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6622: Haiti lets U.S. go after drugs (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

Published Saturday, January 13, 2001, in the Miami Herald
 Haiti lets U.S. go after drugs______ Ships, planes to go along coast,
in air

 In a decision quickly welcomed by U.S. officials, Haiti has agreed to
allow U.S.
 ships and planes to enter its unguarded coastline and airspace to
 Colombian vessels preparing to unload cocaine destined for South
 The move is supported by president-elect Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who
pledged to
 put into effect an agreement that was signed by the United States and
Haiti three
 years ago but not ratified by Haiti's parliament until last month.
Aristide plans to take the battle against traffickers another step as
well, officials said, by pushing legislators of his Lavalas Family party
to approve two other proposals that would make it more difficult for
traffickers to use Haiti as a springboard for drugs moving into this
 Officials at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy say
the bills
 before Haiti's parliament are a good sign, but caution that the
ultimate proof will
 be whether Haiti carries out its declared intentions. ``We're
encouraged they're moving forward with the ratification process,'' said
Jennifer de Vallance, a spokeswoman for the agency. ``The legislation is
an excellent step. We expect them to follow up.''
 Haiti's popularity with Colombian cocaine traffickers is the result of
 factors: geography, the absence of effective law enforcement, and the
 of officials seeking bribes. The cocaine enters Haiti along some 800
miles of
 unguarded coastline, mostly on the Caribbean Sea and directly facing
 The White House Office on National Drug Control Policy estimates more
than 65
 metric tons of cocaine a year gets dropped in Haiti from go-fast boats
or airplanes
 before it is re-packaged and shipped to Florida through couriers or on
 that dock on the Miami River. Because no agreement has been in effect,
U.S. Coast Guard ships and airplanes tracking cocaine vessels
customarily abandon the chase as soon as they enter Haitian waters.
 In a letter to President Clinton earlier this month, Aristide agreed to
 substantially cooperation.'' Among other things, U.S. officers will be
allowed to
 search ships and people on board, as well as inspect documents. ``We're
giving ourselves the instruments we need to fight the networks of drug
dealers we have corrupting this country,'' said Justice Minister Camille
Leblanc. One piece of legislation before the parliament concerns money
laundering, a booming business in Haiti, where there is little banking
oversight. In the past few years, several new banks have opened and
agencies transferring money to Colombia have proliferated. Over the past
decade, while Haiti's economy has been on life support, construction of
luxury homes on the hillsides has mushroomed. Much of the money comes
from the United States, where the drug is sold. Last week, U.S. Customs
officials found $2 million on a ship that was about to leave the Miami
River for Haiti. It was loaded with used bicycles, bedding and furniture
-- and a stash of money hidden inside three plastic boxes. Customs
agents say
 some Haitian boats come up the Miami River with no legal cargo
whatsoever, and
 leave with merchandise of little value. The booty, they say, is the
cocaine they
 bring in and the cash they leave with.
 Once the proposed legislation is enacted, according to Leblanc, banks
will be
 required to ask depositors of more than $3,000 to file a form that
would slow down
 considerably the transfer of cash from Haiti, either to Colombia or
 institutions. Banks will be forced to open their books once they
suspect one of
 their clients in involved in the drug trade, Leblanc said.
 Leblanc said Haiti also plans to set harsher penalties, making it
easier to
 extradite traffickers wanted by U.S. authorities for trial. The bill
also sets a
 minimum sentence of 10 years and seizure of all property once someone
 convicted of trafficking. He said Haiti will set up a national
commission to plan the
 fight against drugs. ``These documents are strong enough to show
everyone that we're serious and that the consequences are very high,''
Leblanc said. ``Prison here is not sweet. We can only afford to feed our
prisoners 1,300 calories per day, while someone
 needs 2,000 a day. When you get into jail here... you don't know how
you're going
 to come out.'' About 50 Colombians, along with dozens of Haitians, are
being held in Haiti for drug trafficking. Several of the Colombians have
recently died in jail.
 Yvon Neptune, president of Haiti's senate and a spokesman for Lavalas
 said his colleagues will likely vote on the bills at the end of the