Cedrone, a six-time offender, was given probation.

Though Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley defended her office as colorblind – citing Lamitie as a dealer and Cedrone as a user — Singleton’s report brought the question of racially unequal justice to the forefront.

The debate has had little impact on Lamitie.

Lamitie, who has lived in the United States since he was 8 years old, is not a U.S. citizen, however he is a legal resident. His friends and family are demanding action from the district attorney, based on the unequal sentencing they believe Lamitie received. "

Bertrand should be released immediately, " said Susan Conrad, who lived across the street from Lamitie and his family as Bertrand grew up. " Courts of law are just that — they are supposed to uphold the law equally and they are not doing that. "

Bazile, Lamitie’s lawyer, says the chances of Lamitie gaining release, or even winning his deportation hearing, are very slim. The first date of Lamitie’s deportation hearing is June 13, according to Bazile. "

He’s got a less than 5 percent chance of staying here, " Bazile said. " Going to a deportation hearing is like a having a fatal disease. "

When an alien is put in state custody and charged with a felony, the state notifies the federal government, who pick up the prisoner the day he is released. Defendants facing a deportation hearing can only get off one of three ways, Bazile said. By showing fear of persecution in their home country; proving that the crime they are convicted of is not particularly serious; or asking the assistant district director of INS for prosecutorial discretion. This argument asks the INS to look the other way highlighting the defendant’s good record and long amount of time in the United States.

Bazile plans on using the third defense, but admits that the prosecutorial discretion defense, " almost never works. "

Meanwhile, Lamitie’s family wonders why their respectful, good-hearted relative with no prior criminal record is being deported. "

For me it’s really unfair, " said Solaire Lamitie, Bertrand’s mother, " Bertrand doesn’t have a criminal record. " What about justice?

If the result of Singleton’s findings had little repercussion on Lamitie’s circumstances, it may have affected the Middlesex District Attorney’s office even less. "

They don’t even think it’s an issue, " Singleton said of the Middlesex District Attorney’s response to his complaints.

Yet Coakley met with Singleton several weeks ago to discuss a study, said spokeswoman Emily Lagrassa, and they both agreed any comprehensive study on racial disparity in sentencing should be conducted by the Supreme Judicial Court.

Meanwhile, Singleton has joined Dean Robert Ward of the Southern New England School of Law and Judge Lesley Harris, a Boston juvenile court judge, in coming up with recommendations for District Attorneys to change their sentencing methods. The Racial and Ethnic Access and Fairness Advisory Board — co-chaired by Ward and Harris — was created in September 2001 and has 25 members composed of judges, lawyers, probation officers, and state representatives from the Boston area. "

[The Board] is optimistic that a study will be done and recommendations will come from that, " Singleton said, " Whatever study takes place we will have to have the District Attorney’s input. " So far as Lamitie’s fate, Singleton joins the family in lamenting the loss of their loved one.

" It’s a sad chapter in this saga, " Singleton said of Lamitie’s impending hearing.

Copyright 1995-2001 - Town Online  wehaitians' editor note:

Lamitie's case was recently featured on the ABC Nightline Half-Hour News Affairs Program

                                                                                                                                                                                         Haiti carves visitors niches with 'Voodoo Tourism'

By Michael Deibert, Reuters Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 20 (Reuters) - In the maze of muddy alleys and lanes of Port-au-Prince's crowded Bizoton quarter, Ti Papi, also known as Goodwin Jacques, is having a busy day.

A large man whose once-muscular build is giving way to the softness of middle age, Jacques is presiding over the initiation of a dozen converts from Martinique into his peristyle, or voodoo temple.

"This area was something of a virgin territory, years ago," he says as he adjusts a seashell necklace. "There weren't a lot of people here, but there were a lot of trees here, and a lot of water, these being strong attractions for the spirits -- the sea, the river and the trees. With my clients, from Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guyana, if I do good work for someone, word gets around, and those who are interested will come to me."

Haiti, once a tourist mecca, lost much of its allure to the international set as a result of nearly continuous political unrest after the departure of iron-fisted ruler Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier in 1986.

Now, eight years after an American-led multinational force restored a democratically elected government to power, Haiti is carving a modest tourist niche in the most unlikely of places.

Over the last several years, would-be voodoo adepts, anthropologists and photographers have visited the Caribbean nation to delve into what was once regarded as a deformation of Catholicism but is now enshrined in the Haitian Constitution as a religion on par with any other.

At the annual festival of Souvenance outside the central city of Gonaives during Easter Week, a plethora of foreigners, from international aid workers to photographers to the odd ambassador, attended a week's worth of voodoo festivities that included the sacrifice of a dozen animals, bathing in a sacred pool and chants beneath a sacred mapou tree.

"In Haiti, we have beautiful memories of what tourism was in the 1950s," Tourism Minister Martine Deverson said. "And today we lack a lot of the amenities and the infrastructure we had then. But today there is a greater awareness of Haiti's cultural heritage, and voodoo, though it is often confused with black magic, we believe can be a great attraction to visitors."

Though fewer than 200,000 visitors came to Haiti in 2000, according to figures provided by the tourism ministry, plans are under way to launch a modest foreign public relations campaign stressing Haiti's unique cultural value and to open a tourist bureau at the capital's international airport with information available on hotels, cultural events and government-sponsored guides.

A RARE EXPERIENCE

"We are not prepared for mass tourism," Deverson said. "But we can offer an experience that you can very rarely find anywhere in the world. We are trying to make the resources for these unique experiences available to everyone."

Voodoo arose from the animist religions of West Africa and holds that life is given and sometimes controlled by spirits who can be summoned through rituals. The traditions were brought to the Caribbean islands by slaves.

Voodoo has played a long, often maligned, role in the development of Haiti's national and cultural identity. In 1791, a voodoo ceremony held by slaves outside of the northern city of Cap Haitien initiated a 13-year struggle against their French colonial masters that ended with the establishment of an independent Haitian state in 1804.

Faustin Soulouque, a self-declared "emperor" who ruled Haiti for a decade in the mid-1800s, promoted and acknowledged voodoo as a unique religion. In more recent times, the dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier tailored his appearance to reflect that of Baron Samedi, spirit lord of the cemetery, in an effort to cast himself in a mystical, threatening aura.

At Ti Papi's temple, initiates go through many purification rites, including ritual baths and 41 days of sexual abstinence, before being sequestered in a windowless room for seven days, emerging only to take part in rituals that will go on, day and night, for the entire week of their stay.

"My mother was from Martinique and my father from Israel," says a young, white-clad, coffee-complexioned man. "My grandfather was a gengen (voodoo priest), but after he passed on there was no one to carry on the tradition. Over the years, I had very strange dreams, dreams of a man with horns, of repeated visits to a temple in the countryside.

ABANDONED SPIRITS

"I went to the priest but the priest told me I was crazy," the initiate said. "Eventually, I realized the problems were coming from the spirits that had been abandoned. They were trying to claim me, but because he had lost the knowledge, he didn't know how to properly respond."

Ti Papi, waving a bejeweled finger in the air, recognizes the problem. "In Martinique, they have almost entirely lost their African traditions," he said. "I would say that they have almost become too French. We all came from the same people, but Haiti, with its early independence was able to keep their traditions strong.

"In many of these countries now, when people have problems with their ancestors and problems specifically relating to spiritual matters, they turn to specialists from Haiti to help them."

With paper Haitian flags hanging from the temple ceiling, the booming rhythms of the kata drums announce the arrival of the six initiates, barefoot and dressed all in white to symbolize purity.

They replicate a complex series of salutations learned from Ti Papi before the assembled congregation as Ti Papi and his assistants strike the center post of the temple and the ground fiercely with machetes. In voodoo, the spirits come up from the ground, not down the heavens.

The ceremonies will last long through the night and well into the following day. Ti Papi, already bathed in sweat in the sweltering room from dancing with and saluting the initiates, steps behind the drums, taking a deep swig from a bottle of Barbancourt rum.

"When there's tires burning in the streets, when there's coup d'etat, when there's everything else, we are still doing our ceremonies, we are still beating our drums," he said. "Politicians come and go but voodoo is always here. If it wasn't for voodoo, we would already be occupied, either by the Americans or the Dominicans. Voodoo? It's been our sovereignty, over the years."

Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 6:07 p.m., Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Immigrants to U.S. fear new proposal allowing local police to enforce immigration laws

By Deborah Kong, AP Minority Issues Writer

SAN FRANCISCO, May 22 - Daniel Rosas Romero waits among the knots of men who line the sidewalks of a bustling street, hoping each day for painting, moving, gardening or construction jobs.

The day laborers — many of whom slipped into the United States undocumented — have established an uneasy relationship with local police, who don't ask whether they are in the country legally.

Romero fears that delicate balance could tip under a new proposal being considered by the U.S. Justice Department, which would allow local and state police to enforce federal immigration laws.

The Justice Department has not provided details about the idea floated in a legal opinion written by its attorneys. The department says only that it "continues to explore all options to enforce immigration laws," said spokesman Dan Nelson.

As security concerns and immigration policy intersect after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, some states are considering similar initiatives. Supporters note U.S. agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service are not usually patrolling the streets. But states' officers are — and could limit the potential for terrorism by illegal immigrants, they say.

The proposals are, however, raising questions and spreading fear throughout immigrant communities, where many worry they could be deported.

"It would cause us as immigrants, no matter where we are, to be frightened," said Romero, who came to the United States in search of work to pay for his teen-age son and daughter's schooling in Mexico.

"We're not a problem. We can be a solution for this country" by doing work others are not willing to do, he said. Critics also believe the proposals could lead to racial profiling and discourage immigrants from reporting crimes to the police.

Supporters say the INS, with 2,000 agents, lacks the staff to track suspected terrorists, much less an estimated 8 million illegal immigrants scattered throughout the country. Enlisting state and local authorities would create "a seamless web of protection against future threats," said Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

In Florida, the state is hoping to reach a first-of-its-kind agreement with the Justice Department to give 35 law enforcement officers the authority to arrest illegal immigrants deemed threats to national security, said Jennifer McCord, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon wants to pursue a similar agreement, under which the state's law enforcement officers would be deputized as INS agents.

But workers like Mathieu Beaucicot, who is in the United States on temporary visa, feel police will wind up pursuing them.

"People working in fields picking this country's oranges and tomatoes aren't terrorists, and yet they're the ones who would suffer the consequences for this change in policy," said Beaucicot, who fled Haiti after a political coup and works in the tomato fields of southwest Florida.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 6:43 p.m., Monday, May 20, 2002

Bush Says He Won't Lift Cuba Embargo

By Scott Lindlaw, Associated Press Writer

MIAMI, May 20 (AP) - President Bush said Monday he won't heed calls to lift the Cuban trade embargo unless Fidel Castro releases political prisoners, conducts independently monitored elections and accepts a list of tough U.S. conditions for a "new government that is fully democratic."

"Freedom sometimes grows step by step, and we will encourage those steps," the president said at the White House, outlining his new U.S. policy on Cuban Independence Day. He then flew to Miami, where he delivered a similar message and was raising $2 million for the Florida Republican Party, which will use it to boost the re-election campaign of his brother Gov. Jeb Bush.

Bush declared to a boisterous crowd of Cuban Americans in Miami: "We are here today to proclaim loudly and clearly to the entire world ... that the Cuban people's love of liberty cannot and will not be denied."

Seeking to balance his hard-line policy with a sensitivity to Cuba's grinding poverty, the president outlined administration actions designed to make life better for the Cuban people. One initiative would resume direct mail service to and from Cuba.

Bush's speech, which aides said has been in the works since January, came a week after former President Carter traveled to Cuba and urged the people to embrace democracy while calling on the United States to lift the 40-year-old trade embargo.

Carter and other critics argue that the restrictions have failed to end Castro's regime while making life tough on ordinary Cubans. Critics also note the United States maintains trade and diplomatic relations with other nations that hold political prisoners and prevent free speech and elections, such as China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Bush also has been accused of shaping his policy to win support of Cuban-Americans, a force in Florida politics and thus a key to his re-election hopes. Indeed, Bush was traveling to Miami later in the day to address Cuban-Americans eager to hear his anti-Castro rhetoric.

The Cuban government did not respond immediately to the Washington speech. But some leading Cuban dissidents did not approve of Bush's hard-line stand.

"Changes have to be made but changes have to be made on both sides," said Vladimiro Roca, who was released from prison earlier this month. "The prickly relationship between the two countries ... can hurt our hopes for advancing a transition to democracy."

Another human rights activist, Elizardo Sanchez, praised Bush for his support of the Varela Project to get a national referendum on civil rights. "The rest of (Bush's) speech was more of the same, the same prickly rhetoric from the time of the Cold War that has characterized the relationship between the countries for 40 years," Sanchez said.

"U.S.-Cuban relations are held hostage to a small minority in each country," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., one of several congressmen who criticized Bush's new policy. Dodd called for "a fundamental change in the way we look at Cuba."

The chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Rep. Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill., called the speech "an invitation for a new beginning in Cuba and the dawn of a closer relationship with the United States."

Hyde said Bush had made a compelling argument that Cuba's lack of economic and political freedom gives the United States no incentive to lift trade sanctions.

Speaking in Spanish at times, Bush said Cuba's legacy of freedom "has been insulted by a tyrant who uses brutal methods to enforce a bankrupt vision. That legacy has been debased by a relic from another era who has turned a beautiful island into a prison."

If all his conditions are met, Bush will support lifting the congressionally mandated trade ban — even if Castro is still in charge — said two senior White House officials, speaking on condition of anonymity. But they said Bush does not envision Castro's making the necessary changes, prompting the new policy designed to foment change from within the country.

"If Mr. Castro refuses our offer he will be protecting his cronies at the expense of his people and eventually, despite all his tools of oppression, Fidel Castro will need to answer to his people," Bush said.

To win his approval of easing restrictions, Bush said Cuba must: _Allow opposition parties to speak freely and organize.

_Allow independent trade unions.

_Free all political prisoners.

_Allow human rights organizations to visit Cuba to ensure that the conditions for free elections are being created.

_Allow outside observers to monitor 2003 elections.

_End discriminatory practices against Cuban workers.

Bush called for the resumption of mail service and promised assistance to nongovernmental organizations that aid Cubans. He also pledged to create scholarships in the United States for Cuban students, family members of political prisoners and professionals trying to build civil institutions in the communist regime.

Money still needs to be found for the scholarship program, White House officials said. They said the initiatives can be carried out without congressional approval

Last week, a 40-member, bipartisan group in Congress announced support for easing the embargo. The private Human Rights Watch called for the same, saying the embargo "imposes indiscriminate hardship on the Cuban people and impedes democratic change."

The public is evenly divided on ending the trade embargo, according to a recent CBS News poll that shows no change on that issue from four years ago. Sentiment for continuing the embargo has dropped from the mid-1990s. Republicans were more inclined to want to continue the embargo.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 9:31 p.m., Saturday, May 18, 2002

Haitians protest judge's dismissal of request for asylum for detainees

By Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald Writer                                                                                            jcharles@herald.com

Saying politicians in Washington -- and not the courts -- hold the keys to freedom for hundreds of Haitian asylum-seekers held in detention, a Miami federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking their release.

In her ruling on Friday, U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard said she has no authority to overrule the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service's decision to indefinitely detain Haitian asylum seekers out of fear that a release could trigger a mass exodus from Haiti or that petitioners will disappear into the community.

'Petitioners' cry for freedom needs to be directed to those representatives of the political branches responsible for enacting immigration laws and policies,'' she wrote. ``In immigration matters, neither individuals nor the court can substitute their policy perspectives for the judgments made by executive officials.''

Lenard's decision was met with disappointment throughout Miami's Haitian community, where Haitians, during a planned demonstration on another immigration issue, also protested Friday's decision. Standing across the street from the INS building on Northwest 79th Street and Biscayne Boulevard, some waved Haitian flags, while other held placards reading ''No justice. No peace'' and ``Equal Treatment for Haitians.''

'This is yet another message to Haitians, `You are not welcomed here, and your rights are not going to be protected,' '' said Cheryl Little, the lead attorney in the case whose team of lawyers at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center is representing many of the detainees. ``The judge's deference to an agency which our government is trying to abolish because it is so dysfunctional is most troubling.'

For months, Little and immigrant rights advocates have worked to bring national and international attention to the plight of more than 240 Haitians who have been held in three South Florida detention centers since Dec. 3.

In March, she and other prominent immigration attorneys filed suit, challenging the new INS policy. The suit was filed on behalf of all the detainees and accuses the agency of refusing to release the Haitians because of their race and/or national origin, a charge the agency denies.

The new policy went into effect following the Dec. 3 arrival of a boatload of 187 Haitian migrants. Until then, the INS district office released Haitian migrants while their asylum petitions were reviewed, if they could show a credible fear of persecution. But the policy was reversed after senior INS officials said they fear a release could trigger a mass exodus of Haitians from Haiti, a country in chronic political turmoil.

The INS is continuing that policy, although it has released some detainees, including pregnant women and people who arrived at airports, on a case-by-case basis. The plaintiffs' attorneys contend there is no evidence of a mass exodus, and call the policy racist.

Haitian advocate Marleine Bastien said it's disturbing that Lenard issued her ruling without having a hearing.

''That hurts,'' Bastien said.

In her ruling, Lenard acknowledges that INS reversed its policy on releasing Haitians after INS Acting Deputy Commissioner Peter Michael Becraft instructed the Miami office that no undocumented Haitian should be released without the approval of INS headquarters.

''Accordingly the court must determine whether Becraft, as acting deputy commissioner, has the authority to promulgate such a policy,'' she wrote.

Her conclusion: He does, based on the powers Congress has delegated to the U.S. attorney general to make parole determinations. Under federal law, the attorney general has the right to also delegate that authority to an employee.

''The court finds that preventing the loss of life and avoiding a mass migration from Haiti are facially legitimate and bona fide reasons for detaining Haitian nationals who arrive by boat in South Florida,'' Lenard wrote.

Ira Kurzban, one of the attorneys representing the Haitians, said Lenard's decision is ``shocking and disturbing in light of the quarter-century of discrimination against Haitians.'' Kurzban, who also represents the government of Haiti, said the U.S. government is conducting an economic embargo against the country, by withholding millions in international aid, then punishing people who attempt to flee.

Though appealing the case appears to be unlikely, Little and others say they don't plan to give up the political fight. In fact, they plan to take Lenard up on her suggestion and on Monday will make their cries heard when President Bush comes to town for a fundraiser.

Scores of Haitians and immigrant rights supporters are expected to converge at 6 p.m. Monday at Ingram Park in Coral Gables, while Bush attends a dinner at the home of developer Armando Codina.

''These cries of freedom? We hope they will be heard by our president on Monday,'' Little said.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Posted at 4:59 p.m., Thursday, May 16, 2002  

Carter, Clinton offer foreign policy expertise, but Bush isn't listening

By Sally Buzbee, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON, May 16 - President Bush has been getting a lot of foreign policy advice lately from the men who held office before him. Jimmy Carter says the Cuban trade embargo should go; Bill Clinton says an interim Mideast peace deal might work.

Bush isn't heeding their advice. Rather, he's following the long tradition of presidents who try to ignore, or at best barely tolerate, the overseas initiatives of predecessors they view as meddling in their White House business.

About the only past president Bush turns to for help is his own father, and then only in the strictest of privacy.

"It's an awkward situation for the Bush people. On the one hand, he has two very prominent former presidents from the other party whose help he probably doesn't want," said Paul Light, an expert on the presidency at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"On the other, there's his father, who — if anybody ever found out he was involved (in giving advice) — could so diminish his son that it would be a political disaster," Light said.

White House officials were careful to praise Carter for raising human rights concerns during his Cuba trip. Privately, however, they bitterly complained that Carter's anti-embargo message was threatening to swamp Bush's policy in favor of the trade embargo.

"Trade with Cuba doesn't benefit the people of Cuba," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "It's used to prop up an oppressive regime."

In general, former presidents "take on a pledge," Light said: "Keep your mouth shut on foreign policy unless your conscience tells you you simply must speak out."

Carter presents Bush with a dilemma because his actions appear to spring from deep-seated beliefs, analysts say. Since being defeated after one term, the Democrat has worked in the developing world on issues like human rights and democracy.

"His credibility as a moral leader is very high at this point," said Robert Dallek, a presidential historian at Boston University.

Yet politics always plays a role, Dallek believes.

"For the Bush administration to end the embargo would jeopardize his brother's election," Dallek said, noting that Bush's brother, Jeb Bush, is governor of Florida, where Cuban-American voters who favor the trade embargo hold political sway. "So clearly, part of Carter's message is that Bush is putting party politics and his brother's re-election before a rational foreign policy."

Bush aides also have responded sharply in the past to Clinton — remaining silent to his offers of help on foreign affairs, for example, and accusing him of overreaching on Mideast peace efforts during his time in office.

Clinton, while largely refraining from criticizing Bush's policies, has made clear he would like to help in places like the Middle East or Northern Ireland. He has strongly defended his policies on the Mideast and denied charges his administration failed to take strong action against Osama bin Laden.

Next week, Bush will send Clinton on his first official mission since leaving the White House — as head of a delegation celebrating the independence of obscure East Timor.

Clinton himself often had to deal with Carter's involvement in high-profile negotiations with countries like North Korea and Haiti, sometimes welcoming Carter's efforts and occasionally seeming only to tolerate them.

As for Bush's father, the former president's foreign policy expertise — and respect in Arab circles — is clearly coming into play as his son works on the Mideast conflict and on Iraq.

The elder Bush, who created the coalition that fought Iraq in the Persian Gulf War, met with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah last month after his son, the president, had a key meeting with the Saudi leader.

Even before that, when Abdullah complained last June that the younger Bush seemed too beholden to Israel, the elder Bush personally called to vouch for his son.

Bush aides insist, though, that the president's father does not play a large role in policy decisions.

The irony is that Bush — while almost certain not to turn to Clinton for help on the Middle East, or to turn publicly to his own father — might have been tempted to use Carter as a Middle East emissary, Light believes.

The brouhaha over Cuba almost certainly scuttled any chance of that.

"It's really too bad. He was the last president to actually successfully negotiate on the Mideast," Light said of Carter.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 4:12 a.m., Thursday, May 16, 2002

Top officials of regional groups leave Haiti optimistic about resumption of political talks

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 15 - Concluding a visit to Haiti, two top officials from international organizations said they are optimistic that talks to end the country's two-year political stalemate would resume next month.

Speaking on Wednesday before their departure, the officials from the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community said they would return June 10 with the aim of restarting negotiations between the government and opposition on the holding of new elections.

The aim of this week's trip "was to satisfy ourselves that sufficient progress was being made in Haiti to create an environment conducive to the resumption of negotiations," said St. Lucian Foreign Minister Julian Hunte, who is also chairman of the Caribbean Community's council on foreign and community relations.

"I'm satisfied," he said, after the four-day visit with OAS Assistant Secretary-General Luigi Einaudi.

Opposition politicians were not so optimistic.

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide "has done nothing to establish a favorable climate for the resumption of talks," said opposition spokesman Mischa Gaillard. "His partisans are still armed and threatening."

The government and opposition have been at odds since Aristide's Lavalas Family party swept May 2000 elections, which observers said were flawed. The international community has blocked hundreds of millions of aid dollars until the two sides agree on how to proceed with new elections

Negotiations broke down after Dec. 17, when gunmen attacked the National Palace in what Aristide called an assassination attempt. The opposition alleged the attack was staged as a pretext to clamp down on dissent.

At least 10 people were killed in the attack and subsequent violence, when rampaging Aristide partisans burned opposition headquarters and private residences.

The opposition has refused to resume talks until some 20 of its imprisoned partisans are released and the perpetrators of the attacks on its offices brought to justice.

Hunte and Einaudi began their visit on Sunday and during the trip met with Aristide, other leaders and foreign diplomats.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 1:28 p.m., Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Boston's Haitian de facto Consul cannot deliver speech written for him and faints after attempting to do so  

By Yves A. Isidor, wehaitians.com executive editor  

This past Sunday, the second Haitian-American Unity Parade in the Boston's section of Mattapan did not go without a major embarrassment.  

Jean Roland Elie, the newly appointed Boston's Haitian de facto Consul, who was featured so prominently in the parade, fainted after he attempted to read a French language prepared text.

According to a few credible sources, "since there are so many functionally illiterate people in the tyrannical and de facto government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide it should not be a surprise at all to see his Boston's Consul unable to read a speech in French despite it was written for him days in advance by someone we decline to identify."                                                                                                                                        

Haiti's Parliament ratifies treaty to joint Caribbean Community

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 14 - Haiti's Parliament has taken the final step to becoming a full member of the Caribbean Community, voting unanimously to ratify a treaty to join the regional organization, officials said Tuesday.

In a 68-0 vote with six abstentions, Parliament on Monday night ratified the treaty to make Haiti the 15th member of the Caribbean Community, also known as Caricom. There were 28 members absent from the joint session of the lower and upper houses.

"It's good news for Caricom, and I dare say good news for the people of Haiti," said visiting St. Lucia Foreign Minister Julian Hunte, who is chairman of the community's council on foreign and community relations.

Hunte and Organization of American States Assistant Secretary-General Luigi Einaudi are on a four-day visit to Haiti to monitor the initial work of a special OAS mission for strengthening democracy.

As soon as the Caribbean Community handles the paperwork, Haiti's membership will be complete, Hunte said.

By early July, when the Caribbean heads of state meet in Guyana, "we might have President (Jean-Bertrand) there as a full member," he said.

The Caribbean Community accepted Haiti as a member in 1997. In July 2001, the regional organization opened an office in suburban Petionville to help Haiti through the final steps to integration.

With 8.2 million people, Haiti will more than double the population comprised by the Caribbean Community.

The new association could help pull Haiti from poverty, after more than 20 years of an economic slump. In 1995, the country's economic growth rate was 4.5 percent. Last year, it fell below zero.

"Now we are especially a consumer nation," Sen. Clones Lans said. "But we will not stay that way forever. We have art and handicrafts to export, and our whole economy to develop."

The country also has been paralyzed for two years by a political stalemate between the government and opposition parties, following 2000 elections that observers said were flawed.

International organizations and foreign countries have suspended millions of dollars in foreign aid until the two sides can agree on the specifics of holding new elections.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 1:08 p.m., Monday, May 13, 2002

Carter's Post-Presidential Life Marked by Missions

By Jim Loney, Reuters Writer

MIAMI, May 12 (Reuters) - Jimmy Carter's presidency may have ended ignominiously in 1981 but his redemptive afterlife has marked him a peacemaker from Bosnia to Haiti and now to Castro's communist Cuba.

When he arrives in Havana on Sunday, Carter will become the only current or former U.S. president and the most notable American to visit the Caribbean island since Cuban President Fidel Castro 1959 revolution launched hostilities between the United States and one of its closest neighbors.

The trip will simply be one more feather in the cap for the now 77-year-old peanut farmer from Georgia, who has played a role in democratic transitions in Central America, helped restore a rightful president in Haiti, brokered a cease-fire in Bosnia and mediated disputes from North Korea to Sudan.

"Jimmy Carter has clearly raised the bar considerably for what a former president can accomplish," said University of New Orleans professor Douglas Brinkley, author of "The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House."

The honest, earnest governor of a small southern state in the 1970s, Carter parlayed a toothy grin and an image as a Washington outsider to oust the incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford at a time when the United States was still reeling from the Watergate scandal.

But in 1980, with the economy in tatters and Americans held hostage in Iran, Carter was swept from office by Ronald Reagan, a humbling end to an optimistic presidency but the start of a remarkable semi-retirement.

From his nonprofit Carter Center in Atlanta, private citizen Carter fashioned a new career as a globe-trotting elder statesman willing to go anywhere in search of peace.

He promoted peace talks between Ethiopia and Eritrean rebels and headed an observer team at 1990 Nicaraguan elections that ended the Sandinistas' reign.

In June 1994, he traveled to North Korea, got a rare audience with the reclusive President Kim Il-sung and won Kim's agreement to freeze a nuclear development program, reviving stalled international negotiations.

Three months later, with U.S. troops prepared to invade Haiti, Carter rushed to the troubled Caribbean nation at President Bill Clinton's request and persuaded the leaders of a three-year-old military junta to leave, restoring exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to office.

"He was going into a situation in Haiti which was very fluid. Anything from kidnapping to death could have happened," said presidential historian Tim Blessing, a professor of history at Alvernia College in Reading, Pennsylvania. "In terms of sheer courage, I think that was probably the single most courageous thing he has done."

In December 1994, Carter marched into the quagmire of the former Yugoslavia and forged a temporary truce, announcing at Sarajevo airport that Bosnian Muslims and Serbs had agreed to stop shooting while they tried to negotiate an end to the war.

In July 1995 he urged the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to resolve their differences and said he would be willing to mediate. The same month he flew to Sudan, seeking agreement between Sudanese rebels and Khartoum.

In November 1995 he began a peace mission to Rwanda with a visit to a church to view thousands of bleached-white skulls and scattered bones at a memorial to one of the century's worst mass killings.

'POSTER EX-PRESIDENT'

His peace-making missions, coupled with the Carter Center's work on Third World health issues like guinea worm and his spare-time employment as a carpenter building houses with Habitat for Humanity, have made Carter what Brinkley called the "poster ex-president for model citizenry."

"What's interesting about Carter is his purity of purpose. He has proved to be an incorruptible character," he said. "His purpose has certainly been to make the world a better place."

Carter avoided the trap into which many ex-presidents have fallen, that of a "prop" who serves as a "member of the board" or "honorary chairman" of companies or foundations, Blessing said, redefining the role of ex-president as a man of action while maintaining the dignity of the office.

"I have never read or heard anyone who saw Jimmy Carter as being small or vindictive or petty," Blessing said.

Now the man who reached out to Cuba's communist government during his presidency and allowed tens of thousands of Cubans to come to the United States in the 1980 Mariel boatlift will try again, 22 years later, to open doors between Washington and Havana.

Analysts said Carter could win important concessions from Castro on sharing intelligence in the war on terrorism, on health care exchanges, perhaps on food exports. But he also faced the possibility of being used by the savvy Cuban leader for his own self-aggrandizement.

"Carter does what he thinks is right without too much care for his own potential personal disgrace," Blessing said. "I think whatever happens, Carter will be able to live with it."

Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited

                                                                                                                                                                                       Coast Guard calls of search for missing Haitians  

May 13

The search began Friday when their 35-foot boat capsized about 6 miles west of Great Inagua in the Bahamas.

It's believed about 100 Haitians were on board that boat and the Coast Guard says they rescued 73. Twelve others drowned and at least 15 remain missing and are feared dead.

The survivors are now onboard a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. On Tuesday, they'll be repatriated to Haiti. The search was called off Saturday night, Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Ron LaBrec said from Miami.

"We don't have an exact number of people who were on board, but based on survivor statements, we felt there were about 100," LaBrec said. "After two days of searching, we found no other survivors."

Searchers made 23 sweeps, covering 1,395 miles with two HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters, an HU-25 Falcon jet, Coast Guard cutters Nantucket and Harriet Lane and the cutter Nassau from the Royal Bahamian Defense Force, according to a Coast Guard statement.

This year, the Coast Guard has rescued 500 Haitian migrants, but more than 200 people are thought to have died off the Bahamas in desperate attempts to reach Florida.

Haitians often make the dangerous journey aboard overcrowded boats, hoping to escape poverty and political turmoil in Haiti.

Copyright WPLG Click10.com

                                                                                                                                                                                          Top OAS and CARICOM officials arrive in Haiti to help resolve political stalemate

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 12 - Two top officials from the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community arrived Sunday as part of a regional effort to help Haiti resolve a two-year political stalemate.

During a three-day visit, the organization's Assistant Secretary-General Luigi Einaudi and St. Lucia Foreign Minister Julian Hunte — who chairs CARICOM's Council on Foreign and Community Relations — will meet with top government and opposition officials and assess the initial work of a special OAS mission to this Caribbean country.

"We are here to see if we can reduce the differences between the key players," Einaudi said upon arrival in Port au Prince.

"We can say progress has been made to the extent that we are not meeting any resistance to the measures," he said, referring to an OAS committee investigating Dec. 17 political violence and an advisory council on reparations for victims of that violence.

Einaudi and Hunte planned to assess the initial work of a special one-year mission now being deployed to help strengthen Haiti's democracy.

Einaudi, who last visited Haiti on March 1, signed an agreement with Haitian Foreign Minister Joseph Antonio for the mission, which includes 15 technicians to work in justice, security, human rights and governance. They are arriving over the next few weeks, mission head David Lee said.

The two-year political stalemate started after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family party swept May 2000 elections that international observers said were flawed.

Other countries blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in aid until the government and opposition agree on new elections.

The opposition has refused to resume talks until the government establishes a peaceful climate in the country, releases about 20 imprisoned opposition partisans, and brings to justice the perpetrators of December attacks on opposition offices.

On Dec. 17, gunmen attacked the National Palace in what Aristide has called an assassination attempt. The opposition alleges the attack was staged as a pretext to clamp down on dissent.

At least 10 people were killed in the attack and subsequent violence, when rampaging Aristide partisans burned opposition headquarters and private residences of its leaders. Journalists were threatened, raising doubts about Aristide's commitment to free speech.

On April 8, a three-member commission began an investigation of the violent incidents. The inquiry could last three months.

On Monday, the commission will begin the second phase of inquiry, with visits to the provinces. Einaudi and Hunte will meet with the commission before the two officials leave Haiti on Wednesday.

An advisory council considering reparations for organizations and individuals that suffered damages as a direct result of the Dec. 17 violence will begin its work Monday.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                     Posted at 12:39 a.m., Saturday, May 11, 2002

Haitian flock to churches, to pray for resolution of their country's lingering crisis

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 11 - Wearing white, tens of thousands of Haitians flocked to church Saturday, answering an appeal of religious leaders to pray for the resolution of a two-year crisis that has plunged this poor nation into deepening misery and despair.

Responding to an appeal by the Catholic Bishop's Conference and Protestant Federation, business associations, labor unions and the opposition called on members to join in prayer meetings across the nation.

In the midtown slum of Bel-Air, more than 20,000 crammed into Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic church. Although most Haitians identify themselves as Christians, many also practice Vodou, or voodoo, in tandem.

"My duty as a citizen and my faith in God have brought me here to pray for an end to our interminable misfortune," said Oscar Maxime Antoine, 30, who has been unemployed for most of his adult life.

A spokesman for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's governing Lavalas Family party, was suspicious of the organizers' intentions.

"An initiative to pray for the Haitian people should be especially dedicated to supporting the government," said Rep. Rudy Herivaux, governing party president of Haiti's lower house. "We feel it (the initiative) is biased and suspect."

In an economic slump since 1980, Haiti has become one of the poorest countries in the world. The average per capita income is about a dollar a day, and life expectancy is 54.

At the same time, political instability has scared off local and international investment.

Since May 2000, when Aristide's party won 80 percent of the seats in parliamentary elections that the opposition alleges were rigged, Haiti has been mired in crisis.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid have been frozen until the government and opposition reach an agreement on new elections.

The Organization of American States began a specialized mission in Haiti last month. One aim is to investigate a December attack on the National Palace that has kept the government and opposition from resolving the political stalemate. But another is to provide Haiti with technical assistance in security, justice, human rights, and governance.

The OAS mission team will remain in Haiti indefinitely.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                       Posted at 12:24 a.m., Saturday, May 11, 2002

Overload boat of Haitian refugees capsizes off Bahamas as U.S. Coast Guard approaches: 73 rescued, 12 dead

By Chris Saunders, Associated Press Writer

NASSAU, Bahamas, May 10 - Twelve Haitian migrants drowned Friday when their rickety and overloaded sloop capsized, apparently in a panic as a U.S. Coast Guard cutter illuminated the vessel shrouded in the darkness of a moonless night.

As the cutter approached to investigate the 35-foot (11-meter) sloop and another Haitian boat, about 100 passengers shifted to one side of the sloop, forcing it to flip.

Six victims were trapped in the hold, unable to escape. Six others were found on the surface.

Rescue crews from the Bahamas and the U.S. Coast Guard rescued 73 people but another 15 were missing and feared dead in the waters 6 miles (10 kilometers) west of Great Inagua, the southernmost and third largest island in the Bahamas chain.

The migrants had only gone about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Haiti before their boat capsized. Initially the Coast Guard put the toll at 14 dead, but later said some bodies had been counted twice.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane sent a small boat to challenge one of the Haitian vessels at around 4 a.m. (0800 GMT) "when it capsized right in front of them," said Lt. Cmdr. Ron LaBrec, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard in Miami.

According to Luis Diaz, another Coast Guard spokesman, "When the occupants of the boat saw the Coast Guard vessel, it appears that the shift in people ... caused it to capsize."

Divers from the Bahamas Defense Force found six of the 12 victims trapped in the hold of the sloop.

Preoccupied with their rescue efforts, Coast Guard crews let the other vessel go.

One interpreter who speaks Haitian Creole was on the cutter when it approached the sloop. Two more interpreters have been brought in to assist survivors aboard the cutter and a Bahamian vessel.

The nameless sloop had a sail but lacked an engine, radio and life vests, Diaz said

Craig Stubbs of the Great Inagua Police said the seas were rough, with 6-foot to 8-foot (two-meter) swells when he assisted in the rescue.

Survivors would be sent back home, Stubbs said. More than 1,500 Haitians have been repatriated from the Bahamas this year, and up to 6,000 were repatriated last year.

"We have been told the dead will arrive first by helicopter," Lovinsky Pierre Antoine, director of Haiti's National Migration Office, said from Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital.

He said survivors are given 200 to 250 Haitian gourdes (dlrs 8 to 10) to help them on their return.

Two U.S. Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters, which are based on Inagua for anti-drug operations, were joined in the rescue by a Coast Guard C-130 airplane deployed from Air Station Clearwater, Florida, an HU-25 Falcon jet from Miami, and two Bahamian vessels.

"This is an extremely dangerous voyage that has resulted in many Haitian deaths in the past," LaBrec said.

More than 200 are thought to have died off the Bahamas this year in desperate attempts to reach the U.S. coast of Florida.

Haitians often make the journey aboard overcrowded, hoping to escape poverty and political turmoil.

Haiti has been mired in crisis since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party won 80 percent of seats in 200 legislative elections that the opposition alleges were rigged.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid have been frozen until results are revised.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                        Spain donates dlrs 70,000 to OAS special democracy mission to Haiti

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 10 - Spain has donated dlrs 70,000 to an Organization of American States' special mission to strengthen democracy in Haiti, the OAS announced Friday.

Eduardo Gutierrez, who represents Spain at the Washington, D.C.-based OAS, presented the contribution to OAS Assistant Secretary-General Luigi R. Einaudi in a ceremony Thursday in Washington.

"The OAS has a key role to play in bringing about a resolution to the Haitian political crisis and in strengthening democracy over the long term in that country," Gutierrez said.

On March 1, Einaudi and Haitian Foreign Minister Joseph Antonio cosigned an agreement providing for the one-year renewable mission, which will furnish 15 delegates to work in the areas of justice, security, human rights and governance.

The mission is expected to cost nearly dlrs 3 million.

The United States has donated dlrs 500,000, Great Britain dlrs 14,600 and France dlrs 140,000. Haiti and Norway have announced their intention to contribute dlrs 25,000 and dlrs 57,000 respectively. Italy has contributed dlrs 17,000 worth of computer equipment.

Several other countries have expressed interest in contributing and the World Bank (news - web sites) and Inter-American Development Bank have also pledged donations.

The OAS-Haiti agreement followed a Jan. 16 OAS resolution affirming its support for an end to the two-year political stalemate that started after elections in May 2000 were deemed flawed by international observers.

Other countries blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in aid after the elections which remains suspended until rulers and opposition forces in Haiti agree on new elections.

At odds with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide since his governing Lavalas Family party swept the races, the opposition has refused to resume talks with the government until some 20 of its imprisoned partisans are released, the perpetrators of December attacks on its offices brought to justice, and a peaceful climate has been established.

On Dec. 17, gunmen attacked the National Palace in what Aristide has called an assassination attempt even though he was sleeping at his home in a suburb of Port-au-Prince. The opposition alleges the attack was staged as a pretext to clamp down on dissent.

At least 10 were killed in the attack and subsequent violence, when rampaging Aristide partisans burned opposition headquarters and private residences of its leaders.

April 8, a three-member OAS commission began its investigation of the violent incidents. No findings have been released.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 8:41 p.m., Wednesday, May 8, 2002  

Ashcroft orders deportation of Haitian mother convicted in child's death

By Ted Bridis, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON, May 8 - Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) said Wednesday he has ordered the deportation of a Haitian mother who pleaded guilty to fatally beating a relative's 19-month-old son while she was baby-sitting in 1995.

Melanie Beaucejour Jean, 45, of Plaisance, Haiti, was taken into custody by the Immigration and Naturalization Service this week for deportation proceedings. Ashcroft's decision reverses a 1999 ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals that let Jean remain in the United States because her removal would cause hardships for her husband and five children.

"Aliens arriving at our shores must understand that residency in the United States is a privilege, not a right," Ashcroft wrote, in an unusually blunt 16-page criticism of the decision by the immigration appeals board. "For those aliens ... who engage in violent criminal acts during their stay here, this country will not offer its embrace."

Jean pleaded guilty in 1995 to second-degree manslaughter in Monroe County, New York. Just over four months after her arrival from Haiti, she was accused in the death of a 19-month-old boy whose mother was her husband's sister-in-law. The families were sharing an apartment in Rochester.

Authorities said that, while she baby-sat the child on March 30, 1995, he fell off a couch and cried. She spanked him several times, picked him up by the armpits and shook him, then punched him on the top of his head, police said.

Jean told authorities she placed him on a bed near the living room but did not call emergency even though she noticed the boy's eyes were open and not blinking. When Jean's husband and the boy's mother returned an hour later, Jean told them the boy passed out, police said.

A coroner's report determined the toddler died from bleeding and swelling inside his skull.

Jean later told a judge she did not call for help because she thought the boy was sleeping and because she did not speak English well. The judge sentenced her to two to six years in prison.

After Jean served her prison term, she sought to change her immigration status from "refugee" to "lawful permanent resident." Although an immigration judge denied the request, the Board of Immigration Appeals sided with Jean by deciding that manslaughter did not represent a "crime of violence."

Ashcroft criticized the appeals board's decision as "grossly deficient." His order was dated May 2 but announced Wednesday.

"The opinion marginalizes the depravity of her criminal offense," Ashcroft wrote. "Little or no significance appears to have been attached to the fact that the respondent confessed to beating and shaking a 19-month-old child to death."

Ashcroft acknowledged that deporting Jean "will undoubtedly impose a strain on her family," which he said exhibited "admirable strength and resiliency" during Jean's years in prison. But immigration law cannot focus solely on family hardships, the attorney general wrote.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 4:55 p.m., Wednesday, May 8, 2002 

Gunmen fire at Haitian Senator, kill bodyguard

By Reuters

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 7 (Reuters) - Gunmen opened fire on Tuesday on a Haitian senator trying to settle a political dispute in a southern town, missing him but killing his bodyguard, the senator and other witnesses said.

Prince Pierre Sonson, a member of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's ruling Lavalas Family party, was fired upon as he got out of his car, the witnesses said.

His entourage returned fire and a bodyguard, Robert Belmur, was shot in the head. Belmur died a few hours later at a hospital, hospital officials said.

The unidentified gunmen escaped and police said no arrests had been made.

"This is very serious," Sonson said. "I think that this was an attempt to assassinate me."

Haiti has struggled to establish a competent police force, a functioning judiciary and stable democratic institutions since turning to democracy 12 years ago following decades of dictatorship and military rule.

Aristide, who became Haiti's first freely elected leader in 1991, was elected to a second term in November 2000 but has been locked in a tense political fight with opposition parties over tainted May 2000 parliamentary elections. Sonson, an influential figure in Aristide's party, had traveled to Cayes Jacmel, about 25 miles south of the capital, to negotiate an end to a local political disagreement. He declined to say who he thought was behind the attack.

He was among three senators who requested official security in February after receiving death threats in the wake of a tumultuous Senate session where they urged the government to lift the parliamentary immunity of one of their colleagues, Sen. Dany Toussaint.

Toussaint, a former security chief for Aristide, has been a central figure in the investigation of the April 2000 murder of Haiti's most prominent radio journalist, Jean Dominique.

Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited

                                                                                                                                                                                     Haitian senator critical of ruling party escapes assassination while his body guard is killed

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 7 - A legislator who has openly criticized President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's ruling party said he narrowly escaped assassination Tuesday while his body guard was shot and killed.

Sen. Pierre Sonson Prince told the independent Radio Vision 2000 the incident occurred in Cayes-Jacmel, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) southwest of the capital in the district that Prince represents. Prince, a fervent supporter of Aristide but a critic of his Lavalas Family party, said he had gone to Cayes-Jacmel in an attempt to make peace between feuding factions of the party.

He said on Monday when he arrived an unidentified gunman shot at his vehicle but no one was wounded. On Tuesday morning, however, a group of men began throwing rocks at the car and then opened fire.

Prince sought refuge in city hall where the gunmen followed. Prince then left his shelter to alert the police and while his body guard, Bob Blemire, covered him Blemire was shot in the eyes.

Prince transported Blemire to the local hospital where he died, Radio Vision 2000 reported.

Cayes-Jacmel has been racked for more than two weeks by infighting between members of the governing Lavalas party. One group is demanding the removal of Cayes-Jacmel Mayor Jean Hernes Fils, a Lavalas party member, whom they accuse of abuse of authority.

An outspoken advocate of reform within the Lavalas Family party, which he has accused of corruption, Prince spearheaded the failed attempt to lift the parliamentary immunity of pro-Aristide Sen. Dany Toussaint in January, so that Toussaint might be charged in the murder case of Haiti's most prominent journalist Jean Dominique, gunned down in April 2000.

The Senate, however, refused to lift the immunity.

"I have a lot of enemies," Prince said, in an interview with the independent Radio Metropole.

There have been no arrests in Tuesday's shooting.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 215 p.m., Tuesday, May 7, 2002

Lawyers desert courts in protest over what they see as a corrupt judicial system

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 7 - Lawyers deserted Haiti's courts Tuesday, protesting what they say is a corrupt and ineffective judicial system.

"If you are a lawyer, you are prevented from practicing your profession according to the norms," said lawyer Rigaud Duplan, president of the 500-member Port-au-Prince Bar Association.

The protest came after investigating judge Henri Kesner Noel fled Haiti. He said he feared for his life after Haitian authorities pressured him to sign an arrest warrant for former military dictator Prosper Avril, who was arrested minutes after being released from prison on April 15.

"After innumerable violations of legal procedure and due process, the Noel affair was the last straw," said lawyer Rene Julien.

Bar associations and law faculties nationwide said they would follow the movement, Julien said. There are more than 2,000 lawyers in Haiti.

Noel, an investigating judge in westcoast St. Marc, said he had been summoned to the Port-au-Prince office of National Security Under-Secretary Jean-Gerard Dubreuil on April 15 and forced to sign the warrant he had not drafted. On April 26, Noel and his family flew to Miami.

The government denied putting political pressure on judges.

"We recognize the judicial system has many problems, and we're doing what we can to solve them," said Privat Precil, director-general of the justice ministry, in an interview Tuesday.

On April 11, the Port-au-Prince Appeals Court ordered Avril's immediate release, overruling a Jan. 26 decision by an investigating judge to keep the 65-year-old ex-lieutenant general in prison, saying the arrest last year for plotting to overthrow the government was illegal.

Four days later, Avril was in prison again, charged with complicity in the 1990 murder of about a dozen peasants killed by soldiers in the westcoast settlement Piate, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of the capital. Piate is located in the St. Marc jurisdiction.

Avril seized power in September 1988.

The massacre took place March 13, 1990, three days after a popular uprising forced him to resign. Avril went into exile in the United States March 12, 1990.

Human rights activists blame the former dictator for rights violations during his rule, but have denounced the government for keeping him in prison illegally.

In January, investigating judge Claudy Gassant also fled Haiti, saying he feared for his life. He had been investigating the April 2000 assassination of Haiti's most prominent journalist Jean Dominique.

"The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, it is not independent in practice and is subject to significant influence by the executive and legislative branches. Years of extensive corruption and governmental neglect have left the judicial system poorly organized and nearly moribund," stated this year's U.S. State Department report on human rights.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                           Posted at 9:56 p.m., Monday, May 6, 2002

Powell urges Latin America to seize democracy

By Reuters

WASHINGTON, May 6 - Citing widespread discontent with governments across Latin America, Secretary of State Colin Powell on Monday urged countries from Venezuela to Colombia to implement desperately needed democratic reforms.

Addressing a Council of Americas conference at the State Department, Powell said people across the region were dissatisfied with the quality of democracy and frustrated with the results of economic reform.

"There is a disenchantment with the institutions of elected government. In too many countries, people are losing faith in their political systems and leaders. Things were supposed to be better," said Powell.

He cited a recent region-wide survey that found a decline in support for democracy in 16 of the 17 Latin American countries polled.

"What good is democracy if your life is not better?," asked Powell, adding that most people still faced basic struggles such as feeding their families and educating their children.

Too many governments had failed to undertake "second-generation reforms" such as improving tax laws, pensions and regulatory systems, that were needed to attract desperately needed investment.

"Capital, as I say all the time, is a coward. It flees from corruption and bad policies, conflict and unpredictability. It goes where it is welcomed, where investors can be confident on the return on the resources that they have put at risk."

The only answer to the problems of insufficient democracy and incomplete economic reform was more democracy and more economic reform, he advised.

Discussing the recent economic crisis in Argentina, Powell said that country needed to address underlying political and institutional flaws that encouraged excess public sector borrowing, corruption, politicized judicial systems and a lack of transparency in government activities.

In Colombia, where the United States is helping fight the war on drugs, Powell said there needed to be a more robust military and security component to U.S. policy.

"We are prepared to expand the scope, the nature of our assistance. But Colombia must also fully commit itself to the tough steps that will be needed to achieve success."

Powell advised Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who survived a coup last month, to work closely with the Organization of American States to strengthen his country's democratic institutions.

"Coups must be recognized for what they are, fading echoes of a discredited past, not the road to a democratic future. President Chavez must follow with deeds his new pledges of national reconciliation and respect for democratic principles," said Powell.

Powell, a four-star general who was head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke of his own personal disappointment over events in Haiti where there had been so little progress since a U.S.-led invasion helped oust a military junta in 1994.

Citing Cuba as another problem country, Powell said it could not forever remain the "sole holdout" from democracy and free markets.

Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 1:38 a.m., Saturday, May 4, 2002

France-based Reporters Without Borders blacklists Haitian president

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 3 - Reporters Without Borders has added Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to its blacklist of 38 press predators, charging he has blocked the murder investigation of Haiti's most prominent journalist and condoned intimidation of reporters.

Jean Dominique was an outspoken advocate for change in Haiti for 40 years and made many enemies before he and radio station guard Jean-Claude Louissaint were gunned down at his station Radio Haiti Inter on April 3, 2000.

"Every state institution has blocked the investigation into the Dominique murder. At best, Aristide is protecting the killers, at worst he is involved in the murder himself, say many observers," the Paris-based watchdog for media freedom posted on its Internet site Thursday.

The government vigorously denied the allegations.

"The president has always fought against the gagging of the press," said presidential spokesman Jacques Maurice on Thursday. He said Reporters Without Borders was "ill-intentioned and badly informed."

Although some 100 people have been questioned in the Dominique case, the political influence of some suspects has hamstrung the investigation.

In January, the Haitian Senate refused to lift parliamentary immunity of prime suspect, pro-Aristide Sen. Dany Toussaint, so that he could be indicted.

After 16 months on the case, in January investigating Judge Claudy Gassant went into self-imposed exile in the United States, fearing for his life.

On Dec. 3, a pro-Aristide grass-roots group hacked provincial journalist Brignol Lindor to death. No one has been brought to trial. On Dec. 17, a commando attacked the National Palace, in what Aristide has called an attempt to assassinate him and the opposition an event staged to clamp down on dissent.

After the attack, rampaging Aristide activists burned down opposition party headquarters and threatened at least a dozen journalists. Subsequently, 15 fled Haiti fearing for their lives. This year, some 15 incidents of government harassment of journalists have been reported.

Since Dominique's murder, "impunity has been at the root of the authorities' strategy of cowing the media," Reporters Without Borders charged, alleging Aristide has failed "to disown the actions of his supporters."

Last month, Washington-based Freedom House, an organization that monitors political rights and civil liberties worldwide, downgraded Haiti from its Partly Free to Not Free category with respect to press freedom, alongside Cuba, the only other Western Hemisphere country in the lowest category.

Among the 37 other press predators on the Reporters Without Borders blacklist are Fidel Castro of Cuba, Ali Khamenei of Iran, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, and Moammar Gaddafi of Libya.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

38 Predators of press freedom / Haiti - Annual Report 2002

                                                                                                                                                                              Journalists Memorial List

By the Associated Press

The 51 names added Friday to the Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Va. All these journalists were killed in 2001. The country in parentheses indicates the nationality of the journalist's news organization:

AFGHANISTAN — Ulf Stroemberg, TV4 (Sweden), Nov. 27. Harry Burton, Reuters (Britain), Nov. 19. Azizullah Haidari, Reuters (Britain), Nov. 19. Julio Fuentes, El Mundo (Spain), Nov. 19. Maria Grazia Cutuli, Corriere Della Sera (Italy), Nov. 19. Johanne Sutton, Radio France Internationale (France), Nov. 11. Pierre Billaud, RTL Radio (Luxembourg), Nov. 11. Volker Handloik, free lance (Germany), Nov. 11.

ALGERIA — Fadhela Nedjma, Echourouk El Youmi (Algeria), June 14. Adel Zerrouk, Al-Rai (Jordan), June 14. BANGLADESH — Nohar Ali, Anirban (Bangladesh), found April 20.

BOLIVIA — Juan Carlos Encinas, free lance (Bolivia), July 29.

BRITAIN — Martin O'Hagan, Sunday World (Britain), Sept. 28.

CHINA — Feng Zhaoxia, Gejie Daobao (China), Jan. 15. Zhao Qunli, Phoenix TV (Hong Kong), Sept. 2.

COLOMBIA — Flavio Bedoya, Voz (Colombia), April 27. Jorge Enrique Urbano Sanchez, Mar Estereo radio (Colombia), July 8. Jose Duviel Vasquez Arias, La Voz de la Selva (Colombia), July 6.

COSTA RICA — Parmenio Medina Perez, La Patada (Costa Rica), July 7.

GEORGIA — Georgy Sanaya Rustavi-2 (Georgia), July 26.

GUATEMALA — Jorge Mynor Alegria Armendariz, Radio Amatique (Guatemala), Sept. 5.

HAITI — Brignol Lindor, Radio Echo 2000 (Haiti), Dec. 3.

INDIA — Gopal Bisht, Aaj Tak television (India), Sept. 30. Ranjan Jha, Aaj Tak television (India), Sept. 30. Anju Sharma, Hindustan Times (India), Sept. 30. Sanjiv Sinha, The Indian Express (India), Sept. 30. Moolchand Yadav, free lance, in India, July 30.

KUWAIT — Hidaya Sultan Al-Salem, Al-Majales (Kuwait), found March 20.

LATVIA — Gundars Matiss, Kurzemes Vards (Latvia), attacked Nov. 15, died Nov. 28.

MALI — Massa Kane, ORTM (Mali), Sept. 8. Adama Traore, ORTM (Mali), Sept. 8.

MEXICO — Jose Luis Ortega Mata, Semanario de Ojinaga (Mexico), Feb. 19.

MONGOLIA — Tsevegmid Batzorig, Gamma (Mongolia), Jan. 14. Takahiro Kato, NHK (Japan), Jan. 14. Minoru Masaki, NHK (Japan), Jan. 14.

PARAGUAY — Salvador Medina Velazquez, Nemity radio (Paraguay), Jan. 5.

PHILIPPINES — Candelario Cayona, DXLL (Philippines), May 30. Rolando Ureta, DYKR (Philippines), Jan. 3.

RUSSIA — Eduard Markevich, Novy Reft (Russia), found Sept. 18.

SPAIN — Ruben Cortijo Marin, Euskal Irrati Telebista (Spain), May 21. Inaki Pangua Akasuso, Euskal Irrati Telebista (Spain), May 21.

THAILAND — Kaset Puengpak, Thai Rath (Thailand), May 2. Witayudh Saengsopit, free lance, April 10.

UKRAINE — Ihor Oleksandrov, Tor television (Ukraine), July 7.

UNITED STATES — William Biggart, free lance, Sept. 11. Jeff Cole, The Wall Street Journal (USA), Jan. 24. Robert Stevens, The Sun (USA), Oct. 5. Bill Teegins, Oklahoma State Radio Network (USA), Jan. 27.

UZBEKISTAN — Marc Brunereau, free lance, Sept 5.

YUGOSLAVIA — Kerem Lawton, Associated Press Television News (United States), near the Kosovo-Macedonia border, March 29. Milan Pantic, Vecernje Novosti (Yugoslavia), June 11.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         FIFA general secretary calls for criminal investigation into corruption

By Johnathan Fowler, Associated Press Writer

ZURICH, Switzerland, May 3 - FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen called Friday for a criminal investigation into possible corruption within the world soccer governing body.

The No. 2 international soccer official said it was time for FIFA to "clean its house."

Zen-Ruffinen and FIFA President Sepp Blatter spoke to reporters after a 10-hour meeting of FIFA's ruling Executive Committee at the organization's Zurich headquarters. The meeting pitted Blatter against opponents like UEFA President Lennart Johansson, who quit the session before the end.

FIFA Vice-President Chung Mong-joon, the head of South Korean soccer, also left the committee session. He later released a statement saying FIFA was facing "the most serious integrity problem" of its existence and accusing Blatter of trying to usurp the authority of the committee.

Much of the meeting centered on a report by Zen-Ruffinen, who runs FIFA's day-to-day operations. He was a close ally of Blatter for years but has split with the president.

Zen-Ruffinen said that in his 25-page report he had detailed "actions that could be part of a criminal investigation and which show there could be corruption in the organization." "It was time to put on the table some facts which everybody knew," he added, because "these elements had been distributed by the press."

In recent media interviews, Zen-Ruffinen made a series of allegations about mismanagement and impropriety, including voter fraud and theft of documents.

He said Friday his executive committee report had highlighted "misleading accounting practices" within FIFA, "conflicts of interest" and claims that a family member of a top Caribbean soccer official had impersonated Haiti's delegate at the 1998 FIFA congress which elected Blatter.

But Blatter, who appeared tense sitting next to his fellow-Swiss former protege, said talk of criminal activities was "hazardous."

"I felt like I was in the wrong movie," he said. "I couldn't answer all questions directly. I will do so next week."

Zen-Ruffinen also has claimed Blatter supporters tried to stop him testifying to an internal inquiry into FIFA's finances.

The audit was forced by Blatter's opponents on the executive committee, but Blatter then suspended the investigation citing breaches of confidentiality.

The executive committee decided Friday that the inquiry should continue after this summer's World Cup finals.

Zen-Ruffinen told newspapers the inquiry would have uncovered facts that would have damaged Blatter's re-election campaign.

But Blatter claims the attacks against him are part of a bitter campaign for the FIFA presidency, ahead of the May 29 election which will pit Blatter against a single challenger, African soccer head Issa Hayatou.

"It's election time, and in election time people try to find things that can touch other people," he said. "But taking the FIFA president apart is not easy to do."

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 6:08 p.m., Thursday, May 2, 2002

Gunmen attack Haitian border police station, kill pro-government politician, torch city hall

By the Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 2 - Heavily armed gunmen attacked a police station on Haiti's border with Dominican Republic, shooting and killing a pro-government politician and then torching the city hall, police said Thursday.

At about 12:45 a.m. on Wednesday, eight gunmen attacked the police station in Belladere, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northeast of Port-au-Prince, police spokesman Jean-Dady Simeon said.

The three police officers on duty fled, he said.

Jean Bouchette, a coordinator of the governing Lavalas Family party, was shot and killed. He had sought a bed at the station for the night.

The gunmen stole two rifles and a shotgun and then set fire to the city hall, which was seriously damaged, Simeon said.

He was unable to say whether it was related to July 28 attacks on several police stations, including Belladere, where gunmen released the prisoners in the lockup and shot and wounded a bystander.

"At the moment we don't understand the motivation for this tragic incident," said Simeon, who said an investigation had been opened.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 3:01 p.m., Thursday, May 2, 2002

Dominican Republic slashes more than half of the visas allowed to Haitians

By Andres Cala, Associated Press Writer

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Wed. May 1 - The government slashed more than half the number of entry visas offered to Haitians in order to protect Dominican workers, the foreign affairs minister said Wednesday.

Dominican Foreign Affairs Minister Hugo Tolentino Dipp said he ordered the five Dominican consuls in neighboring Haiti to process just 3,000 visas monthly, instead of 7,000.

The two countries share the Caribbean island Hispaniola.

"After doing an investigation, we consider that 3,000 visas are enough, especially because we have realized that most of the Haitians entering with a (tourist) visa come to work," Tolentino Dipp said.

Haitian ambassador Guy Alexandre said, however, the measure would not work to keep out Haitians because most illegal migrants sneak across the border without passports.

He said he suspected Dominican officials made the move to try to limit corruption.

"The decision is an attempt to put a stop to the corrupt practice of Dominican officials selling visas to Haitians in Dominican consulates," he said Wednesday from the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo.

However, the pressure of legitimate middle class Haitian tourists will make it difficult to maintain the 3,000 limit, Alexandre said.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Most of Haiti's 8.2 million people live in absolute poverty, and more than half of the work force is jobless or underemployed. The minimum daily wage in Haiti is about dlrs 1.35.

In the Dominican Republic, the minimum daily wage is about three times higher.

The Foreign Ministry has said it does not know how many Haitians are living in the country, but nongovernment organizations and church officials estimate there are at least 600,000 Haitians and Dominican-Haitians in the Spanish-speaking country of 9 million. Most are here illegally.

The Dominican Republic deports about 2,000 people of Haitian descent every month, according to Columbia University's Human Rights Clinic in New York.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has said the Dominican government's deportation of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent is racially discriminatory.

According to the new visa distribution, Dominican consul in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince will be allowed to grant 1,700 visas, and in other major cities Cap-Haitien 500, Juana Mendez 350, Belladere 225, and Anse-a-Pitre 225. 0 Tue Apr 09 Mon Apr 08 Sun Apr 07 Sat Apr 06 Fri Apr 05 Thu Apr 04 Wed Apr 03 Tue Apr 02 Mon Apr 01

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 2:45 p.m., Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Drunken driving no longer deportable offense

Ruling on Fall River man's case sets U.S. precedent

By Joao Ferreira, Standard-Times Staff Writer

New Bedford, MA, Apr. 29 - Getting caught driving drunk could land a person in jail. For legal immigrants, it also meant possible expulsion from the United States.

Not anymore.

Earlier this month, the Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that drunken driving is not a crime of violence, which qualified it as a deportable offense under current laws.  

The precedent-setting decision came down on April 4, regarding the case of Luis M. Ramos, an Azorean immigrant living in Fall River who was being deported for drunken driving.

The decision could potentially affect thousands of immigrants nationwide.

"I don't think there's any arguing that drunken driving is a serious crime. But it's not a crime of violence," said immigration attorney Frederick Q. Watt, the New Bedford attorney who represented Mr. Ramos.

"This is nationally binding," he said. "It's a fairly significant decision. It was the full 19 judges who participated on it. It was a full board decision. There certainly have been hundreds and hundreds of cases, maybe thousands, who have been deported for drunken driving."  

Under current immigration laws, every individual convicted of a crime of violence or moral turpitude to a term of one year or more of jail is automatically deportable.

Many immigrants have been deported for driving while under the influence of alcohol after a second offense, which could lead to sentences of more than one year. Now that drunken driving is not considered a crime of violence by  the Immigration and Naturalization Service, it no longer can lead to deportation, per se, Mr. Watt said.

Since tougher deportation laws were enacted in 1996, more than 400 Portuguese immigrants from SouthCoast have been deported.

The Board of Immigration Appeals, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice, is independent of the INS.

Although it is not clear how many of those were deported for alcohol-related crimes, the Immigrants' Assistance Center in New Bedford said it is the second most common cause of deportation among Portuguese immigrants, behind drug offenses, according to its own compilation of cases.

Mr. Ramos, 50, has been arrested three times for drunken driving and few related domestic incidents since arriving in the United States in 1968.

In 2000, the INS moved to deport Mr. Ramos to the Azores, at which time Mr. Watt entered an appeal on his behalf with the Board of Immigration Appeals.

After two years in jail, Mr. Ramos is now back to his family and work. He is also sober, Mr. Watt said, and attends regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

"He was a big drinker, no question about that, but they're not crimes of violence," Mr. Watt said. "He certainly has paid his price."  

That was the argument that Mr. Watt, who also has led other landmark deportation rulings, brought before the Board of Immigration Appeals.

The board on previous rulings had overturned two similar appeals involving Mexican immigrants in Texas in 1999 and 2000.

After those, two circuit courts have overturned the Board of Immigration Appeals rulings.  

Mr. Watt said he thinks the circuit decisions might have led the Board of Immigration appeals to reverse its previous rulings.   

"Frankly, I'm surprised they reversed themselves," Mr. Watt said. "I think what it really comes down to is the question of violence. Drunken driving can result in serious injury; so can speeding, so can jaywalking. It's more of a reckless thing."

Mr.Watt and others said the ruling could affect many SouthCoast immigrants facing deportation for drinking driving.

"I've known several cases that it has has happened," said Helena S. Marques, Immigrants' Assistance Center executive director." ... Immigration has looked at it and realized it didn't make sense."  

"A lot of folks have past convictions for operating under the influence," Mr. Watt said. "Although the district Attorney {Paul E. Walsh jr.) has been very helpful in working with these cases, drunken driving is enough for them to work with politically.

"I know I have at least two or three clients who are helped by it immediately. It's a good thing," he said.

However, unlike 1996 deportation laws, the ruling is not retroactive.  

"What do you do about the folks that are already gone? Mr. Watt asked. "I don't think it helps."  

Staff Writer Joao Ferreira can be reached at (508) 979-4482, or by e-mail at jferreira@s-t.com 

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