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Anti-tyrant, brutal dictator and drug dealer Aristide's protests (more than 200 photos): *Petit Goave *Cap- Haitien *Port-au-Prince / *Senior chief bandit Aristide, Aristide's junior chief bandits *Nov 26, 2002

Special Report: *Haiti Paralyzed *Editorial

* The Haitian tragedy, in Florida, on this day of October 29, 2002 - More than 50 photos   

* Waiting in totalitarian dictator Aristide's hell, more Haitians are likely to risk their lives in perilous waters to come to paradise

Posted at 4:39 p.m., Wednesday, November 2002

Haiti clashes escalate; Petit-Goave demonstrators called for Aristide's removal   

By The BBC, Wednesday, 27 November, 2002

There have been renewed clashes between anti-government protesters and supporters of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

In the city of Petit-Goave, about 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of the capital Port-au-Prince, more than 1,000 people demonstrated against Mr Aristide - his supporters pelted them with rocks.

In Gonaives, some 130 km north of the capital, anti-government protesters clashed with 200 heavily-armed members of a street gang known as the Cannibal Army which is said to be loyal to the president.

Aristide is accused of allowing a "climate of terror" to develop

At least nine people have been injured this week, including a high school student who is in critical condition after being shot twice in the head.

Over the last two weeks, there have been a number of opposition protests and violent counter-demonstrations by armed supporters of the president which have paralysed city streets and businesses.

"The situation is very delicate and we fear civil war," Prime Minister Yvon Neptune said on Monday.

Opposition groups are calling for the removal of Mr Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest now in his second term as president. Haiti Aristide re-elected in 2000 in a poll boycotted by the opposition First elected president in 1990 - ousted by a coup seven months later Returned to power in 1994 with US backing

Business leaders accused the authorities earlier this week of allowing what they called a "climate of terror" to dominate the country.

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the region and correspondents say the worsening economic situation has contributed to discontentment with Mr Aristide.

The government has accused the private sector of pushing for "foreign intervention".

Officials blame much of the nation's insecurity on a lack of support from international financial institutions.

The international community suspended millions of dollars in aid to Haiti after the disputed May 2000 elections, which gave Mr Aristide's governing Lavalas Family party most of the parliamentary seats.

                                                                                                                                                     Haiti unrest could rattle Washington

By Frances Kerry, Reuters Writer

MIAMI, Nov. 27 (Reuters) - A wave of unrest in Haiti has exposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's shaky rule and if the situation unravels further could pose an unwelcome problem for President Bush.

At a time when Washington's focus abroad is on its continuing drive against terrorism and possible war in Iraq, the prospect of turmoil in the Caribbean and a flow of boat people would be awkward for the United States, analysts said .

Over the past week, dissatisfaction with Aristide and with a worsening economy has flared, with thousands of people calling for the president's ouster in rallies in several cities across the impoverished Caribbean nation. Counter-protesters have turned out, and violence has erupted sporadically.

"The big question is whether Aristide is going to understand that he has no future," said Timothy Carney, a former U.S. ambassador to Haiti. "Without massive reform, Haiti is once again headed for kind of chaos that has intermittently dogged its history."

Henry Carey, a political science professor at Georgia State University, said he did not think Aristide's rule was threatened for the moment, but added the government had again shown it had to use force to quell unrest.

Eight years after sending in troops to invade Haiti and restore Aristide to power, U.S. policy on Haiti revolved largely on avoiding avoid a mass influx of refugees, Carey said. Washington can ensure this as long as the Coast Guard continues to intercept and repatriate boat people trying to get to Florida, he said.

"The Bush administration is not going to get involved (in an intervention) in Haiti," Carey added.

However, some analysts say the United States would be rattled by a possible boat people exodus. The Coast Guard, which intercepted some 25,000 Haitians at sea during an exodus in 1994, has a new focus on security after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

The U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba -- used in the past as a staging post for Haitian boat people -- currently serves as a prison for Taliban and al Qaeda suspects from the Afghan war.


After years of bloody dictatorships, Haiti's fragile democracy was barely taking root when Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest who had been elected on a wave of grass-roots support, was ousted in a military coup just seven months into his first term in 1991.

President Bill Clinton sent in 20,000 U.S. troops in 1994 to reinstate Aristide. But Washington's relations with Aristide have soured as critics contend he has used a heavy hand with political opponents and the country has failed to hold credible elections.

Some argue the U.S. invasion should have been followed up with more "nation building" -- both to work on reforming the economy and solidifying Haiti's democracy.

"We shouldn't have just upped and left," said James Morrell, an advisor to Aristide while in exile and now head of a policy group called the Haiti Democracy Project.

"We should have stayed to ensure good institutions were established." Morrell said the current situation in Haiti "has the look of the beginning of the unraveling, but that's as far as you could go. I don't see any evidence Aristide is going to leave or be pushed out."

Aristide stepped aside as constitutionally mandated in 1996, his place taken by protege Rene Preval. He was re-elected in 2000 for a second term that has been marked by a bitter feud with the main political opposition over the results of parliamentary elections in 2000 and increasing disillusion among many of the country's 8 million inhabitants as living conditions worsen in the poorest country in the Americas.

Foreign donor countries have withheld aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars because of the stalemate over the elections. Aristide's government has blamed this for many of the country's current woes.

Washington has been strongly critical of Aristide.

"On virtually all fronts, from the timely accounting of its actions taken with respect to the political violence of last December, to ending impunity, to disarmament, to reparations, to counternarcotics, to election security, the government has simply not moved with enough purpose or effectiveness," said then-assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere Otto Reich in October.

For Lawrence Pezzullo, a retired ambassador who was special envoy to Haiti under Clinton and is a stern critic of Aristide, the 1994 invasion showed military action was not a ticket to democracy. He said the experience could be a lesson for Washington if it is to seek to replace Iraq's President Saddam Hussein.

"I don't think using troops creates democracy," Pezzullo said. "Before you go talking about knocking over somebody, you had better think where you're going to go with it."

Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited.

                                                                                                                                                      U.S. Coast Guard repatriate more than 30 Haitians after they were found in dangerous waters Monday

By The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - More than 30 Haitian migrants were repatriated to their impoverished homeland Wednesday after a U.S. Coast Guard cutter rescued them from a rickety boat, the U.S. Embassy said.

The 23 men and nine women were intercepted Monday about 13 miles (21 kilometers) off Great Inagua in the Bahamas. The migrants said they left the northcoast town of St. Louis du Nord on Sunday aboard a 38-foot (11-meter) wooden boat. When the cutter intercepted them, their vessel was taking on water.

Some 157 Haitian migrants have died due to hazardous vessel conditions this year, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.

The U.S. government changed its detention policy on Haitian refugees last December to discourage a feared mass exodus. Before the policy change, Haitian migrants applying for asylum were released into the community while their petitions were processed.

Haitians arriving since December, however, are kept in immigration custody until they receive asylum or, more likely, are deported.

In spite of fears, there has been no significant increase in the overall numbers of Haitian migrants.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported picking up 1,486 Haitians at sea between October 2001 and September 2002, compared with 1,391 in the previous year.

Thousands of Haitians each year risk dangerous voyages aboard rickety, crowded boats in search of economic opportunities.

Some end up in the Turks and Caicos Islands, others in the Bahamas, and some make it to Florida. Many are repatriated to Haiti, the hemisphere's poorest country, where two-thirds of the 8.2 million population is unemployed and most people survive on about $1 a day.

Three out of five Haitians suffer from malnutrition, and a Haitian's chances at birth of not living to 40 are nearly 32 percent, the United Nations reported.

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.

                                                                                                                                                  Haitians want Haitian refugees to be treated like Cuban refugees


Miami, Nov. 27 - Protesters gathered at Bayfront Park Tuesday night as a way of keeping fresh in the public's mind the desperate journey to freedom made by a group of Haitian refugees last month.

They called for the more than 200 Haitain refugees to be treated like Cuban refugees who are allowed to stay in the states if they make it to dry land.

Due to more civil problems in Haiti, the protesters fear more migrants are on the way.

"There's no question that unless the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank and the U.S. seriously engage in giving funds directly to the Haitian government, so they can begin projects to assist people in the country and that money flows into that country, you're going to have a massive amount of refugees coming into South Florida," said immigration attorney Ira Kurzban (pictured).

As for those Haitians who came ashore at Key Biscayne last month, they'll remain in detention until their asylum hearings.

Copyright © 2002 WPLG

                                                                                                                                              Freedom, Hopeless, in Haiti: Christians under the gun

By Paul Strand, CBN News Correspondent

In 1994, President Clinton and the United Nations decided to send some 20,000 troops and sink $3 billion of aid into Haiti in an attempt to save the sinking state. Eight years later, the question is, did it do anything at all? – PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Nov 27 - President Clinton and much of the rest of the world intervened eight years ago in Haiti to end its violent political turmoil and spiral into abject poverty. But the violence is a back in a big way, and some of it is aimed at Haiti's Christians.

Despite its staggering 80 percent unemployment rate and the threat of widespread hunger and disease that hangs over the land, Haiti can seem upbeat.

CBN News was there on a national holiday and people were dancing in the streets. But one pastor, who worried about revealing his identity, told us, "On the surface everything seems to be going fine, but underneath there is a lot of pressure coming from the government for people who stand for the right."

Some say leader Jean Bertrand Aristide is a dictator who ignores Haiti's needs and has people murdered if they speak against him. They accuse Aristide of, like many past Haitian leaders, using civilian thugs and mobs to frighten the population.

"To hold the streets you've got to govern using mobs, which he does very well," said Stephen Johnson of the Heritage Foundation.

Still, some brave Haitians have formed opposition groups around men like

Pastor Luc Mesadieu, head of the Mochrena Party. "This is the only political party in the country that promotes Christ as the only solution," Mesadieu said. Pastors like Mesadieu have paid a stiff price for preaching against Aristide.

Some wanted to keep their identities hidden when they talked to us. Mesadieu didn't mind going on-camera. He says thugs burned his house and four cars sitting in his courtyard this past December. They also chased him into hiding, but worst of all, "They killed my bodyguard. They burned him with gasoline," he said.

One pastor, who we will call Jean-Marc for the sake of his anonymity, said, "Many times after I preach, they come in the front and tell me they're going to come and burn the church and burn my house."

Mesadieu produced photos showing the house, church and school run by the vice president of Mochrena all burned. "And they took all that he had, and everyone that was on his campus - everything was burned out," he said.

So is this a question of religious persecution or merely the way it is sometimes in the dog-eat-dog, vicious world of Haitian politics?

Melinda Miles of the left-leaning Haiti Reborn Project says people should not blame Aristide for the violence infecting Haiti. "Following the transition to democracy, there is often an increase in public insecurity and anarchy. And I think that's what the situation is in Haiti today," Miles said.

And some blast Aristide's opponents, saying they are not innocent victims, but members of the groups that backed the bloody coup that overthrew Aristide back in 1991.

"Most of the people in that were people who supported the military regime. This was a regime that killed at least 3,000 Haitians. That was unspeakably brutal," said Larry Birns of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

Miles said, "[They are] people who are somewhat bourgeois and elite and have the time to be intellectuals and philosophize about politics. It also includes some of the people who funded the coup d'état that happened in 1991, and who funded the military junta throughout that period when the Haitian people were being starved and killed."

But some of these persecuted preachers are obviously not rich politicians. They have churches right inside the worst slums like Citie Soleil, a vast ghetto filled with Aristide's radicals.

Jean-Marc told us what these radicals have done to another Citie Soleil pastor. "They have closed his church down, burned his house, burned his funeral home which he has to make a living for his family," he said.

This same pastor took us to a grisly location - a bridge surrounded by acres of garbage where he says people like the Christians who oppose Aristide are shot and then often left to rot.

"The corpse stays on the ground for one or two days," the pastor said. "So when they call the mayor and sanitary people to come and take off the dead bodies, they don't. So, when the odors begin to come up, then the dogs and the pigs come and make the funeral."

One church has seen violence just down the street. "About two or three blocks from here, there was a man that they killed, and he was the son of our colleague and his dead body laid down for three days," he said.

Mesadieu described another bloody attack. "On October 26, Pastor Ilton Antonov was leading a prayer service. A mob from Aristide's party broke in and opened fire. The pastor took seven bullets to the abdomen and 23 others were wounded," he said.

But are these pastors and congregations attacked because of their politics or their religion?

"Once you are a pastor, the government would like for you to just preach part of the gospel. But according to what I see in the Bible, I know Jesus is not only concerned about the soulish part of man, but the gospel is concerned for the entire man," Jean-Marc said.

"We are here to point out the wrongs and to preach the gospel," he continued. "When you begin to denounce the government's misdoing or mischief and injustice and abuse, they begin pointing out that you're a politician, and then you begin to suffer pressure."

"Sometime, after preaching, people are calling me on the phone and telling me to beware for myself. Watch out if you continue saying those things, you know what will happen to you," Jean-Marc explained.

Mesadieu says he is attacked because his party is so popular, Aristide realizes it may well replace him. "He wants to, by any means, eliminate me, put an end to my life, because I represent the most prominent political party in this country," Mesadieu said.

Miles disagrees. She says the entire Democratic Convergence, the opposition coalition of which Mochrena is a part, enjoys little support.

"I have yet to meet a strong grassroots cooperative or group of peasants or women in the countryside who support the Convergence," she said.

Brian Concannon is an American lawyer working in Haiti at the Bureau of International Advocates. He says he still finds tremendous support for Aristide in the streets.

"They always say, 'He's never betrayed the people.' And that is the basic foundation of his support is that people trust him. People think that he will take the side of the majority of Haitians who are poor," Concannon said.

But Mesadieu believes Aristide's violence has lost him the right to rule. "He is illegitimate. He is not a real leader for the Haitian people. All over the country people are being killed, persecuted, kidnapped...all led by Aristide and his mob."

The rest of the world is watching and judging these developments in Haiti. The U.S., other nations and international organizations have been holding up some $500 million in aid because of Haiti's violent and corrupt politics.

Those countries and groups will meet next month to decide whether Haiti can be trusted enough to let that aid flow again.

The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc. © 2002Wednesday, November 27, 2002

                                                                                                                                                                                     Posted at 12:36 a.m, Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Steady protests stir trouble in Haiti; high school student shot and in critical condition

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 26 - More than 1,000 Haitians demonstrated against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Tuesday and clashed with gun-wielding Aristide supporters who pelted the protesters with rocks (photos).

At least one anti-government protester was shot during the demonstration in Petit-Goave, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of Port-au-Prince, where days earlier pro-government supporters paralyzed city streets and businesses by blocking roads with flaming barricades.

Tension has been building in Haiti where thousands have taken to the streets to protest Aristide's government, which they blame for deepening despair in the impoverished nation. Emotions flared Tuesday when a high school student, shot Monday during an anti-Aristide demonstration, was fighting to stay alive and in critical condition at a hospital.

"In what kind of country are we living in if children can be shot at as though it means nothing," said a declaration signed by Haiti's foremost novelist Gary Victor and 14 other writers.

In 1985, Haitian soldiers shot and killed three high school students during an anti-government demonstration. Protests over the killings sparked a popular uprising that helped oust dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.

"A majority of Haitians have come to realize that Aristide must go. If he's hanging on, it's because of the gangsters that support him," said Petit-Goave student leader Roland Laguerre.

Aristide's government has blamed much of the nation's insecurity on a lack of international support. Since flawed elections in May 2000 gave Aristide's governing Lavalas Family party most of the parliamentary seats, the international community has suspended millions of dollars of aid.

Premiere Yvon Neptune blamed government foes for inciting a civil war to furnish "the pretext of a foreign occupation."

Aristide won the presidency in 1990 but was overthrown in a coup after less than a year in office. He lived in exile until the United States helped restore him to power in 1994, completing the remainder of his term, then ceding power to Rene Preval. Aristide returned to power in 2000.

Opposition politicians blamed the recent violence on the government and said reform was needed urgently.

"From one violent act to another, Aristide is going from the frying pan into the fire," said Petit-Goave politician Deus Jean-Francois.

During demonstrations on Monday in Port-au-Prince, and the western towns of Gonaives and Petit-Goave, at least nine people were injured. Five of the injured were anti-government protesters, while the other four were Aristide partisans, authorities said.

In Gonaives, high school student Ronald Jesse was shot twice in the head during a demonstration when 200 heavily armed Aristide partisans led by activist and escaped inmate Amiot Metayer disrupted the protest.

Metayer, who was charged with arson, escaped from the Gonaives prison in August with more than 150 inmates when Aristide partisans bulldozed a hole in the prison's wall. Neptune said Metayer hasn't been arrested because an arrest may spark further unrest.

In an apparent reprisal for Jesse's shooting and the others wounded in the demonstrations, two men on a motorcycle shot and wounded two people in Metayer's shantytown on Tuesday afternoon, witnesses said.

Other demonstrations are planned for this week. (mn-pd)

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                  Rallies prove dangerous as 6 protesters shot in Haiti street rallies prove dangerous for supporters, foes of Aristide  

By Jane Regan Special to The Herald

PROTESTS: Thousands of students continue their protest against Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Petit Goave, Haiti, on Monday. More than a thousand anti-government protesters poured into provincial streets, clamoring for the resignation of Aristide. DANIEL MOREL/AP

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov. 26 -- Six people, including one high-school student, were shot during street demonstrations as political turmoil continued to rock Haiti on Monday.

Both supporters and foes of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide grew more strident as calls for the president's ouster grew.

In the northern port town of Gonaives, a pro-Aristide gang called the Cannibal Army broke up an anti-government march with gun shots, and vandals torched a radio station.

In Petit-Goave, southwest of the capital, students burned government fliers. In Port-au-Prince, pro-Aristide march leaders released doves for peace even as they shouted violent threats.

''If there is a coup d'etat, we are going to imitate our ancestors! Imitate our ancestors!'' said Alfred Micanord, a former actor and Aristide supporter, whipping up a crowd in front of the National Palace.

He referred to the famous statement by Haitian independence hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who told slaves to behead French colonists and burn their homes. ''

A civil war here is almost unavoidable,'' Belfont Aristide, a former radio correspondent, told Radio Metropole.

Protests have erupted around the country for nearly two weeks, climaxing Friday when Aristide supporters, in a show of force, paralyzed the capital with burning barricades.

Aristide's government is under increasing pressure, and its grasp on the streets is dwindling.

Anti-government crowds have grown as the national currency tumbles in value and the government is slow to make reforms.

The country has been entrenched in a political stalemate since Aristide's Lavalas Party swept the 2000 parliament elections, which observers said were fraudulent.

Aristide has agreed to new elections but hasn't set a date because of political squabbling.

The president remained silent Monday, but the Organization of American States, which for two years has tried to broker peace among political parties, condemned the government for not stopping protesters who essentially shut down Port-au-Prince last week.

The government should organize elections, the OAS said in a statement, yet observers and leaders doubted that would happen anytime soon.

''Elections are not possible,'' said Pierre Robert Auguste, a business leader from the Artibonite region, which includes the city of Gonaives.

His business group was one of several that condemned the government for inaction.

In Gonaives, police broke up an anti-government student march with tear gas.

Then, the Cannibal Army moved in, witnesses said, injuring at least three. Among the injured was the high-school student.

''The Cannibal Army has guns. They don't tolerate any demonstrations against the government,'' said Father Marc Eddy Dessalines, who heads the Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission in Artibonite.

Police didn't intervene when the Cannibal Army attacked, Dessalines said.

''We never see the police when these people are in the streets,'' Dessalines said.

The gang is headed by fugitive Amiot Metayer, who escaped from prison in August after supporters ran a bulldozer through a jail wall.

Despite pleas from the international community and human-rights activists, Metayer remains free.

Last week, the gang leader even thanked Aristide's Lavalas Party for his freedom, while talking to reporters just outside the Gonaives police station.

Nearly 2,000 Aristide supporters also wound through the streets of Port-au-Prince, wearing T-shirts and holding signs with the president's photo.

State telephone company trucks delivered marchers to the demonstration. State employees and parliament members joined in.

''Aristide for life!'' the marchers yelled.

Government spokesman Mario Dupuy said three Aristide supporters were shot during that protest.

                                                                                                                                                                                         Bush plans new agency to dole out billions in aid  

By Adam Entous, Reuters Writer

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26 (Reuters) - President Bush plans to create a new government agency to dole out billions of dollars in foreign aid, forcing the world's poorest countries to compete against one another if they want a share, administration officials said on Monday.

Strict conditions would be set for countries to qualify under the so-called Millennium Challenge Account program aimed at rewarding cash-strapped governments that embrace civil rights, root out corruption, open up their markets and adopt other policies favored by Washington.

Taking on critics who say the United States does not provide its fair share of foreign aid, Bush has promised $5 billion a year for the new program starting in fiscal 2006. Money would begin to flow in the fiscal 2004 budget, which will be unveiled in February, but officials said the dollar amounts for 2004 and 2005 have yet to be set.

The money would be in addition to the roughly $10 billion the United States distributes each year for foreign development assistance or $17 billion counting security funds.

"The evidence shows that when official development assistance is put into a policy environment that is a bad one, it's not just ineffective, it's downright harmful. It perpetuates bad policies, it perpetuates misery and it crowds out private capital," a senior administration official said.

In contrast, the official said, when foreign aid is directed to countries with sound policies, private capital increases, helping to boost economic growth and fight poverty.

At a U.N. development conference in March, Bush touted the program as part of the U.S.-led war against terrorism, and put his advisers to work hammering out the details. Under Bush's plan, the Millennium Challenge Account would be rolled out in phases over the next three years.

In fiscal 2004, the world's poorest countries, including Haiti, Nepal and Ghana, could compete for assistance.

The number of eligible countries would expand in the second and third years as program resources grow to a total of $5 billion annually.

Once fully phased in, the Philippines, Jordan, Thailand, Peru and more than 100 other countries could compete for foreign aid, but administration officials expect just 10 to 20 to receive assistance each year under the program.


To win a share of the resources, countries would be ranked based on 16 separate "performance indicators," from civil rights to spending on public health and education.

A country's' "economic freedom" would be judged on its credit rating, inflation, budget deficits, openness to trade and quality of regulatory policies.

Bush drew the line at corruption. "Corruption is pass-fail. If you can't pass corruption you're presumed ineligible," an official said.

Those countries which perform better than the average on most indicators could qualify for a share of the resources, pending a review by a cabinet-level panel which will make final recommendations to the president.

To administer the program, Bush will ask Congress to create the so-called Millennium Challenge Corporation. The independent agency would be supervised by a board of directors composed of cabinet-level officials and chaired by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Officials said the new agency would directly employ around 100 people and draw heavily on the expertise -- and staff -- of the U.S. Agency for International Development and other federal departments.

The new aid could flow to the countries themselves, as well as nongovernmental organizations and the private-sector.

As initially proposed earlier this year, $1.67 billion would start flowing in the fiscal 2004 budget climbing to around $3.33 billion the following year. At the end of the three-year start-up period, an extra $5 billion a year would automatically be included in the budget.

But administration officials said the fiscal 2004 commitment would probably be smaller than the $1.67 billion initially promised since it remains to be seen how many countries will qualify.

Mary McClymont, president of InterAction, welcomed the plan but expressed concern about the administration's commitment to provide full funding. "It could be a very important tool to help improve overall aid effectiveness and fight poverty," she said. "But of course what we will be watching is to make sure the funds in fact materialize."

Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited

                                                                                                                                                                                       Posted at 4: 38 p.m., Monday, November 25, 2002

Extremely unpleasant words for Bush and the U.S. government, but praise for
Osama bin Laden, from Haiti's totalitarian dictator Aristide, after bandits surround
U.S. Consulate building with used tires in hands, apparently ready to set it on fire
By Michael Deibert, Reuters Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Thousands of people poured out of the slums and marched through the Haitian capital to support President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Monday in a bid to counter signs of growing discontent with his government.

Accompanied by a traditional voodoo band, hundreds of marchers waved Haitian flags and carried pictures of Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest serving his second term as president of the impoverished Caribbean nation.

"Aristide represents the power of the Haitian people," said Rene Civil of the government-affiliated Youth Popular Power organization, one the march's organizers. "You can see, as the young people of Haiti march for him, he will finish his five years."

Aristide, who rallied poor Haitians in the 1980s to overthrow the 30-year dictatorship of the Duvalier family, began his second term as president last year. But a dispute with the opposition Democratic Convergence over contested May 2000 legislative elections has snarled the political process and stalled over $500 million in international aid to Haiti's 8 million people.

Opposition groups and students have held several large rallies in recent weeks to protest Haiti's faltering economy and alleged government interference in the school system.

On Friday, Aristide supporters paralyzed the capital with burning tires and bursts of automatic weapons fire and called for the arrest of several high-profile government activists, including Rene Civil.

Aristide supporters briefly surrounded on Monday the U.S. Consulate in downtown Port-au-Prince, where some marchers chanted Slogans sympathetic to Islamic militant Osama Bin Laden. Some Haitians blame the United States for the interruption of international aid to Haiti.

At one point Monday, the sound of shots fired in the air by one marcher sent the crowd running for cover, though no injuries were reported. By afternoon black smoke billowed from tires that Aristide supporters had set on fire in some quarters of the city but by most accounts the march remained relatively peaceful.

Government supporters gathered in front of the National Palace to listen as speakers lambasted the U.S. government and Aristide's domestic opposition.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Pressure mounts in Haiti as thousands demonstrate against totalitarian dictator Aristide and deepening poverty; six fatally shot  

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 25 - More than a thousand anti-government protesters poured into provincial streets on Monday, clamoring for the resignation of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Six demonstrators — three anti-government and three pro-Aristide supporters — were shot Monday during protests in west-coast Gonaives and in the capital, where thousands more marched in a pro-government rally.

In Petit-Goave, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of Port-au-Prince, students shook anti-Aristide placards and clashed with Aristide supporters who tried to disrupt the protest by throwing rocks.

"We're demonstrating against our unendurable living conditions. Aristide should go, to give Haitian youth a chance to have a future in their country," student leader Roland Laguerre said.

Aristide is coming under increasing pressure to speed government reforms and alleviate worsening poverty in the western hemisphere's poorest country, where most people survive on less than a $1 per day.

The government and opposition have been in a stalemate since Aristide's Lavalas Family party swept flawed May 2000 elections. The disputed elections triggered the suspension of millions of dollars in foreign aid and raised questions of the government's legitimacy.

In Gonaives, demonstrators called for Aristide to step down. Three people, including one high-school student, were shot and injured, officials said. No other details were immediately available.

In the capital, more than 2,000 Aristide supporters marched through the streets. Some demonstrated outside the National Palace and, on the way, stoned an African studies center where anti-government students were meeting. Three pro-Aristide demonstrators were shot outside the center and were in critical condition, government spokesman Mario Dupuy said.

"All sectors of the nation have the constitutional right (to demonstrate), provided it is without violence," Dupuy said. "We condemn violence from wherever it comes."

Fresh elections are slated for next year, but groups worry whether Haiti's current conditions will allow for a safe balloting.

As Aristide supporters demonstrated in the capital, Rene Civil, a founding member of Aristide's governing party, released doves as a sign of peace and said a coup would not be tolerated. Aristide was ousted in a coup in 1991 and years later restored to power.

Haiti's major business associations have accused police and government officials of tolerating a climate of terror.

In Petit-Goave Sunday night, pro-Aristide activists stoned the house of student leader Sandra Jules and shot her dog, officials said. On Monday, flaming barricades blocked the national highway.

On Friday, the capital of Port-au-Prince was totally shut down when, unimpeded by police, activists set up barricades to protest the growing number of anti-government demonstrations.

Presidential spokesman Jacques Maurice said on radio Friday that Aristide street activists have "the right to support" the president, just as supporters of the opposition have a right to demonstrate their opposition. "That is democracy," he said. (mn-pd/kd)

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 12:32 p.m., Monday, November 25, 2002                                                                                                                                                   Business groups accuse Haiti's government of tolerating "climate of terror"

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 24 - Days after partisans of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide set up flaming tire barricades in the capital, Haiti's business community on Sunday accused police and government officials of tolerating a "climate of terror."

Unimpeded by police, Aristide supporters shut down the capital on Friday by setting up hundreds of barricades to protest a growing number of anti-government demonstrations across the country (Dominican Army Thightens watch).

In a statement released Sunday, 18 business associations said the private sector refused "to accept that groups of individuals ... who act under the high protection of state authorities and the police take the initiative to block the country and national life by the establishment of a climate of terror."

The government rejected the business community's accusations and said the pro-Aristide activists were justified in their action Friday (photos). 

"The movement was not criminal. No one was hurt. People simply did not go to work out of fear," Culture and Communication Minister Lilas Desquiron said in an interview Sunday.

Before dawn on Friday, vehicles belonging to state-run telephone and electricity companies delivered the tires to strategic points, witnesses said.

Police said they did not intervene because the "spontaneous" movement had caught them off guard.

No injuries were reported in Friday's street action, but businesses said they lost millions of dollars with the city's shutdown.

Rene Civil, a founding member of the governing Lavalas Family party, and pro-Aristide activist Paul Raymond said on radio that they had led the movement.

Also Friday, fugitive Amiot Metayer led a heavily-armed pro-Aristide demonstration in west-coast Gonaives.

Police said they did not arrest Metayer because there was no arrest warrant.

Metayer and more than 100 other inmates escaped from the Gonaives prison in August, when Aristide partisans bulldozed a hole in the prison wall. Ten journalists went into hiding after they said they received death threats from Metayer's followers.

The business associations demanded in their statement that authorities arrest Civil, Raymond, and Metayer, and fire state employees who were accomplices in creating the climate of terror.

"These gangsters, publicly supported by government officials, believe they can insult the national conscience by presenting their criminal action ... as a 'pacific and spontaneous' popular action," the business groups said.

Presidential spokesman Jacques Maurice said in radio interviews Friday that Aristide activists have "the right to support" the president, just as opposition supporters have a right to demonstrate. "That is democracy," he said.

Since Nov. 15, tens of thousands have held seven anti-government demonstrations, all calling on Aristide to step down.

The people's increasing loss of confidence in the government has coincided with a widening credibility gap between the government and international community.

"Opportunities to solve Haiti's problems peacefully and democratically are rapidly waning," Organization of American States Assistant Secretary-General Luigi Einaudi said earlier this month.

Haiti's government and opposition parties have been in a stalemate since flawed May 2000 elections gave most victories to governing party candidates. The opposition charged the elections were rigged.

The dispute over the holding of new elections has held up hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid.

Last week, five civil society groups, including the business community, agreed to send representatives to a nine-member electoral council to organize elections next year.

But on Sunday, the business community indicated its representative would not take office if the government did not create a more secure environment for the elections. (mn-kd)

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.

                                                                                                                                                                                       Posted at 2:36 p.m., Sunday, November 24, 2002                                                                                                                                                   Protest, counter-protests worry and confuse Haitians in S. Florida

By Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald Writer                                                                                    

While pro-government demonstrators largely shut down Haiti's capital Friday to show their support for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a divided Haitian community in South Florida struggled to figure out what it all meant.

Although Friday's demonstration was led by Aristide supporters, it came two days after anti-Aristide student protesters forced their way into the courtyard of a police station in Petit-Goave. Three days before that, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in Cap-Haitien, the second largest city, called for an alternative to Aristide's government.

The reaction in South Florida has been mixed, with opinions varying depending on how people feel about Aristide. WRONG METHOD

''This is not the way to bring down a government,'' said Arsene Omega, a Little Haiti businessman and member of the local pro-Aristide group, Veye Yo. ``Aristide was elected for five years. He should complete his term.''

Olivier Nadal, former president of the Haiti Chamber of Commerce and Industry before he was forced into exile in March 2000, said the escalating unrest is a sign that change is on the horizon.

''The citizens are getting involved and mostly the young,'' said Nadal, who believes that neither Aristide nor the opposition leadership is fit to run the country. ``The people are fed up with the economic and political situation. The students are in the streets because they are more courageous than other people.

Charles Dieudonne, 30, interviewed at a Little Haiti strip mall, expressed disappointment in the Aristide government, which he said has not made needed changes.

''If you see the people get on the streets, it says they are tired,'' Dieudonne said.

Even Omega admitted Friday that he's beginning to question accusations by government supporters in Haiti that the anti-government protests are the result of the international community plotting against Haiti's sovereignty.

''Even though there is outsider infiltration, it's still Haitians that are doing it,'' he said.

Many South Florida Haitians say they don't believe an overthrow of the government is imminent or that another mass exodus is on the horizon. Still, immigrant advocates said the growing unrest is evidence that the United States should grant temporary protected status to Haitians, allowing them to stay here until the Caribbean nation's political crisis is over.


''It's time for the government to step up to the plate and recognize that the political situation in Haiti is tenuous at best, and Haitians [who] are subjected to deportation in the immediate future are genuinely in fear for their lives,'' said Miami immigration attorney Cheryl Little, who is working with several other groups from around the country to prepare the request.

``Haiti is our neighbor. We have a very large Haitian community in the U.S. which is able and willing to provide ample support to the Haitians who are here.''

Officials from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service would not comment on the proposed request. As for whether Friday's disturbance would affect the fate of some 200 Haitians who are detained at detention centers in South Florida, that would be up to immigration judges, said John Shewairy, INS's Miami district office chief of staff.

''I can't address that because each case is addressed by an adjudication judge based on its merits,'' he said. Herald staff writer Charles Rabin contributed to this report.

This news article appeared in The Miami Herald of November 23, 2002.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 2:12 a.m, Saturday, November 23, 2002

Port-au-Prince sets on fire by senior chief bandit Aristide  

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 22 (AP) - Hundreds demonstrated outside the National Palace on Friday, saying they stand behind President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and against a rash of recent opposition protests (photos).

Since Nov. 14, tens of thousands of protesters have held seven demonstrations calling for Aristide to step down and calling his government corrupt and inefficient.

"Aristide, stay your course!" they chanted in the peaceful demonstration, in which they accused Haiti's opposition of trying to unseat the elected government.

On Friday, smoke billowed from flaming tire barricades in Port-au-Prince as sporadic gunfire rang out and some people threw rocks at passing vehicles. No one was reported seriously injured, but the disturbances blocked buses and closed schools, businesses and government buildings.

Many people stayed away from work, and traffic was light on the capital's streets. There was no visible police presence in many parts of the city.

Some government supporters littered the ground with fliers accusing the international community of plotting against Haiti's sovereignty.

"We have tried to restrain our troops, but they are unable to refrain from expressing their frustration at the way the opposition is blocking the country," said Jonas Petit, acting head of Aristide's governing Lavalas Family party.

Petit said the opposition risks driving the country to a violent confrontation.

"We've risen to say no" to calls for Aristide's resignation, said Rene Civil, a chief of grass-roots Aristide backers. He denied, however, that his partisans were shooting and throwing rocks.

The disturbances came days after tens of thousands protested in Cap-Haitien, the second largest city, to call for an alternative to Aristide's government.

The demonstration on Sunday was the largest since Aristide was elected to a second five-year term in November 2000.

The government and opposition have been locked in a stalemate since May 2000 elections that observers said were flawed. The elections gave most victories to governing party candidates.

A dispute over the holding of new elections has held up hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid, and poverty has since deepened in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 9:12 p.m., Thursday, November 21, 2002                                                                                                                                               Thousands of students in Haiti protest shooting of students wounded in Wednesday demonstration  

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 21 - Thousands of students in three cities took to the streets Thursday demanding President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's resignation, a day after four students were shot in a clash with authorities.

"Aristide is a criminal! Aristide must go!" high school and university students in the capital chanted, as more than 3,000 marched from the Ministry of Education building to the vicinity of the National Palace (photos).

Along the way, the students dispersed a pro-government demonstration with a hail of rocks. No injuries or arrests were reported (Loune Viaux receives RFK 2002 human rights award from the Kennedy's family and her brutal dictator cousin, Aristide, continues to murder Haitians).

In Petit-Goave, where the four students were shot and six others were injured Wednesday, more than a thousand high school students under police escort marched through the town calling on Aristide to step down.

Several schools in Gonaives, Haiti's fourth largest city about 110 kilometers (70 miles) northwest of the capital, closed after hundreds of students poured into the streets protesting the Wednesday shooting.

They defiantly lowered the Haitian flag at the Gonaives police station, but police did not retaliate. Later, police did not intervene when a group of heavily-armed Aristide partisans shot into the air and threw rocks at the protesters who quickly dispersed, reported independent Radio Vision 2000.

Government supporters also threatened local reporters covering the event, independent Radio Signal F.M. reported.

Thursday's protests marked the fifth day of anti-government demonstrations since Friday, reflecting a growing antipathy with Aristide's leadership.

On Wednesday, anti-government protesters forced their way into a police station courtyard in provincial Petit-Goave, 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of the capital. A clash resulted, leaving 10 people injured, four of them with gun shot wounds. The gun shot victims were in stable condition.

Witnesses reported that police opened fire on the students, which police deny, saying "infiltrators" among the students were responsible. A Ministry of Interior team was dispatched to investigate the shooting.

The students were demonstrating Wednesday against the high cost of living and a rumored increase in final exam fees. A government communique later denied there was an increase in exam fees. Before invading the police courtyard, the demonstrators lowered the national flags at several public buildings.

Haiti's economic and political stability has deteriorated since May 2000 elections, which observers said were flawed. The elections gave most victories to governing party candidates.

The government and opposition parties have been in a stalemate since then. Failure to agree on new elections has held up hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid, and poverty has deepened in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 2:48 p.m., Wednesday, November 20, 2002                                                                                                                                              Totalitarian dictator Aristide's thugs fatally shot ten students

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 20 - Anti-government protesters forced their way into a police station courtyard in provincial Petit-Goave on Wednesday, prompting a clash with authorities that left 10 people injured, four with gunshot wounds, news reports said (photos:students protest; Tyrant Aristide's cousin, Loine Viaux, receives RFK Human Rights Award 2002).

The clash happened as thousands of mostly high school students demonstrated against the high cost of living and increased school exam fees in the town.

The protesters also called for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign. It was the fourth major demonstration since Friday, reflecting a growing breach of confidence in the president's leadership.

The four people shot were in stable condition, a hospital administrator told independent Radio Metropole. It was unclear how the other six were injured or what condition they were in.

The four gunshot victims were high-school students and were wearing school uniforms, independent Radio Vision 2000 reported.

Witnesses said police opened fire on the protesters, but police denied the claims, the reports said.

The students were peaceful for the most part, but "infiltrators" among them opened fire, said a duty officer who did not want to be identified.

Crowd-control police were dispatched to patrol the town, but made no arrests.

"The population is at bay," said Jean Limongy, an opposition politician and private school principal in Petit-Goave, 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of the capital.

"The decision to raise the final exam fee from 20 gourdes ($US0.60) to 750 gourdes ($21) was the last straw for the hungry students."

A government communique later denied there was an increase in exam fees. Before invading the police courtyard, the demonstrators lowered the national flags at several public buildings.

The students also demanded justice for slain journalist Brignol Lindor, who was ambushed and hacked to death on Dec. 3, 2001, after allowing opposition politicians speak on his evening talk show program.

On Monday, thousands poured into the streets of Petit-Goave also calling for justice in the Lindor case.

Ten members of a pro-Aristide grass-roots group have been indicted for the slaying, which happened just outside the town.

On Sunday in Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second largest city, tens of thousands called for an alternative to Aristide's allegedly corrupt and inefficient government. The demonstration — which included business leaders and politicians, workers and unemployed — was the largest since Aristide was elected to a second five-year term in November 2000.

On Friday, thousands of university students and professors stormed the administrative offices of Haiti's State University in the capital and symbolically reinstated the school's administrative board, which the government had removed in July.

Haiti's economic and political stability has deteriorated since May 2000 elections, which observers said were flawed. The elections gave most victories to governing party candidates.

The government and opposition parties have been in a stalemate since then. Failure to agree on new elections has held up hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid, and poverty has deepened in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. (mn-fg/kd)

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press

                                                                                                                                                                                    Critics doubt Haiti vow to disarm political gangs  

By Marika Lynch, Miami Herald Writer                                                                                          

TARGETED: Deus Jean-Francois, an opposition leader, says a gang linked to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide destroyed his home. DANIEL MOREL/AP

PETIT-GOAVE, Haiti, Nov. 19 -- After the mayor put him on a target list and the journalist who interviewed him was slashed to death, a mob came for Deus Jean-Francois' home (photos).

The armed vigilantes -- a crew that allegedly included a police officer and a politician's bodyguard -- burned the house to rubble and shot Francois' 20-year-old son in the shoulder. The lawyer and opposition party leader blames ''Asleep in the Woods,'' a political gang linked to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas party.

The armed episode wasn't unusual because Haiti has been awash in weapons for years, but now that Aristide has pledged to the international community to disarm violent groups, the government is making a show of collecting guns.

Critics, however, say it's just that -- a show, with the most dangerous vigilante groups still free to carry weapons and threaten government opponents. The Haitian government started with radio ads and spot car and home searches. A weapons buy-back program didn't yield a single gun.

Weapons-toting gangs remain and are seen as Aristide's political enforcers, threatening to cause problems during next year's proposed elections.

''The Aristide government has no interest in disarming these people, his people,'' said Gerard Pierre-Charles, a former Aristide ally turned opposition leader. ``He would lose his image as an all-powerful leader.''

The government knows where the guns are because its supporters distributed them, the opposition says. They point to an OAS report that found that after Uzi-bearing commandos stormed the National Palace last December, some government and party workers distributed weapons, and even transported supporters in official vehicles to attack opposition members, party headquarters and homes.

The attacks were premeditated, said the report by the Organization of American States. Though the report implicates government officials and gang leaders, not one has been arrested.

Last week, the government announced it had seized 2,500 weapons, including 432 Uzis. But many remain skeptical because the government didn't show its yield.

Prime Minister Yvon Neptune has asked the OAS for technical assistance, and the government insists the political gangs, or so-called popular organizations, will be targeted, along with everyone else who has an unregistered gun.

''There are a lot of weapons out there in a lot of different sectors, not only in the popular organizations,'' Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert said. ``We intend to get all of those weapons.''


Yet they may not be able to touch the illegal guns carried for the party's own elected officials. Last week, Aristide reminded parliament members, known for being surrounded by their own armed entourage, that they too must obey gun laws. Yet while police spokesman Jean Dady Simeon says the force knows some of the bodyguards have illegal weapons, neither they nor the elected officials can be inspected, or have their guns taken away, he said.

''It's up to them to conform to the law,'' Simeon said.

Disarmament has dogged Aristide's government since the former parish priest was restored to power in 1994, after a coup. The United States, which then occupied Haiti in a peacekeeping mission, pledged to weed out illegal guns. Despite Aristide's insistence, the forces didn't follow through. So when the Haitian military was disbanded in 1995, soldiers simply took their weapons home.

Illegal weapons proliferated through criminal networks and the drug trade. In the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, guns have meant political power, currency and also security. Crime troubles residents, and Haiti has a small national police force, 5,000 officers for eight million people.

As part of a compromise that unlocked international aid, Haiti pledged to the OAS that it would disarm. A coalition of civic, church and human rights groups and the opposition want to hold up elections until it starts.

At a two-day disarmament seminar last month, the OAS suggested a few routes for the government: setting up an independent commission to lead and verify disarmament and assure confiscated weapons don't return to criminals' hands; an amnesty for people who hand in arms; a pilot disarmament project in a certain area to test methods.

So far, disarmament hasn't reached Petit-Goave, a coastal town known for its sweet pink and brown caramels, and political divisiveness.


Last year, after Aristide announced a zero-tolerance policy for criminals, the then-deputy mayor read a list of names of people considered ''terrorists,'' and to whom the zero-tolerance policy should be applied. On the list was the opposition leader whose house was burned, Jean-Francois, and radio journalist Brignol Lindor, who had interviewed government foes on his show. Days later, Lindor was killed by machete and hatchet slashes. Ten members of the political gang ''Asleep in the Woods'' were indicted in September.

When violence broke out Dec. 17, 2001, after the attack on the National Palace, 18 homes were ransacked in town, two belonging to Lavalas members. The rest belonged to the opposition.

Both the opposition and the Lavalas party have armed wings here, said Mayor Luc Francois, who says he belongs to neither party.

''Usually it is said that the Lavalas group is more violent, but that is normal because they are in power,'' Francois said. He sat beneath a folk painting of a mob burning a man to death by placing a flaming tire around him. Above his head, the artist writes as if asking, ''porquoi?'' or ``Why?''

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 11:50 p.m., Monday, November 18, 2002                                                                                                                                                Thousands in provincial Haitian city demand justice for slain journalist, totalitarian dictator Aristide's resignation  

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 18 - Thousands poured into the streets of provincial Petit-Goave on Monday, demanding justice for slain journalist Brignol Lindor and calling for the resignation of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, news reports said (photos)

Marching under police protection through streets and down the highway, as many as 8,000 protesters chanted "Down with Aristide!" and "Justice for Brignol!" the independent Radio Vision 2000 reported.

The protest followed one day after tens of thousands marched in north-coast Cap-Haitien to protest Aristide's allegedly antidemocratic government — reflecting a growing crisis of confidence in the president's leadership.

Police patrolled Petit-Goave on Monday and dispersed a counter demonstration of about 30 Aristide partisans to prevent any possible clash (sports news).

Lindor was ambushed and hacked to death on Dec. 3, 2001, after allowing opposition politicians to speak on his evening talk show program.

Ten members of a pro-Aristide grass-roots group have been indicted for the slaying, which happened just outside Petit-Goave, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of the capital.

Human rights groups, however, have protested the fact that Petit-Goave's pro-Aristide mayor, Bony Dume, was not indicted, even though he had publicly accused Lindor of being a "terrorist" and urged government supporters to implement a "zero tolerance" policy against him.

Monday's demonstration against Aristide was the latest of several anti-government protests in Haiti this week.

In Cap-Haitien on Sunday, tens of thousands called for an alternative to Aristide's allegedly corrupt and inefficient government. The demonstration — which included business leaders and politicians, workers and unemployed — was the largest since Aristide was elected to a second five-year term in November 2000.

On Friday, thousands of university students and professors stormed the administrative offices of Haiti's State University in the capital and symbolically reinstated the school's administrative board, which the government had removed in July.

Haiti's economic and political stability has deteriorated since May 2000 elections, which observers said were flawed, gave most victories to governing party candidates.

The government and opposition parties have been in a stalemate since, with the opposition saying the vote was rigged.

Failure to agree on new elections has held up hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid. In the meantime, poverty in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country has deepened. (mn-kd)

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.

                                                                                                                                                                                          FBI nabs Haitian man carrying handgun and 50 bullets

By The Associated Press

MIAMI, Nov. 17 - A Haitian man has been arrested for attempting to board a flight from Miami to Haiti while allegedly carrying a handgun and 50 bullets hidden in a DVD player, authorities said.

Andre Riguens, who is a legal U.S resident, was being held Sunday at the federal detention center in Miami pending an initial appearance in federal court Monday, said FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela.

Riguens was arrested Saturday at Miami International Airport before boarding an American Airlines flight to Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, she said.

A security screener found the gun after stopping Riguens for a second look at his carryon luggage, Orihuela said.

Inside the bag, the screener found a DVD player that held the handgun and ammunition, which were wrapped in foil and duct tape.

"He said he needed it for protection in Haiti," said Orihuela.

Riguens, 33, was charged with attempting to carry a weapon onto an airplane.

Orihuela said Riguens drove to Miami from Jonesboro, Ga., and that he lives in Georgia with his wife, a U.S. citizen. 

                                                                                                                                                                                           Posted at 2:20 p.m, Monday, November 18, 2002

Tens of thousands Haitians protest for Haiti drug dealer, totalitarian, radical leftist and chief bandit de facto President's resignation

By Michael Deibert, Reuters Writer

CAP HAITIEN, Haiti, Nov. 17 (Reuters) - Thousands took the streets of Haiti's second-largest city on Sunday to demand the resignation of the country's embattled president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide (photos).

The march, sponsored by a local umbrella-organization known as the Citizens Initiative, began at the city's center and continued on through the historic city gates, increasing manifold as it went along. Police sources estimated the crowd at around 8,000 people.

As the march progressed, with opposition politicians, former members of the Haitian military and civil society figures at its head, thousands of ordinary citizens spilled out of the city's populous slums to join in chants of "Down with Aristide" and "Down with Lavalas criminals," a reference to Aristide's ruling Lavalas Family political party. Others smiled and clapped, pumping their fists from rooftops and balconies.

"Aristide is a thief!" some shouted. "Send him to prison!"

"We want Aristide to leave because he has given us nothing, no work, no rice, only hunger," said a frail peasant man from the nearby hamlet of San Raphael, lifting up his shirt to show his emaciated rib cage.

The marchers then scaled a monument commemorating an historic battle in the city where rebellious Haitians defeated colonial French forces in 1803, raising the Haitian flag as march organizers addressed the cheering throng.

"All those who want to build hope for the country, raise their hand; all those who want to get rid of Aristide, raise their hand; all those who want to respect human rights, raise their hand!" shouted Evans Paul, an opposition politician, to the thunderous applause of the crowd assembled.

Paul, a member of the Democratic Convergence opposition coalition and former mayor of the capital, Port-au-Prince, continued: "We will fight against dictatorship, we will fight for liberty! Citizens alongside citizens, without division, without violence."


The march proceeded under police protection, and the heavily outfitted riot officers were cheered by the crowd at the march's end.

"We thank the Haitian National Police for providing security for the people today," said Himmler Robu, a former officer in the army that ousted Aristide in a military coup in 1991. Aristide disbanded the army when he was returned to power by a U.S.-led multinational force in 1994. "The struggle begins today, and it requires intelligence, determination and a clear head," Robu said.

The protest comes on the heels of a large march in the capital Friday by university students protesting against what they said was the government's interference in the country's state university system.

The students stormed and occupied the university's rectory, then marched to the gates of the National Palace, demanding Aristide's resignation and new elections.

Aristide began his second term as Haiti's president in February 2001 and has since been locked in a two-year dispute with the Convergence coalition over May 2000 legislative elections that his opponents contend were biased to favor Aristide's Lavalas party.

The deadlock has stalled over $500 million in international aid.

Inflation in Haiti has risen 16%, and the Haitian currency, the gourde, has lost 40% of value in the past year.

A pyramid investment scheme collapsed last summer, wiping out the life savings of tens of thousands of Haitians and a rumor that the cash-strapped government was planning to convert dollar bank accounts to the Haitian currency at a low rate recently resulted in a run on banks that saw depositors withdraw $20 million in three days.

The country has also seen a marked increase in political violence over the past year, including an attack by unidentified commandos on the National Palace, anti-government riots in the capital and elsewhere, and increased threats to press freedom by government supporters.

Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited.

                                                                                                                                                    Security cited in halting Haitians, INS: Entry by sea could aid terrorists  

By Alfonso Chardy Miami Herald Writer                                                                                         

The throb of an idling speedboat engine drew the attention of kayaking friends near Key Biscayne one night almost two years ago. When they paddled closer, the kayakers saw about 20 Haitians wading ashore.

When the boat's skipper realized he was being watched, he revved the engine and took off, five or 10 migrants still aboard, according to one of the kayakers, Tom Logue, an attorney in Miami.

U.S. immigration authorities see this kind of undetected sea arrival by undocumented migrants as a threat to national security. The concern lies at the core of a 10-page legal brief that attorneys for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service have filed in immigration court in Miami suggesting that terrorists could use Haiti as a ''staging point'' to reach the United States, taking advantage of the boat trips by illegal Haitian migrants.

But some antiterrorism experts voice skepticism at the possibility that terrorists would use Haiti as a way station to the United States.

''Haiti is not an Islamic country and would not have a favorable environment for such terrorists,'' said Vincent Cannistraro, an antiterrorism expert who once worked at the CIA and the National Security Council. ``Terrorists would be better off hiding in Cuba and jumping on a boat to get to the U.S.''

The fear of leaving open a path for terrorists is part of the Justice Department's rationale for applying tough detention and deportation policies to Haitian migrants -- including more than 200 who arrived at the Rickenbacker Causeway Oct. 29. Officials also hope to discourage other Haitians from fleeing that country by boat for U.S. shores.

Large boatloads, like the one Oct. 29 trip, are ultimately detected -- even if it's not until arrival. But smaller vessels carrying fewer passengers often make it to shore undetected. Immigration investigators estimate that it happens often, perhaps even weekly, when the weather is good. ''It's a vast ocean,'' said Tony Russell, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman in Miami. Ira Kurzban, a Miami immigration attorney who represents the Haitian government, said the concern raised in the INS brief is ''frivolous,'' especially since it does not provide specific evidence.

''It's not supported with anything,'' Kurzban said. ``It's just bald assertions. They can tie everything to the issue of national security, but it's clear that Haitians have not posed and do not now pose any threat to national security.''

While the brief does not specifically mention terrorists, it alludes to concerns about illegal migration from Haiti within the context of ''homeland security'' and the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


The brief specifically lists Pakistanis and Palestinians as foreign nationals who may be using Haiti as a jumping-off point for illegal entry into the United States.

Since Sept. 11, arriving Pakistanis and Palestinians have drawn increased scrutiny at borders and international airports as potential terror suspects.

A congressional aide familiar with U.S. intelligence reports said the Senate Intelligence Committee had received sketchy information about the presence of Pakistanis and Palestinians in Haiti but had no other details.

However, a senior State Department official recently told a congressional panel that diplomats had noticed illegal Pakistani migrants in the Dominican Republic -- which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti -- who might be trying to reach U.S. shores.

Chief among the concerns cited in the INS brief is the fear that releasing the Haitians would trigger an exodus of illegal Haitian migrants and divert Coast Guard resources from other responsibilities. But a secondary concern, the brief says, is national security.

''In the post-September 11 atmosphere of homeland security, there are serious concerns that the United States government needs to know more about the people who reach our borders, including our sea borders,'' the brief says.

'Indeed, the State Department notes that it has `noticed an increase in third country nations [Pakistanis, Palestinians, etc.] using Haiti as a staging point for attempted migration to the United States. This increases the national security interest in curing use of this migration route.' ''

Mario Ortíz, an INS spokesman in Miami, said the passage does not mean American officials view Pakistanis and Palestinians as synonymous with terrorists. But Ortíz said one of the INS' concerns is not knowing precisely the backgrounds of foreign nationals who unexpectedly arrive by boat without visas.

''Typically people who are undocumented are of grave concern to those of us charged with the responsibility of controlling immigration at our borders,'' Ortíz said.

Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, recently alluded to Pakistanis in connection with illegal immigration from the Dominican Republic.


Testifying Oct. 10 before the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Reich said the United States was concerned about ``illegal immigration from the Dominican Republic to the United States, both of Dominicans and of third-country nationals, such as Haitians, Chinese and Pakistanis.''

Federal immigration investigators in the past have cited the use of Caribbean islands and South American countries as transit points for alien-smuggling networks.

Interviews with several Middle Eastern men who were briefly held at the Krome detention center in West Miami-Dade in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 showed they had traveled through Cuba and Peru to get to the United States by plane with fake documents.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 10:12 p.m., Saturday, November 16, 2002

An anti-totalitarian dictator Aristide's demonstration in Cap-Haitien, Sunday Nov. 17 

A march is planned in Cap Haitien this weekend. Signals from the government indicate a confrontation. Foreign reporters heading there to cover it. exclusive.

Cap Haitien Demonstration: Something to Watch project staff, from news reports, 2002-11-15

The Citizens’ Initiative (InitiativeCitoyenne, IC), a youth group, plans to analyze the situation in the country, critique the Lavalas regime, and call for a new departure. Frandley Denis Julien, from the organization, noted the presence of several personalities such as former colonel Himler Rébu, human-rights advocate Jean Claude Bajeux, economist Frantz Vérella, former senator Turneb Delpé, and Convergence leader Evans Paul. The planned demonstration will condemn the government for leaving the country in an untenable situation.

The authorities appear to be taking a dim view of this youth movement’s activities. According to the director of Initiative Citoyenne, the government has spread a rumor that would-be coup plotters are planning to make a move. At the beginning of the week, the police reported an attack on the main police station by unknown armed personnel. The government representative Myrtho Julien said they

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 12:15 a.m., Sturday, November 16, 2002                                                                                                                                                    Haitian student protesters storm university   

By Michael Deibert, Reuters Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov. 15 (Reuters) - Shouting "Down with Aristide," thousands of students stormed and occupied the rectory of the State University of Haiti and marched on the National Palace on Friday, escalating protests against alleged government interference in education (photos).

A student march on Wednesday surrounded parliament to protest against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Education Minister Myrtho Celestin Saurel's July decision to delay student elections and fire the university vice chancellor.

Celestin Saurel has since named an interim vice chancellor to prepare for a new university election this month.

After seizing the university building, the crowd, joined by market women and high school students, went to the National Palace in downtown Port-au-Prince where they climbed the front gates shouting "Down with criminals!" and "We don't want Lavalas!" -- a reference to Aristide's Lavalas Family party.

"The government enacted the situation which brought about the action you see today," said agronomy student Jean David, as fellow students waved Haitian flags and pictures of Argentine-born revolutionary Che Guevara.

"While Aristide and Lavalas want to control everything, our country is dying."

Already the poorest country in the Americas, Haiti has been battered by economic woes since Aristide began his second term in February 2001. Inflation has risen 16 percent and the gourde currency has lost 40 percent of its value in the last year.

A pyramid investment scheme collapsed last summer and wiped out the life savings of tens of thousands and a recent rumor that the cash-strapped government was planning to convert bank accounts held in U.S. dollars to Haitian currency at a low rate resulted in depositors withdrawing $20 million in three days.

Another anti-government protest is set for Sunday in the northern city of Cap-Haitien.

Timed to coincide with a historic defeat of colonial French forces in the city in 1803, the march is expected to attract thousands of opposition politicians, students, journalists and rights activists dissatisfied with what they characterize as Aristide's corrupt and violent tenure.

Restored to power by U.S. troops nearly a decade ago, Aristide was overwhelmingly elected to a second term as president in November 2000, but has since been locked in a dispute over May 2000 legislative elections, which his opponents contend were biased to favor Aristide's party.

The deadlock has stalled over $500 million in international aid.

                                                                                                                                                    British warship seizes six marijuana bales bound for Haiti and detains four in Caribbean sea

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Nov. 15 - A British warship conducting anti-drug operations in the Caribbean Sea seized six bales of marijuana and detained four people, the British Royal Navy said Friday.

The HMS Grafton was on routine patrol late Thursday when one of the ship's helicopters detected a fast-moving speedboat traveling from Jamaica toward Haiti, said British Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Donald Walker.

The speedboat tried to escape but blew an engine, while its occupants dumped six bales overboard, Walker said. The four eventually surrendered, the navy said. Their nationalities weren't immediately available.

The ship's crew recovered six of the 12 marijuana bales, worth about 3 million pounds (US$4.7 million), Walker said.

The seizure was the third involving the Grafton since the frigate sailed from its home port of Portsmouth, England, in July to participate in anti-drug operations in the Caribbean, the navy said.

The Grafton's crew has seized over 111 million pounds ($174 million) worth of drugs since it arrived. The frigate also rescued a castaway who spent 26 days adrift in the Caribbean Sea without food or water. 

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 2:45 p.m, Friday, Novemver 15, 2002

Political thugs target Haiti journalists, says Amnesty International

In London story headlined "Political thugs target Haiti journalists-report", please read in paragraph one...of journalism in the country...instead of...of journalism on the island (correcting to make clear Haiti not itself an island) A corrected repetition follows.

LONDON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Threats and violence against reporters in Haiti endanger the "critical role" of journalism in the country, Amnesty International said in a report on Friday.

Reporters in the impoverished Caribbean nation have been attacked and investigations into murders of journalists are often slow and incomplete, the human rights group said.

"Failure to investigate thoroughly these and other serious attacks...sends a dangerous message that journalists are legitimate targets," Amnesty said in a statement.

The statement cites the so-far inconclusive investigation into the 2001 killing of radio journalist Brignol Lindor, whose local mayor at the time called for "zero tolerance" against him on the grounds he supported an opposition party.

Lindor's family have appealed against a decision not to indict the then mayor. Haiti has witnessed a marked increase in political violence this year including an attack on the National Palace and anti-government riots.

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has been locked in a dispute with the opposition coalition over elections that his opponents say were biased to favour Aristide's party.

The fledgling democracy has repeatedly stated its commitment to upholding freedom of _expression, but the conditional nature of that support casts doubt on the government's sincerity, Amnesty said.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 9:30 p.m., Thursday, November 14, 2002                                                                                                                                                 Protesting Haitian students march on de facto parliament  

By Michael Deibert, Reuters Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Beating on traditional voodoo drums, hundreds of students from the State University of Haiti marched on parliament on Wednesday, protesting what they called government interference in the education system (Photos).

"Democracy yes! Dictatorship no!" the students chanted as they waved signs reading: "Long Live Autonomy."

Many students said they were marching because they saw the university as a bulwark against the ambitions of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former Roman Catholic priest who in February 2001 began his second term as leader of the impoverished Caribbean nation of 8 million people.

"We are here to protest against the growing threat of dictatorship in our country as represented by the actions of the Aristide government at the university," philosophy student Guimy Telot said.

Trouble began at the school last July when Education Minister Myrtho Celestin Saurel dismissed Vice Chancellor Pierre Marie Paquiot and delayed student and faculty elections after a hunger strike by students loyal to the government.

The move was met with outrage by many students, who charged the government was attempting to take control of the school and that their education was being controlled by a small number of well-connected political activists.

Paquiot, whose term had expired before his dismissal, has been replaced by an interim vice chancellor, Charles Tadieu, in preparation for new university elections to be held later this month.

A subsequent sit-in in July in front of the offices of the education minister was attacked by government activists hurling stones from the windows of the ministry and then from the street, witnesses said.

Aristide has been locked in a two-year dispute with the Democratic Convergence opposition coalition over May 2000 legislative elections his opponents contend were biased in favor of Aristide's Lavalas Family party. The deadlock has delayed over $500 million in international aid.

The country has also witnessed a marked increase in political violence over the past year, including an attack by unidentified commandos on the National Palace, the murder of a local journalist by a pro-government mob and anti-government riots in the capital and elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 3:01 p.m., Wednesday, November 13, 2002                                                                                                                                                     Former Colonel tells Haitian radio of tyrant Aristide's plot to kill him

Former Colonel Himler Rebu said that he is in difficulty after taking a position against the government. Rebu affirms that he has been followed by two commandos that want to kill him. He said that he is ready to defend himself, and therefore wants to inform the public of this situation that has arisen after he sent a letter to the head of State. Rebu speaks as follows:

My position was made public, and I then wrote to the president. President [Aristide] reacted because the next day, a Tuesday, the presidential chief of staff, Desgranges [Jean-Claude], telephoned me at home saying that the president would like to meet with me. I said there was no problem because I am a citizen of the country, if the head of the country has something to tell me then I am available. He then said that the president's secretary would contact me to give me an appointment. That was Tuesday. But at 0400 AM today, I was informed that there were some commandos that are chasing me and want to kill me. Just so I could make sure that what I was told was true, I got out and verified the position of both commandos. Not only did they position themselves in a classic way to catch me in a pincer movement, but some of them actually got out of the vehicle and went to my house to find out when I would be there, what time I am coming back, my schedule, etc. Now, in the face of such a situation where those people do not belong to the police, because I have not done anything that concerns the police, if that was the case they would send a warrant to have me arrested.

I did denounce those plans in the letter I wrote to the president. I am now in a situation where Aristide cannot say that he is not aware of what is taking place or that he is not responsible. For, it is a public situation. If in order to resolve the problem the president thinks that each time there is somebody who opposes him he has either to give orders for his assassination or allow his partisans to make decisions and then say that he was not aware of what they were doing, then I think that it is a bad strategy. For, killing somebody will not solve the actual problems. I therefore denounce it, and draw the attention of the international community to what is going on so that Aristide may take upon himself the responsibility of whatever might happen to me.

[Unidentified journalist] Where are you now exactly? Are you somewhere else or at home, because you talked about commandos that have positioned themselves so they can kill you.

[Rebu] They completed their reconnaissance work and left the area at 0830 AM. But I was able to locate two of the vehicles because one of them was a blue Terrios [4WD jeep]. As for the others I could not identify them because the license plates were folded. I went out after that and while in town I was able to identify those same two cars again. I have no problem, actually. One thing is that I always swear not to shoot anybody. I am 51 years old now. I have been in the army for 17 years and I never shot anybody. But I would not like somebody to put me in a position where I would have to defend myself. [end recording]

[Description of Source: Port-au-Prince Radio Metropole in French -- Centrist commercial radio station] Country: Haiti Topic: DOMESTIC POLITICAL Source-Date: 11/08/2002

                                                                                                                                                    Former Deputy accuses 'High-Ranking Lavalas Officials' in 1995 murder case

Former Deputy Gabriel Fortune strongly denies the assertion made by Senator Yvon Feuille who said that he [Fortune] is a blocking element within the framework of the investigation into the murder of former Deputy Hubert Feuille. The former parliamentarian accuses Feuille of closing the murder case of his brother. Correspondent Joseph Cerisier reports as follows.

Fortune, the former deputy of Les Cayes and Ile-a-Vache, has reacted to Feuille's statement that he was a blocking element in the efforts that are being made to obtain justice for his brother who was gunned down on 7 November 1995 in Port-au-Prince. Fortune said that Feuille is a criminal who has sold his brother's blood. For, according to Fortune, Feuille has already been paid by high-ranking Lavalas officials who were accomplices in the death of the former deputy.

[Fortune] We are in a situation now where people are asking for justice for their loved ones, but Yvon Feuille cannot ask for justice for his brother because all the high-ranking Lavalas officials that participated in the plot to assassinate the former deputy, they have already given money to Yvon Feuille. Some of those Lavalas officials even say that Feuille did not stop asking them for money in compensation for the death of his brother. They say that they always give him money when he asks for it. Today, it is society in general that has not obtained justice for Feuille and many other victims. But the Lavalas authorities have compensated Senator Feuille for the death of his brother. From now on, I do not want Feuille to mention my name in that business because the time will come when I will obtain justice, and so will Hubert Feuille. And the time will come also when we will take Yvon Feuille to court to explain why he hired a man who participated in the assassination of his brother as his bodyguard. [end recording]

[Description of Source: Port-au-Prince Radio Metropole in French -- Centrist commercial radio station] Country: Haiti Topic: DOMESTIC POLITICAL Source-Date: 11/08/2002

                                                                                                                                                   Former Deputy strongly denies assertion made by de facto Senator

Former Deputy Gabriel Fortune strongly denies the assertion made by Senator Yvon Feuille who said that he [Fortune] is a blocking element within the framework of the investigation into the murder of former Deputy Hubert Feuille. The former parliamentarian accuses Feuille of closing the murder case of his brother. Correspondent Joseph Cerisier reports as follows.

Fortune, the former deputy of Les Cayes and Ile-a-Vache, has reacted to Feuille's statement that he was a blocking element in the efforts that are being made to obtain justice for his brother who was gunned down on 7 November 1995 in Port-au-Prince. Fortune said that Feuille is a criminal who has sold his brother's blood. For, according to Fortune, Feuille has already been paid by high-ranking Lavalas officials who were accomplices in the death of the former deputy.

[Fortune] We are in a situation now where people are asking for justice for their loved ones, but Yvon Feuille cannot ask for justice for his brother because all the high-ranking Lavalas officials that participated in the plot to assassinate the former deputy, they have already given money to Yvon Feuille. Some of those Lavalas officials even say that Feuille did not stop asking them for money in compensation for the death of his brother. They say that they always give him money when he asks for it. Today, it is society in general that has not obtained justice for Feuille and many other victims. But the Lavalas authorities have compensated Senator Feuille for the death of his brother. From now on, I do not want Feuille to mention my name in that business because the time will come when I will obtain justice, and so will Hubert Feuille. And the time will come also when we will take Yvon Feuille to court to explain why he hired a man who participated in the assassination of his brother as his bodyguard. [end recording]

[Description of Source: Port-au-Prince Radio Metropole in French -- Centrist commercial radio station]

                                                                                                                                                                             Haitians, Cubans meet different fates on U.S. shores

By Jim Loney, Reuters Writer

Miami, Nov. 12 (Reuters) - The arrival of two groups of Caribbean migrants in the last two weeks has once again spotlighted starkly different U.S. immigration policies toward Haitians and Cubans -- policies that experts say are rife with inequity, confusion and misinformation.

On Monday a Cuban pilot snatched a government single-engine mosquito-spraying plane and flew seven relatives the short hop from the communist-ruled island across the Florida Straits to a new life in the United States. On Oct. 29 more than 200 Haitians who endured a days-long sea voyage to escape the dire poverty of their troubled homeland got within sight of Miami's beaches, where they leaped from a crowded freighter into the water and struggled ashore.

The Cubans who flew to Key West on Monday are likely to be released into the welcoming arms of Miami relatives within a day, immigration officials said on Tuesday.

But 17 of the Haitians who sailed to within a few feet of Miami have already been shipped back to Port-au-Prince. Two pregnant women have been released but the rest are imprisoned and will probably be returned to the poorest country in the Americas.

"Haitian asylum seekers who come to the United States should be treated fairly and equally by the world's leading democracy and defender of human rights,' said Cheryl Little, a leading advocate for Haitian migrants in Miami.

In fact, U.S. immigration judges have approved the Temporary release of some of the Haitians who arrived last month but the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service is appealing the rulings.

"INS contends that to release the group into the community would send a wrong signal back to Haiti that could trigger a mass migration into Florida," INS spokesman Mario Ortiz said.

Critics say the United States has discriminated against Haitians for decades, fearing an exodus from a politically and economically troubled country. But last December Washington quietly implemented a policy that distinguished illegal Haitian migrants not only from Cubans but from any other nationality by keeping them locked up.

The Bush administration changed that policy last week -- not by restoring Haitians' former rights but by declaring that illegal seaborne migrants from everywhere, except Cuba, would be subjected to the same tough standards as Haitians, meaning detention and expedited deportation proceedings.

"Instead of seizing the opportunity to change a bad directive that went out last December, they are now applying that bad policy across the board," said Dina Paul Parks, executive director of the New York-based National Coalition for Haitian Rights. "It's very upsetting."


Compounding the mistreatment of Haitians is Washington's contradictory policies, advocates say. The United States is partly responsible for withholding $500 million in aid to Haiti, citing political chaos, yet routinely returns Haitians to that same chaos.

"They are playing both sides against the middle," said Irwin Stotzky, a University of Miami law professor who has sued the federal government over its treatment of Haitians in the past. "It's really a bizarre thing. If you want people to stay in Haiti, you would help them. It's really disingenuous."

"The truth is they just want to keep Haitians out."

Policy analysts point to a news conference held by President Bush (news - web sites) last week as an example of U.S. misinformation and confusion on its immigration rules.

Bush was asked about jailing Haitians under circumstances where most migrants would be released to relatives.

"The immigration laws ought to be the same for Haitians and everybody else, except for Cubans. And the difference, of course, is that we don't send people back to Cuba because they're going to be persecuted," he said.

Critics say the president was wrong. The United States routinely sends Cubans back to Cuba under a policy known as "wet feet/dry feet." If Cubans manage to touch U.S. soil, they generally are allowed to stay. But if they are captured at sea, they go back to the island.

Last year, the U.S. Coast Guard (news - web sites) returned to Cuba 654 of the 777 Cubans it caught at sea -- nearly 86 percent.

Parks said the United States will never stop Haitians from fleeing political trouble and cannot halt everyone at sea, leaving it no choice but to treat Haitians properly when they get here.

"Interdiction has never worked. People flee when there is chaos. You can't stop it," she said. "What the United States can control is the way those folks are treated when they come to the United States -- fairly, justly and humanely."

Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 5:18 p.m., Monday, November 11, 2002

Caribbean Community begins talks to implement Haiti's membership in CARICOM  

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 11 - A high-level Caribbean Community delegation began talks with Haitian officials Monday to implement Haiti's membership in the regional organization, a CARICOM official said.

Membership could help Haiti's ailing economy, stimulating such industries as arts and crafts and developing others such as coffee.

The four-member team, led by CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General Colin Granderson, met with Haitian Foreign Ministry officials Monday morning, CARICOM local office head Hayden Blades said.

Discussions with commerce, economics and finance ministry officials will also be held "about the legal and administrative arrangements that have to be put in place," Blades said.

Haiti became the 15th member of the Caribbean Community in July, its 8.2 million people more than doubling the economic bloc's population and increasing marketing opportunities for regional manufacturers.

One of the poorest nations in the world, Haiti's economy has been in a slump since 1980.

In 1995, the growth rate was 4.5 percent. Last year, it fell below zero.

Economists have wondered how much trade can be done with Haitians, whose income averages about dlrs 400 a year compared to members like the Bahamas and Barbados, with an average of nearly dlrs 10,000. The community's 14 other member states have a population of 6.5 million.

Jamaica's Prime Minister P.J. Patterson pushed through Haiti's application to join the community with its aspirations to a European-style single market at the 1997 summit in Montego Bay.

A political stalemate, exacerbated by controversy following flawed May 2000 elections, prevented Haiti's Parliament from ratifying the membership treaty until May. 

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.

                                                                                                                                                Refugees are persecuted, says Haiti Democracy Project

By Dana Canedy, The New York Times, Nov. 9, 2002

Quotes Haiti Democracy Project:

James Morrell, executive director of the Haiti Democracy Project, an organization that monitors American policy toward Haiti, said not much could be read into the president's response. "I think it's a statement that gives no indication of whether things will change, and that's why I took the president's statement with a grain of salt," he said.

Mr. Morrell took issue with President Bush's statement that Cubans should be treated differently from Haitians because of their risk of political persecution. "Many from Haiti are politically persecuted, and so the difference between them and the Cubans is not valid," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Bush remarks give advocates hope for release of Haitians

By Dana Canedy, The New York Times

MIAMI, Nov. 8 — A day after President Bush said his administration would make sure that Haitian refugees were treated like all asylum seekers of other nationalities, immigration groups and Haitian advocates had mixed reactions about whether his remarks would soon lead to the release of hundreds of refugees being detained here.

Mr. Bush made the remarks at a news conference on Thursday. He said Haitians should be treated the same as all migrants, except Cubans. "And the difference, of course," he said. "is that we don't send people back to Cuba because they're going to be persecuted."

Mr. Bush added, "Haitians and everybody else ought to be treated the same way, and we're in the process of making sure that happens."

Under a Bush administration policy adopted in December, Haitians seeking asylum in the United States are held in indefinite detention during the processing of their immigration claims. Immigration advocates and a growing number of local and national lawmakers oppose the policy because it does not apply to migrants of any other nationality.

Debate over the issue was renewed last month when a boat carrying more than 200 Haitians ran aground in the shallow waters off the Miami shore. The Haitians on board were taken into the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and remain in local detention centers.

Mr. Bush's comments Thursday have sparked widespread speculation about whether the detainees might soon be released and have prompted lawmakers and immigration advocates to begin to plan how to hold the president to his word. "

He can make things happen with the new power he's got," said State Representative Phillip Brutus, a Miami Democrat who was the first Haitian-American elected to the Florida Legislature. "However, I am concerned the administration may convince him to depart from that.

"Particularly mentioning Haitians by name means the crisis must have reached him," Mr. Brutus said. "He must have thought about it. I give him great credit for that because he had never said anything before."

Others were not so sure. "The president wasn't clear," said Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women in Miami, an advocacy group. "We've been getting a lot of phone calls from people wondering about what it meant; did it mean a change in policy," she said. "If that is it, he needs to state it very clearly to prevent any kind of confusion."

Ms. Bastien said her group and others were planning to send a joint letter to the president asking him to clarify his position.

James Morrell, executive director of the Haiti Democracy Project, an organization that monitors American policy toward Haiti, said not much could be read into the president's response. "I think it's a statement that gives no indication of whether things will change, and that's why I took the president's statement with a grain of salt," he said.

Mr. Morrell took issue with President Bush's statement that Cubans should be treated differently from Haitians because of their risk of political persecution. "Many from Haiti are politically persecuted, and so the difference between them and the Cubans is not valid," he said.

Some Haitian advocates said they remained hopeful. "I think this was a very important message," said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. "I don't know if he is as aware as he should be about the way asylum seekers from other nations are treated in the Miami district. If he is, then he understands, given his statement, that the Haitians need to be released right away."

                                                                                                                                                                                          Posted at 9:21 p.m., Saturday, November 9, 2002

No relief for Haitians in revised INS policy removal to cover all illegal sea arrivals, except for Cubans  

By Jacquline Charles and Andrea Elliott                                                                                            

Criticized for treating Haitian migrants differently from other foreign nationals, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday it will extend the same strict detention and deportation rules to all other undocumented, sea-arriving migrants except Cubans.

The policy, which calls for indefinite detention and quickened deportation, dealt yet another blow to immigrant advocates who a day earlier had hoped public pressure would persuade the Bush administration to ease the rules.

''This is terribly disappointing news,'' said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. ``Our government is changing the rules so they can justify their discriminatory treatment of Haitians.''

The Bush administration, saying it wanted to discourage mass migration, put the policy in place for Haitians after 185 arrived here last December.

Previously, all asylum-seekers who could demonstrate a ''credible fear'' of persecution if returned home were routinely released while they sought asylum through immigration courts.

After a boat with more than 200 Haitians landed near Key Biscayne last week, activists and local officials called for the administration to restore the old policy, noting that it still applied to non-Haitians.

On Friday the government said it will now make all migrants arriving by sea -- except for Cubans -- subject to the new rules.

The overall impact, say immigration advocates: Asylum cases will be moved more quickly, giving migrants less of a chance to secure attorneys.

Advocates on both sides of the immigration debate agree that Haitian and Dominican migrants will be hardest hit by the decision because they tend to enter the United States in large numbers by boat.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said that while he is pleased with Friday's decision, Americans should not interpret it as a tightening of immigration policy.


''If they had caved in to the pressure in the streets, that would have been a sign they were loosening immigration policy. This is more a matter of holding the line rather than tightening up,'' said Krikorian, whose group advocates for tighter immigration laws.

If the decision demonstrates anything, Krikorian said, it's that Cubans -- not Haitians -- are treated differently.

``If there is a political message to be taken from this, it's the Cubans need to get treated the same way the Haitians are as well, and then we would have real consistency.''


On Thursday, President Bush sparked hope among immigrant advocates when he said:

``The immigration laws ought to be the same for Haitians and everybody else, except for Cubans. And the difference, of course, is that we don't send people back to Cuba because they're going to be persecuted. ``

And that's why we've got the special law on the books as regards to Cubans. But Haitians and everybody else ought to be treated the same way. And we're in the process of making sure that happens.''

But such hopes were dashed Friday when Haitian leaders learned about the policy change during an emergency meeting with the INS.

''Are they saying they care more about the Cubans?'' asked Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami. ``This administration is spending a lot of resources going after Haitian immigrants and refugees instead of going after the real terrorists.''

Federal immigration officials said Friday's decision is partly meant to allow the Coast Guard and Defense Department to concentrate more on national security.

Even the perception that rules are being relaxed could spur a mass migration that endangers lives and diverts resources, Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martínez said in a statement.


''This policy is not based on any specific nationality, but rather by the clear threat posed by a mass migration,'' the statement said. ``Any actions by the government, including the release of these individuals, may be interpreted by the smugglers as a victory and encourage further criminal smuggling activity.''

Cuban nationals are exempt under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, Justice Department officials said.

Despite Bush's statement that the United States doesn't send Cubans back, U.S. policy calls for Cubans who don't set foot on dry land to be sent back immediately.

In October alone, the Coast Guard repatriated 136 Cubans who were intercepted at sea while heading for the United States.


There was some good news Friday for Haitian advocates. The INS agreed to release without bond two pregnant women from last week's boat passengers.

It was unclear whether the women were reunited with their American families Friday night. However, more than 200 from last week's group remain in custody.

An immigration judge has granted bond to more than two dozen of them, but the INS is appealing, meaning that the migrants will stay locked up for now.


The new rule will take effect Wednesday, when all undocumented non-Cuban migrants who arrive in the United States by sea will be detained without bond and placed in ``expedited removal.''

U.S. Congressman-elect Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, says he fears the policy will exacerbate tensions in South Florida's immigrant communities, especially between Cubans and non-Cubans, and have a huge economic impact on taxpayers.

''Our community will not be able to grow in harmony and understanding about one another, and it's going to be a contentious issue for years to come if we do not have a sensible approach. This is not sensible,'' Meek said.

Herald staff writer Hector Florin contributed to this report.                                                                                                                                                                           

Posted at 12:30 a.m., Saturday, November 9, 2002                                                                                                                                                      Haiti's worsening crisis  

A Miami Herald's editorial, November 8, 2002

Even when it appears that conditions couldn't get worse in Haiti, they do. Armed gangs now roam the streets. Drug trafficking, highway robbery and violence are widespread. The economy is a black hole.

Meanwhile, Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government and opposition groups irresponsibly are not meeting the commitments that they agreed to in a plan that aims to end Haiti's political and economic paralysis. They missed the plan's first deadline this week to appoint a nine-member electoral council.

No wonder Luigi Einaudi, the Organization of American State's deputy chief, is frustrated. He painstakingly brokered the plan that could ultimately restore Haiti's international aid and election process.

If Haiti's political parties continue to play winner-take-all politics, there won't be much left to take of their country. While Haiti's impoverished people suffer the consequences, so do neighboring countries -- including the United States -- on the receiving end of drugs and refugees.

Friends and neighbors of Haiti must redouble efforts to support the OAS plan. Investing in restoring democracy and security now is far better than dealing with a nation after it has descended into chaos.                                                                                                                                                                           

Posted at 12:01 a.m., Friday, Novemver 8, 2002

                                                                                                                                                   Haiti on road to ruin, OAS leader says

By Tim Johnson, Miami Herald Writer                                                                                           

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 - Petty fighting within Haiti's political class and international complacency over Haiti's difficulties ''are leading the country as a whole toward disaster,'' the deputy chief of the Organization of American States bluntly warned on Wednesday.(Very unpleasant words fom the OAS for Haiti and tyrant Aristide)

Luigi Einaudi, assistant secretary general of the OAS, offered a grim critique of efforts to pull impoverished Haiti out of domestic turmoil and end its isolation from international lenders and donors.

''The usual skepticism, complacency and hostilities have remained in play both in Haiti and outside the country,'' Einaudi told the organization's Permanent Council of ambassadors.

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's administration fell significantly short of a Nov. 4 deadline to improve security, punish violent gangs, disarm the populace, take steps to hold fair elections in 2003, and fulfill other goals, Einaudi said in unusually strong language.

His report came amid rising tensions between Washington and Port-au-Prince. In a sign of those frictions, diplomats from Haiti and the United States traded barbs following Einaudi's presentation.

U.S. attacks on the good faith of the Aristide government ''could be destabilizing'' in a nation where there is ''a great deal of frustration,'' Haitian Ambassador Raymond Valsin said.


Twice in the past week, U.S. officials have voiced concern that deterioration in Haiti may spark massive migration toward Florida. They have cited ''deep disappointment'' in Aristide, and suggested that his populist administration flirts with illegitimate practices and does little to fight rampant drug trafficking.

Sensitive that it might appear to be bullying impoverished Haiti, the Bush administration in September abandoned direct pressure on the Aristide government, opting instead for a more multilateral approach. It signed on to an OAS resolution Sept. 4 that could open the way for Haiti to receive loans from the Inter-American Development Bank after a two-year suspension. The resolution laid out goals for Haiti in order to overcome a political deadlock caused by flawed legislative elections in May 2000.

Einaudi said Haitian political forces had failed to reach a main goal -- that of constituting a nine-member provisional electoral council by Nov. 4 to pave the way for new legislative elections next year. He noted that some political and civic groups had sought a 15-day extension to nominate members to the electoral council, and that Aristide had accepted.

Einaudi said the Aristide government had made headway in offering nearly $1 million in reparations to opposition political parties whose properties were ransacked last Dec. 17, but was ''hesitant and slow'' in seeking justice for the murders of two journalists, Jean Dominique and Brignol Lindor.

The climate of insecurity remains a major obstacle, he said. ''Tire burnings, local clashes including deaths and other disruptions occur often enough to cause understandable concern to ordinary citizens,'' he said. ``Major confrontations have occurred in Gonaive, Cite Soleil and Cap Haitien. Individuals have disappeared or been threatened.''

Einaudi, who has led numerous OAS attempts to broker an end to the crisis in Haiti, sounded exasperated at what he described as petty attitudes making stability elusive in Haiti, the poorest nation in the hemisphere.

''The long and short of it is that the key actors have been unwilling to rise above entrenched personal positions in terms of allowing for an end to the fragmentation and paralysis that are leading the country as a whole toward disaster,'' Einaudi lamented.

Einaudi said it would be ''a mistake'' to focus only on Haiti, saying that neighboring countries and the international financial community must play a greater role to end the crisis.

Opposition by the Clinton and Bush administrations has derailed some $140 million in loans from the Inter-American Development Bank to Haiti.


The Bank has sent a preliminary mission to Haiti to see about new loans, and potential donor nations plan to meet in December, diplomats said.

In sharp criticism on Oct. 30, Roger Noriega, the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, said that the administration has ''very serious concerns about the leadership of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.'' Two days later, Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich said the Aristide government ``faces the prospect of forfeiting its credibility and legitimacy.''

The remarks drew fire from some Democratic legislators. ''

President Aristide has given every indication that he is moving forward in good faith to hold elections next year,'' Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell last week. He urged Powell not to undermine the process ``with undeserved criticism.''                                                                                                                                                                                       Copyright 2002 The Miami Herald                                                                                                                                                                            

Posted at 11:15 p.m., Tuesday, November 5, 2002

19 migrants returned to Haiti

By Jane Regan, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 5 (AP) - Haitian migrants returned home Tuesday after a desperate attempt to reach U.S. shores told terrifying tales of the six-day journey on a rickety wooden boat that ended with Miami in sight but out of reach.

The hold of the 50-foot vessel began leaking soon after the journey began Oct. 24.

"The boat was listing a lot, and the hold was filling up with water," said Vicsone Charlo, 37, an unemployed father of four.

Water and rice cooked aboard the boat ran out after three days, and Charlo said he was so thirsty he drank his own urine.

He was among 17 Haitians and two Dominicans repatriated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the only ones who failed to reach land when the boat carrying more than 225 Haitians and a few Dominicans ran aground off Miami last week.

With the Coast Guard in pursuit, the others jumped from the boat and made a dramatic dash onto a highway, where they were detained. All are awaiting asylum hearings except for six Haitians accused of organizing the smuggling operation.

The Coast Guard said Tuesday it was stepping up sea and air patrols in response to a possible increase in the flow of illegal migrants from Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

The migrants' trip began when the homemade vessel was launched from the north-coast fishing village of Chouchou Bay.

"I couldn't find work. I was so disappointed in life I decided to take to the sea. I want my kids to grow up with decent lives," said Jasmin Destin, a 29-year-old house painter with two children.

The Coast Guard cutter Key Largo dropped the migrants at a dock outside Port-au-Prince on Tuesday. A Dominican army officer took charge of the Dominicans and the Haitian National Migration Office gave the Haitians about $6.25 each for bus fare home.

Many will be forced to make good on payments made to loan sharks for passage on the boat, which averaged $1,000.

Thousands of Haitians each year risk voyages aboard rickety, crowded boats to try to escape the misery compounded by a political crisis that has frozen aid to the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

Some end up in the Turks and Caicos Islands, others in the Bahamas, and some make it to Florida. Many are repatriated to Haiti, where two-thirds of workers among the 8.2 million people are unemployed.

Three out of five Haitians suffer from malnutrition, and a Haitian's chances at birth of not living to 40 are nearly 32 percent, the United Nations reported.

The Haitian government blames much of the suffering on the international community, which has frozen hundreds of millions of dollars because of flawed 2000 elections.

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.                                                                                                                                         

U.S. seeks to head off migrants  

By The Associated Press

MIAMI, Nov. 5, 2002 (AP) - The Coast Guard said Tuesday it has stepped up sea and air patrols in response to a possible increase in the flow of illegal migrants from Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

The increase was announced as 19 Haitians were sent back home. They were the only ones who failed to get ashore when an overcrowded wooden freighter carrying more than 225 Haitians was run aground in Miami one week ago.

"We are preparing just in case — better to be safe than sorry," Louis Diaz, a Coast Guard spokesman in Miami, said of the increased interdiction efforts. "We don't want to see more boats like that. The trip is extremely dangerous."

Diaz wouldn't give details on the increased interdiction. The Coast Guard regularly patrols the Windward Pass off western Haiti, the Old Bahama Channel between Haiti and Florida, and the Straits of Florida separating Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas.

It is normal U.S. policy to repatriate all migrants picked up at sea, after brief shipboard interviews by immigration officials.

The 19 migrants returned Tuesday had been held on a Coast Guard cutter since being taken into custody on Oct. 29.

The other migrants aboard the freighter, all Haitians except for three people from the Dominican Republic, made it ashore and remain in detention. They await asylum hearings, except for six Haitians accused of running the smuggling operation.

The federal government changed its detention policy on Haitian refugees last December to discourage a feared mass exodus. Before the policy change, Haitian migrants applying for asylum were released into the community while their petitions were processed.

Haitians arriving since December, however, are kept in custody until they receive asylum or, more likely, are deported.                                                                                                                                        

Protest slams INS over treatment of Haitians, march sparked by detention of boat group

By Nicholas Spangler, Miami Herald Writer                                                                                

Nearly 800 demonstrators gathered in front of the Immigration and Naturalization Service office at Biscayne Boulevard and Northeast 79th Street Monday night, calling for an end to what they said was disparate treatment of undocumented Haitian migrants to the United States.

The demonstration came on election eve, nearly a week after more than 200 Haitian migrants were detained by the INS after their boat grounded near the Rickenbacker Causeway.

''People are still angry,'' said Claudine Sada, a Haitian American who works as a translator for Miami-Dade County. ``There's been talk all week about this, and it's not going to just go away. We're asking for equal treatment, a fair chance, the same thing any other immigrant group has ever asked. [Governor] Bush has done nothing to help us; even Haitian Republicans are going to vote against him tomorrow.''

Demonstrators gathered in late afternoon in the Little Haiti headquarters of Veye Yo, one of the community's best-known grass-roots activist organizations, at North Miami Avenue and Northwest 54th Street. By 5 p.m. the crowd swelled outside and into the street, blocking eastbound traffic on 54th Street. Police directed traffic to the opposite lane and passing drivers honked their support.

While marching the two-plus miles, demonstrators waved signs reading ''Free the Haitian Refugees'' and ''Justice Now.'' One sign read ''Axis of Evil for Haitians: Papa Bush, Dubya, Jeb,'' suggesting a parallel between George H.W. Bush and the infamous Haitian dictator ''Papa'' Doc Duvalier. Echoing that sentiment, several demonstrators angrily denounced the Bush brothers for the policy under which Haitian migrants are detained until INS hearings.

The crowd moved east along 54th Street and turned north on Northeast Second Avenue, Little Haiti's main commercial strip, stopping traffic at intersections and drawing cheers from shoppers and business people who came out of their shops to watch the procession.

''This is probably the most diverse city in the most diverse country in the world,'' said Sharon Clouden, watching the march from outside a friend's apartment building on 68th Street. ``Everybody who ever came here is struggling to survive. How dare you pick one people over another? How dare you just shut them out like that?''

The mostly Haitian crowd chanted in Creole: ``No, no we are not going, and if we do we will come again because America is for all.''

Some simply shouted ``Freedom, freedom.''

Monica Russo, chapter president of Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 7,000 service workers in Florida, many of them Haitian, said union leadership was calling for members to spend today at the polls instead of at work.

''We're asking them to devote the day to human rights, to transform our anger and passion about this into political action,'' she said.

Carline Paul, executive director of Haitian American Youth of Tomorrow, a youth activist group, said her group had gone on Haitian radio with similar calls for a sick-in today.

Russo and Paul were joined on a makeshift stage outside INS headquarters by state Sen. Kendrick Meek and North Miami city Councilman Jean Monestime.

Also marching were half a dozen representatives from churches in the community.

''I believe we see Jesus in the eyes of others,'' said the Rev. Leo Frade, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Florida. ``Right now Jesus is leaving the Holy Land coming to Egypt for asylum and we're arresting Jesus, we're arresting Mary and Joseph. We're turning our backs on them and I'm here because I refuse to do that.''

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.                                                                                                                                    

Haitian government fails to meet OAS deadline to set up electoral council 

By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 4 - Haiti's government failed to meet an OAS deadline on Monday for setting up an electoral council to organize elections next year.

The Organization of American States had urged the Caribbean country's government to have the nine-member council in place by Monday, drawing members from the government, churches, business associations, human rights groups and political parties.

But by Monday, only the governing Lavalas Family party had agreed to choose its representative, while more than 20 opposition parties in two blocs said they would boycott the council.

Some groups that didn't name representatives said they first want the government to comply with a Sept. 4 OAS resolution by collecting illegal guns to disarm partisans and by bringing to justice those responsible for past political attacks.

"We are asking the government to set up a disarmament campaign that will satisfy all sectors, and to finalize its agreement with the OAS concerning technical security assistance for the elections," Protestant Federation president Edouard Paultre said.

Churches and other groups gave the government two weeks to meet their demands. The government didn't immediately issue a response.

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has pledged new elections would be held in a secure environment next year, at a date to be fixed by the new electoral council.

At the end of this month, 18 of 27 senators and all of the 83 House representatives will have their terms expire, leaving Haiti with no legislature when new lawmakers are supposed to take office Jan. 13.

As the standoff wears on, it is unclear whether Haitian officials might have to extend lawmakers' terms in office, or whether Aristide would rule by decree until new elections could be held.

Haiti's government and opposition parties have been in a stalemate since flawed May 2000 elections gave most electoral victories to governing party candidates.

The opposition charged the vote was rigged, and the dispute over the holding of new elections has held up hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid.

The OAS recently has urged donors to release the frozen aid. But amid the political stalemate, Haiti's economy has foundered and poverty has deepened.

"I have very serious doubts that Mr. Aristide would do anything the international community has asked him to do," U.S. ambassador to the OAS Roger Noriega said last week.

Haiti's government says it is doing its best to comply with the resolution.

Political tensions have been exacerbated by a Dec. 17 armed attack on the National Palace that Aristide says was an assassination attempt but the opposition says was staged to clamp down on dissent.

At least 10 people were killed in the attack and subsequent violence, as government supporters torched the homes and offices of opposition politicians.

The Sept. 4 OAS resolution asks that the government bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice, pay reparations to victims and confiscate illegal weapons.

Since the attacks, one suspect has been arrested, and a disarmament campaign has yielded 100 weapons of the tens of thousands reportedly in circulation.

The government says it has paid victims more than US$1 million in reparations, but the opposition says much less has been paid and that much more is owed.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Posted at 12:50 a.m., Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Detention of Haitian refugees stirs debate

By Kathie Klarreich, Special to The Christian Science Minitorl  

KEY BISCAYNE, FLA., Nov. 4 – Around the world emotions are stirred by images of people putting themselves in danger's way to reach a better land – a land holding out hope of freedom and prosperity.

Such a scenario is just what happened when dozens of Haitians, many dressed in their Sunday best, jumped overboard just off the shores of Miami last week in a frantic effort to reach America. The televised images of would-be immigrants tumbling over a concrete barrier and desperately trying to hitch rides on the Rickenbacker Causeway evoked sympathy from many ordinary Americans.

For Haitian activists and immigration advocates, the images stirred emotions for another reason as well: This event may be a key test of the Bush administration's recently retooled approach to handling Haitian refugees.

In virtually all refugee cases – with the well-known exception of Cuban ones – aliens are deported unless they apply for political asylum. To start that process, they must demonstrate a "credible fear" of persecution were they to be repatriated. If they prove this, asylum seekers are routinely released and given about a year to prepare their asylum cases. Different standard But not Haitians.

Last December, after all but two of a boatload of 187 Haitians who landed in Miami passed their credible-fear interview, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) continued to hold them in detention. Since then, a select few have been paroled, and about 50 remain in detention – but the vast majority have been deported. Now, as signs point to a repeat of this approach with more than 200 new refugees, Miami's immigrant community is feeling heartache. Some people have questioned why Haitians are treated so differently – especially when compared with Cubans, who, under a 1966 law, are virtually entitled to legal residency within a year if they reach shore.

"Why aren't Haitians entitled to the same rights as others?" says Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. "Is it because they aren't from a Communist country but a poor black one? And that Haitians in the United States don't have any political clout?"

Government officials say that the policy change was based on well-founded intelligence in Haiti of a potential mass exodus. Indeed, huge exoduses have occurred before, especially during periods of extreme political repression. For example, tens of thousands of Haitians took to the high seas during the 1991-94 military de facto government.

So far, however, there doesn't appear to be a mass exodus in the works. In fact, statistics indicate that the number of Haitians trying to reach America is on the decline. In 2000, 530 Haitians reached US shores, 405 arrived in 2001, and 214 so far this year, according to the INS. The Coast Guard, furthermore, reports that number interdicted by their personnel was 1,394 in 2000, 1,956 in 2001, and 657 so far this year.

Whatever the numbers, two things remain constant: The voyages are almost always attempted in unseaworthy boats, yet even in sturdy vessels the course between Haiti and Florida can be treacherous. These factors, say officials, contributed to the decision to change policy.

"Our current policy is solely designed to prevent loss of life caused by migrants attempting to make dangerous water crossings in treacherous seas on unsafe vessels," says Karen Kraufhaar, INS press officer. A campaign issue

The scrutiny of the US government's approach to Haitians couldn't come at a worse time for Jeb Bush, whose campaign for reelection as Florida's governor has been harder than expected. Until last week's boatload of refugees, he had said little about the issue. Now he says the policy is unfair, as Democrats and scores of Haitian activists demand that he call his brother and secure the release of the Haitians.

"If people have a well-founded fear of persecution, they should be released into the community," he said last week at a campaign event.

At the end of last week, a diverse group of concerned officials and community members held a press conference to call on President Bush to sign an executive order asking for the Haitians' release. Federal officials are reportedly considering options that would ultimately grant parole to some of the Haitian refugees, but no definite moves have been made.

Ms. Little of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center says the courts may prove to be instrumental: "INS is standing firm in its position not to release the Haitians, but the immigration judges can now do the right thing."

Some immigration experts say the US government could stop almost all the migration efforts by revisiting other aspects of its relationship to Haiti – namely, its stance on economic aid.

Currently, tens of millions of international dollars have been withheld from the Haitian government, in part because of questions regarding its elections in 2000. While critics cry corruption, supporters of the government say it is being strangled.

Copyright © 2002 The Christian Science Monitor.                                                                                                                                            

In Haiti, some say U.S. worth risk

By Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writer

ACUL DU NORD, Haiti, Nov. 1 (AP) - Everyone in this Haitian farming town knows someone who risked boarding the ship that ran aground off Miami. Most would go too, if they could scrape together the money to abandon a country mired in economic and political troubles.

Poor residents in Acul recite a list of ills that includes 90 percent unemployment and a struggle to find food. The last straw, they say, was political harassment after they stopped supporting President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

"Most people don't make enough to survive ... Some days you eat, some days you don't," said Phito Florestal, explaining the desperation that prompted dozens of people to board the overcrowded boat.

Florestal was a neighbor and friend of Jean-Vilien Thomas and his wife Geraldine, a couple in their 20s who he said got on the boat when she became pregnant with their third child and he still had not found work.

"They were very, very poor, and they had to borrow the money from loan sharks who charged them 20 percent interest," Florestal said. The Thomas family paid smugglers about $1,000 for their passage.

The couple sneaked their two children onto the boat because the childrens' grandparents objected, saying the voyage was too dangerous, said Florestal, a laboratory technician at a clinic.

The Thomases probably are among 211 Haitians detained after they made a dramatic dash to reach U.S. soil on Thursday, jumping from the grounded boat and spilling onto a major highway.

U.S. authorities have resisted protests demanding the Haitians be allowed to stay in the country; those who cannot prove political persecution likely will be sent back home.

"Now they're in a lot of trouble," Florestal said of his friends, "Not only will they be sent back but they'll also have to repay the money."

He said Jean-Vilien Thomas had trained to use computers in Cap-Haitien, a northern port about 1 1/2 hours' drive from Acul. But like many, he never found work.

Ten or 15 years ago, Acul's soil was rich enough for people to earn a living as farmers, growing plantains, coffee and groundnuts. Bananas and breadfruit still grow wild here.

But with no electricity, people began stripping the area of trees to make charcoal for cooking, bringing on erosion that has polluted the water supply.

Hopes for a better life were renewed in 1994, when 20,000 U.S. troops ousted a three-year military regime to reinstate Aristide, the Caribbean nation's first democratically elected president.

But elections since then have been rigged, and international aid was frozen after a flawed 2000 vote was swept by Aristide's Lavalas Family party.

Most people in Acul voted for Lavalas. But since then, the economy has slumped into negative growth, political gangs have gained strength and crime has risen, some related to Haiti's position as a growing transit point for Colombian cocaine destined for the United States.

Many Haitians have turned their backs on Aristide, and that has brought harassment from the police and from Lavalas supporters, said Margarite Jean-Pierre, 40, who was selling rock salt, candles and peppers in the street.

"There's no security here and we can't eat. Why should we stay?" she asked.

Florestal said a regional opposition politician, Brunnel Demostone, had jumped on the boat to Florida with his family last week, complaining that Lavalas militants had shot at his house and were constantly harassing him.

In Chouchou Bay, a fishing village where the boat was launched at 10 p.m. last week Thursday, Jean-Sius Duverson described the elation when they heard over the radio that the boat had made it to Miami.

"I was really happy," Duverson, 41, said from the pretty beach where he helped build the boat of mahogany logs and metal bands, and watched it set off with his nephew Marcelin Navilus, 18. "Americans have compassion and love, and God willing I hope they will accept the migrants in time."

Residents said most of the people who took the boat were young, in their 20s. But Marcel Marcelin, 68, said last week's departure got him thinking and now, exhausted by watching his community deteriorate, he too is considering trying to reach the United States.

"It's misery here. The kids can't go to school. They can't find jobs, so they just disappear any way they can and try to get to the States."

More than two-thirds of the workers among Haiti's 8.2 million people are unemployed or get by with odd jobs, and a U.S. Embassy poll last year found the vast majority of Haitians would prefer to live in the United States.

A United Nations report says more than three out of five Haitians suffers from malnutrition and, at birth, a Haitian's chances of not living to 40 are 31.6 percent. Florestal indicated those short-lived lives were almost a mercy.

"Only drug dealers and politicians have hope in this country," he said. "It's understandable that dying would be a relief to many people. That's exactly what these migrants (who arrived in Florida) were thinking."

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.

                                                                                                                                                                                         Posted at 12:01 a.m., Friday, November 1, 2002

Haitian-Americans rally for migrants

By Alex Viega, Associated Press Writer

MIAMI, Oct. 31 (AP) - Gov. Jeb Bush's Democratic rival and hundreds of Haitian-Americans called on lawmakers to help the more than 200 Haitian migrants who remained detained Thursday, two days after the nation watched them jump from a crowded freighter and struggle ashore.

For a second night, crowds of Haitian-Americans waived flags and held signs reading "Free Haitians Now" Wednesday outside the Miami headquarters of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, demanding the group be treated like others who reach U.S. soil.

While Florida authorities deal with thousands of illegal immigrants every year, the Haitians' dramatic arrival Tuesday and the sheer size of the group has cast a spotlight on the U.S. policy toward Haitians just as the governor is in the final days of a tough re-election battle.

The governor's Democratic rival, Bill McBride, said Wednesday he had sent a letter to President Bush, the governor's brother, urging him to issue an executive order releasing the Haitians and allowing them to "seek immediate asylum hearings rather than be subjected to indefinite detention."

There was no immediate word from the White House on McBride's letter.

The Bush administration quietly changed its detention policy on Haitian refugees in December to discourage a feared mass exodus from the impoverished country. Before the change, Haitian immigrants applying for asylum were released into the community while their petitions were processed. Now, they are kept in immigration custody.

Gov. Bush said Wednesday that he agrees Haitian migrants should be released until their asylum requests are heard, and he said he had called White House officials regarding the migrants, but he did not elaborate or say whether he had spoken with his brother.

"Haitians should be treated in the same fashion (as) Jamaicans, people from the Bahamas, people from any country in the world," the governor said.

Earlier, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer (news - web sites) said the Haitians were being treated fairly and humanely and the president would not intervene.

"The Immigration and Naturalization Service will apply the law and make the proper judgments," Fleischer said.

Rep. Carrie Meek, an outspoken Florida congresswoman, also confronted the governor during a campaign stop Wednesday about the Haitians.

"Those Haitians are standing on dry land," Meek said, referring to a policy that allows Cuban migrants to remain in the United States permanently if they reach land, while those intercepted at sea are usually returned.

"All you have to do is call — the `wet foot-dry foot' policy would take effect," she said. "You can do it."

The migrants, including women and children, have been detained since the 50-foot wooden freighter they were traveling in ran aground Tuesday on a stretch of beach south of downtown Miami. Among the group were 150 men, 35 women and 26 minors, said Barbara Gonzalez, an INS spokeswoman in Miami. One of the minors, a boy, was hospitalized for dehydration, she said. Six Haitians are charged with alien smuggling.

Gonzalez declined to say whether any of the migrants has asked for political asylum. Out of the 730 migrants currently held at the agency's Krome Detention Center, 287 are Haitian, she said.

U.S. Attorney Marco Jimenez identified the six Haitians charged with alien smuggling as Genel Osmin, 37; Sali Altanase Gean, 37; Eli Louis, 29; Edner Dorvil, 52; Jean Eddy Louis, 19; and Jean Phillipe Pettit-Homme, 45. All were being held pending a court appearance Friday. Each faces a 10-year prison term if convicted.

According to the criminal complaint, Dorvil was the "owner and coordinator" of the trip. Gean, Pettit-Homme and Eli Louis were boat operators and Eddy Louis was the boat mechanic.

Jimenez said he would request the men be detained pending trial. ___ On the Net: INS:

Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.                                                                                                                                         

Haiti turning to Spirits for help

By Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Oct. 31- Shaking bundles of pungent leaves and swaying to a frenzied drum beat, hundreds of Haitians flock to a temple to beg the spirits for U.S. visas and lucky lottery numbers.

At a time of deepening poverty and despair, many people in this Caribbean country see only one way out. "Voodoo is Haiti's only hope," says Solange Patrice, a 19-year-old street vendor who took Wednesday off to make meager offerings of coins and candles at a voodoo temple. "We have nothing else – unless you're willing to risk your life to make it to the United States."

On Tuesday, more than 200 Haitians did just that, jumping from a ship that ran aground in Miami with the Coast Guard in pursuit.

The journey was one of hundreds each year by Haitians who brave the sea in rickety, overcrowded boats. Dozens have died in such attempts this year. And unlike Cubans who reach dry land, Haitian migrants usually are returned home.

"We are all desperate," said Marie Pierre, a 35-year-old vendor in Port-au-Prince's chaotic marketplace who sells leaves, candles and moonshine as offerings to the spirits.

The government blames the situation on the lack of international aid, suspended after the Lavalas Family party of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide swept flawed elections in 2000. Two years later, the country is locked in a political stalemate. Two-thirds of workers are unemployed and crime is on the rise.

Until foreign aid is restored, people will continue to flee to U.S. shores, said government spokesman Mario Dupuy.

But even in the best of times, Haiti is a country of scant resources, with much of its arable land ravaged by decades of deforestation.

For people who make do on less than a dollar a day, voodoo understandably has strong appeal.

"Voodoo has always been about survival when hope seems lost," said Laennec Hurbon, an anthropologist and author of several books on the religion that evolved in the 17th century when the French brought slaves to Haiti. "When people feel abandoned, that desperation manifests itself in voodoo."

On Tuesday at the Desermite temple, songs asking the gods for U.S. visas and lucky lottery numbers reverberated against the concrete blocks as believers stomped their feet. Some fell to the ground, believing they were possessed.

"Open the door for us if it is closed!" worshippers wearing brightly colored satin scarves sang in Creole as they waved white candles.

Practitioners believe in a supreme God and spirits who link the human with the divine, and who are petitioned by offerings that include everything from rum to roosters.

"Every day we make offerings and people come to see me," said Exilien Francois, 75, a voodoo priest or houngan. "Even though they don't have much to give me or the spirits, we will keep praying. We have to."

Voodoo, or Voudou, as preferrd by Haitians, only became recognized as a formal religion in 1987, under a new constitution that recognizes the rights of all religions. But this fusion of West African beliefs has long been seen as a path toward emancipation.

In 1791, an escaped slave named Boukman gathered thousands of followers in the forests of northern Haiti and sacrificed a wild boar. He pledged that with the spirits' help, he would liberate his people and free Haiti.

After 10 years of bloodshed, slavery ended and Haiti became the world's first black republic, making Boukman a hero and giving special prominence to the religion.

Slaves forced to practice Catholicism remained loyal to their African religions in secret by adopting Catholic saints to coincide with African spirits. The Virgin Mary became Erzulie, St. John became Ogun, a warrior spirit.

Still, voodoo worshippers were persecuted, with a church-led campaign in the 1940s leading to the destruction of temples and sacred objects. Voodoo only became recognized as a formal religion in 1987, under a new constitution that recognizes the rights of all religions.

Today, voodoo is an inseparable part of Haiti's rich culture of art, literature, music and film. Hymns are heard on the radio, and voodoo ceremonies are broadcast on television along with Christian services.                                                                                                                                                                                       Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.

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Transcipt: Powell Interviewed on Iraq, Haiti and Public Diplomacy File

(October 30 Interview with "Talk Radio") (1820) Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States wants to work within an international framework to eliminate the threat posed by Iraqi's non-compliance with U.N. resolutions.

Speaking October 30 on "Talk Radio," a nationally syndicated radio program, Powell said, "I'm hopeful that we'll find a solution that will allow the United Nations to act with a strong consensus." He indicated that the diplomatic discussions surrounding a new U.N. resolution on Iraq are expected to continue into early November.

Powell cautioned, however, that "the danger is so great," that if the United Nations does not confront Iraq's refusal to end its prohibited weapons programs, President Bush is prepared to act with "likeminded" nations.

Asked about U.S. government efforts to ensure an accurate picture of American society reaches countries like Saudi Arabia, Powell underscored the continuing importance of people-to-people engagement.

Turning to Haiti, Powell told "Talk Radio" that United States wants to ensure needed aid reaches people in Haiti. He said the United States has provided Haiti with approximately $400 million in aid over the past six years.

However, he also noted that the United States and international financial lending institutions are deeply concerned with the Haitian government's slow pace of democratic reform over the past eight years.

"We have to hold the Haitian government to appropriate standards of democracy and representative government, and we have held up some of the aid trying to achieve that purpose," Powell said.

Following is the transcript of Powell's October interview with American "Talk Radio." (begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman

October 30, 2002 INTERVIEW Secretary of State Colin L. Powell By Ellen Ratner of Talk Radio News October 30, 2002 Washington, D.C. (1:10 p.m. EST)

QUESTION: Thank you so much for doing the interview with us. You know, there is a lot of talk right now about the United Nations and Iraq. I'm sure you knew I was going to ask you this. But are we risking more right now, perhaps, going without United Nations approval? Would we risk so many people being angry with us, doing it not unilaterally, but multinationally, without the United Nations?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the President believes, and I certainly believe, that we would be better served to deal with this problem with the United Nations, multilaterally, and that's why the President took the problem to the United Nations; and really, it's a United Nations problem to begin with. These are United Nations resolutions that Iraq has violated for these many years, and so the United Nations should act.

And I am, I'm hopeful that we'll find a solution that will allow the United Nations to act with a strong consensus, and that's what we're working on, and we should see in the next several days, or I'd say in no more than a week, whether or not that is going to be possible.

But the President also believes that this problem has to be dealt with, and if the United Nations won't deal with it, then the United States, with other likeminded nations, may have to deal with it. We would prefer not to go that route, but the danger is so great, with respect to Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction, and perhaps even terrorists getting hold of such weapons, that it is time for the international community to act, and if it doesn't act, the President is prepared to act with likeminded nations.

QUESTION: Recently, we took a bunch of talk show hosts to Saudi Arabia. We've done trips to Israel, we've done trips to many places, but (inaudible) we went to Saudi Arabia, and one of the questions that we asked and got is, why do people, some of them, not like the United States?

And they, you know, would say, oh, your culture, this, that, and the other.

And we would say to them, well, where are you getting our culture from?

Well, they watch our television, and they watch things like Friends and some of the other, you know, Lifestyles of -- well, I guess that's an old show -- Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but Sex and the City, and that kind of thing.

What can we do -- and I know you have a whole part that's dealing with this -- but what can we do to send a message about our culture that's perhaps different than what they see on television?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we work hard at this. We work hard at this through our public diplomacy efforts, through putting out literature about the United States, through people-to-people programs, bringing people to the United States, exposing them to our culture, getting them into our schools, getting them into our universities, especially, and at the same time, sending Americans to these lands so that they see that we are not all as they see us depicted on television.

But television, at the same time, even though it occasionally puts out some unpleasant images of life in America, it also puts out some very positive images of life in America, and even though there might be places where we are having some difficulties now, I'm still getting tens upon -- tens of thousands of people who want to come to America from Muslim countries and from countries all around the world, because they want to start a new life in America, just as my parents did, and at some point in your past your --

QUESTION: My father.

SECRETARY POWELL: -- your father did. That is still very much alive. They're beating on the doors to come in, and they're trying to get into the country. They want visas. They want to come to our schools. They want to go do Disneyland, they want to go to Disneyworld, and they want to go to these places they've seen on television.

And so America still has a residual of good feeling with respect to these people, even though right now, things are a bit difficult as a result of the situation in the Middle East, and as a result of concerns over Iraq.

QUESTION: Speaking of people coming to the United States, are you upset that 15 of those 19 hijackers were given visas, apparently based on illegal applications? There's been some talk with some of the counselors had been rewarded with some bonuses, and what -- one, are you upset about it; and two, what do you think should be done about it?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the individuals who came in with visas, they may have had some errors on their applications, but even if their applications had been filled out perfectly, typewritten and proofed four times, there was nothing in their records, there was nothing in the intelligence files that we had, there was nothing in our law enforcement files that would have suggested we shouldn't have issued them visas.

We are a country that encourages people to travel here. There was nothing to suggest that they had anything like terrorism on their minds, and any errors in the application that might have been caught or should have been caught and should have been corrected, had they been corrected, would have given us no more information that would have suggested they were terrorists.

Nevertheless, we are reviewing all of our consular activities around the world, all of our visa applications processes, to make sure that we are guarding America, that we are doing everything we can to examine those individuals who are coming to our country.

We have integrated our intelligence and law enforcement databases in a more efficient way so that when we get a name that comes into the Department, we can check it against the FBI and intelligence agencies and everybody else to see if there's any reason to deny a visa to this individual, and even if we find no reason in our database, our consular officers are now instructed to determine, on a very tough standard, whether or not a person should be interviewed.

But the interview isn't going to produce somebody saying, "Yes, I'm a terrorist, I'm heading your way," but an interview to see whether there is anything that is inconsistent between the application and the individual who actually shows up for the interview.

QUESTION: We're getting ready to, or they're getting ready to celebrate the 200th independence of Haiti. Haitian people are, in our hemisphere, suffering more, economically, than any other country.

There is money in the IMF and World Bank that's supposed to be for Haiti. It's not being released. What can the State Department do to help that process and to make sure that there is enough aid for Haiti?

SECRETARY POWELL: The United States has given hundreds of millions of dollars to Haiti over the last five or six years, and we are anxious to get many of the funds that you described released to go to the Haitian people.

At the same time, we have to hold the Haitian government to appropriate standards of democracy and representative government, and we have held up some of the aid trying to achieve that purpose.

It's a desperately poor country. It is about to celebrate 200 years of non-colonial rule, but in those 200 years, they have not succeeded in putting together the kind of democracy that would create a better life for the people of Haiti.

So we're working with the government of Haiti, and we're trying to do everything we can to put in place the right sort of political circumstances that would ensure that the flow of additional money coming from the outside would be used properly, and be used in a way that would start to develop the economy.

QUESTION: I mean, there are other countries now, such as Egypt, et cetera, that are not exactly our ideal of democracy, yet we give them a lot of aid.

SECRETARY POWELL: We give Haiti a lot of aid. I don't have a number immediately at hand, but it's somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 million over the last five or six years. The United States is the most generous nation on the face of the Earth, and we have been generous to Haiti.

We sent our military troops in to restore democracy to Haiti, and I, in a personal way, participated with President Carter and then former Senator Sam Nunn, back in 1994, to talk the generals out of power, and allow President Aristide to come back, which he did.

But I regret to say that, in the eight years since 1994, I have not seen the kind of progress that I would have expected to have seen, and we have got to keep pressing Haitian authorities, and one way of encouraging them to do the right thing is making sure that aid goes to help people, but it goes in a responsible, systematic way so that it is properly used.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: You're welcome. (end transcript) (Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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Ambassador Noriega remarks today at The Inter-American Dialogue: U.S. won't support farcical elections                                                                                                                                                                                            Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2002 11:40 a.m.

Haiti Democracy Project

Roger Noriega 10/30/02 at the Inter-American Dialogue.

The gist, not verbatim

Notes by James Morrell, Haiti Democracy Project

Ambassador Roger Noriega:

Since 1994 the United States has spent $3 billion on Haiti, including $1.2 billion in direct bilateral aid. Yet today we are stuck in the mud. It is not the people, it is the leadership. A series of flawed, indeed farcical elections. Government has been irresponsible. As to President Aristide's efforts to comply with OAS resolutions 806 and 822, it has been a discouraging record. The government has not met its commitments and not made progress. It has yet to produce its own report, as it is obligated to do. Has yet to prosecute the perpetrators of the December 17 violence. Inquiries into the violence are far from complete. Reparations have yet to be paid. As far as ending impunity, we are losing ground. Metayer is at large. There are no steps to rearrest him. The Lindor indictments of ten, fine, but absent among them is the FL official who instigated that murder. Judge may release some of the ten. Little movement on the Jean Dominique case. The preliminary report of the government on compliance with 806 was inadequate, we need results. Now the government on reparations has put forward new requests for information such as formal title, and they seem to be picking and choosing whom they pay. The delay undermines confidence, they need to make full payment. This is an unfulfilled commitment to the international community. It's essential to heed this commitment. Otherwise the participation of the opposition in the CEP is problematic, as well as their participation in the elections. On October 10 five of the nine sectors to nominate members of the CEP wrote the president asking for an international security presence and other measures. These were reasonable demands to enable their participation. There has been no response.

The United States is dissatisfied with the continuing police involvement with drugs. The Hurricane2 operation was a setback. Information leaked from the police. The raids came up empty because they had been tipped off. Elected officials in the Nord worked against the operation. Fifteen percent of all the cocaine reaching the United States goes through Haiti. We don't have confidence in the police. Too many senior police officers are involved in drugs. There needs to be a housecleaning. Our embassy has asked the government to remove them, some have been removed.

Thugs threaten the elections with violence. It is very difficult to create a secure environment. Aristide must make a more forceful call against violence.

There are 870 cadets training at the police academy. The United States and the OAS members are willing to provide technical assistance in police protection of the elections. Broader aid to the police as a whole, that would depend on Aristide.

Disarmament remains high on the agenda. We ned to get the mayors and the popular organizations disarmed.

The United States is the largest donor to Haiti. In the last two years, we have put in $120 million. More than $1 billion since 1994. In some quarters this is called an embargo. From May 2000 to September 4 of this year there was a consensus among Haiti's bilateral aid donors and the IFIs that further IFI aid should be contingent on a political agreement to correct the elections. This using of leverage of IFI aid is normal around the world. The leverage didn't work because of the complete lack of confidence, the level of distrust, between the government and opposition. Resolution 822 broke this linkage. IFIs will now review using their normal criteria of feasibility and accountability. However, if Haiti does not follow the path it agreed to in Resolution 822, its future is at risk.

The United States will not participate in support a farcical election.

James Morrell asked what sort of security presence the U.S. government might be contemplating, in response to the request from the sectors nominating members of the CEP.

Noriega. It would not be a large troop presence. We would attempt to use the police to monitor the process. These would be outside, international monitors. It would be nice, for example, if Canada could send thirty thousand policemen to be traffic cops and everything. It won't happen.

Ambassador Preeg asked about the November 2000 election of Aristide. The CEP was skewed in favor of FL. The opposition boycotted. The observers pulled out. Only 5 or 10 percent voted. Can we say that he is the democratically elected president? Noriega. He was accepted de facto as the legitimate president. The election was seriously flawed but he was accepted as the de facto president. Question about disarmament. Noriega. They know where the guns are.

Question about refugees by Patricia Weiss Fagen.

Noriega. The vast majority are economic. It's pull, not push. So we discourage them from coming. We're rigorous in reviewing claims for political asylum. We haven't changed the standard.

Noriega, returning to disarmament. The popular organizations operate with the forbearance, which is the kindest way to put it, of Aristide. We call on him to disarm them. If he is unwilling, we will wait until he passes on before we would cooperate.

Peter Hakim asked what would the United States do if there was no progress.

Noriega doubted that Aristide would do anything. We have the objective indicators laid down by the OAS. If he breaks his commitments, he will be on the way to illegitimacy and Haiti on the way to being treated as a pariah state by the United States.

Steve Griner asked about the OAS democracy mission and democratic charter.

Noriega described the mission and noted again the present class at the police academy. The mission could be the focus of technical assistance.

As far as the democratic charter, it is evoked rather than invoked. The OAS members didn't want Haiti, the poorest country, to be the subject of its first outing. The OAS would have been on the way to suspending Haiti. The members didn't want to do that. It is a draconian solution, it says the charter has failed, rather they want to use the measures in the charter to fix the situation. The Haitian government, however, won't use the self-help measures of Article 17. Now we expect just those states who were strongest in this position to be most vigorous in urging Aristide to comply.

Associated Press. Did Noriega regret the 1994 intervention?

Noriega recalled going to Haiti right after the intervention and saying it was Haiti's best chance. He told President Aristide that. Haiti had completely wasted that chance.

Question from the U.N. Foundation.

Noriega. Welcome U.N. reinvolvement in Haiti alongside OAS, would be especially welcome in security.                                                                                                                                        

Haiti's de facto government Counsel responds to recent statements by U.S. Ambassador Noriega

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 /PRNewswire/ -- In statements issued yesterday to the Inter-American Dialogue, Mr. Roger Noriega, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) and former chief-of-staff to North Carolina U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, attacked the Government of Haiti and the President of the Republic of Haiti for their failure to comply with OAS Resolutions 806 and 822. Advertisement

Mr. Ira Kurzban, General Counsel for the Government of Haiti in the United States issued a reply today calling Mr. Noriega's comments "unfair, untrue, and an insult to the Haitian people." Mr. Kurzban stated "the Government of Haiti under the leadership of President Aristide has taken significant steps over the past several months to comply with Resolutions 806 and 822 and has worked closely with the OAS Mission to achieve those objectives." The government has begun to develop a comprehensive program in disarmament, public security and fighting international drug trafficking. Mr. Noriega's comments that "fifteen percent of the cocaine entering the United States transits through Haiti" is pure fabrication. Mr. Kurzban stated that "Haitians do not produce, sell or use drugs and the numbers that Mr. Noreiga cites are not verifiable." His comments also "ignore the many steps that Haiti has taken in the last several months alone to combat drug trafficking. Only last week, a national conference on fighting international drug trafficking occurred in Haiti at which time Haitians also discussed developing a comprehensive, national anti-drug trafficking plan -- a fact totally ignored by Ambassador Noriega." Mr. Kurzban points out further that "Mr. Noriega's statements ignore the U.S. lack of commitment to fighting drugs in Haiti." Although the U.S. signed an agreement with Haiti to provide funding to fight drugs nearly nine months ago, "not one dime" as been provided to Haiti as of today.

Recent similar false and misleading comments made by the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti resulted in his being called before the Foreign Ministry to explain such unwarranted comments about Haiti's efforts to combat the scourge of drugs.

Similarly, Mr. Noriega's comments regarding reparations and efforts to disarm are misleading. The government of Haiti has already paid out more than $1,000,000 in reparations to the victims of the public violence. In light of the daily struggle to survive for most Haitians, this amount is a considerable sum and demonstrates President Aristide's commitment to abide by his statements on July 8, 2002, and the OAS resolutions. Mr. Kurzban went on to state that, "Mr. Noriega has completely ignored the efforts by the police under very difficult circumstances to begin the process of disarmament in the country by setting up roadblocks and systematically disarming persons who would cause violence in society."

Mr. Kurzban also noted that the most misleading and disingenuous aspects of Mr. Noriega's statements are his refusal to acknowledge that the U.S. led embargo by the international financial institutions makes the government of Haiti's ability to fight drugs, reduce crime and pay reparations all the more difficult. "If the U.S. had not led a financial embargo against Haiti the past two years, we would not see Haitians on U.S. shores. Rather, we would see the Government of Haiti in a much better position to ensure the health, safety and security of its citizens."

Finally, Mr. Kurzban stresses that Mr. Noriega's statements simply assist those who would undermine the government's efforts to comply with Resolutions 806 and 822 by "emboldening those people who believe that a zero sum game may be played with the lives of the Haitian people." Mr. Kurzban noted that such statements "are unhelpful if the U.S. is truly interested in seeing a political solution in Haiti. The Haitian government wants to see as many people as possible play a constructive role in the future of Haiti. These statements undermine those efforts."

This material is distributed by Downey McGrath Group, Inc., on behalf of the Government of Haiti. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. Make Your Opinion Count - Click Here

Source: Ira Kurzban, General Counsel of the Government of Haiti

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