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#1208: Haitian leader cancels his visit to Mansfield (fwd)


Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 1, 1999 at 00:30 CST 
 Haitian leader cancels his visit to Mansfield 
By Robert Cadwallader Special to the Star-Telegram 

MANSFIELD -- Haitian President Rene Préval yesterday abruptly canceled
his Metroplex trip that had centered on a visit Monday to the Mansfield
food manufacturing plant owned by Haitian immigrant Dumas Siméus.  
"Because of urgent political developments in Haiti, he's not able to
visit Siméus Foods International next week," Siméus said in a written
statement read by his publicist. "Matters in the government require his
immediate attention. The visit will be rescheduled at a later date."
Neither Siméus nor officials at the Haitian Embassy in Washington  
could be reached for comment late yesterday. The news was met with
disappointment in Mansfield, where city and business leaders had
arranged an elaborate luncheon to welcome Préval and his entourage
It's a tremendous letdown," Mayor David Harry said. "We're going to   
great effort to unmake all the preparations we've been making.We're very
disappointed. We were looking forward to the visit, and  we'll just roll
with the punches."More than 150 local city and civic leaders were
expected to attend the luncheon, arranged by the Mansfield Chamber of
Commerce.Siméus, who immigrated in 1961, bought Portion-Trol Foods in   
Mansfield in 1996 and changed the company's name. With revenues   
expected to reach $200 million this year, Siméus Foods has grown       
into the city's largest private employer and the largest black-owned
business in Texas. Siméus didn't give a detailed reason for the
cancellation or say whether it was related to problems with the
country's fledgling democracy.Yesterday, the U.N. Security Council voted
to keep United Nations civilian police in Haiti until March 15, when the
United Nations is expected to start a new mission to help the nation
strengthen its democratic system.The General Assembly is expected to
approve this week a new, yearlong operation for Haiti that would start
in March, covering judicial reform, human rights and civilian police. It
would work in  tandem with a recently approved long- term development
and international assistance program for Haiti. Jim Stergeos, chairman
of the Mansfield chamber, said the cancellation should almost have been
expected. "I wasn't surprised," he said. "It's politics. Things like
that happen all the time. They change schedules all the time."     
Economic development leaders in the city were looking forward to the
positive exposure the visit would bring Mansfield, hoping it might     
make industries consider relocating to the city. Just as important,
 officials wanted to use the visit and reception as a way to honor    
Siméus.  "We wanted to do something nice since he was bringing them to 
Mansfield," said Don Ellis, president of the Mansfield Economic   
Development Corp. "We wanted to show appreciation to him for what he's
done for Mansfield."