[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#3403: Haiti Slipping Deeper into Crisis... (fwd)


Haiti Slipping Deeper into Crisis Seafaring migrants fleeing political
violence, tattered economy 
By Mark Fineman, Los Angeles Times Saturday April 29
Miami-------The rescue of nearly 300 weak, shipwrecked Haitian migrants
from an inhospitable Bahamian cay -- and the deaths of at least two
others -- brought into sharp relief yesterday the deepening anarchy in
the impoverished Caribbean land they had fled. On a day when Haiti's
political opposition reported another brutal political murder in       
advance of national elections scheduled for next month, most analysts
linked the latest wave of desperate, illegal migration to the violence
and economic decay in the country. The refugees' flight was also clear
evidence, the analysts said, of how little has changed in Haiti      
since a mass exodus of tens of thousands of Haitians triggered a
$2.3-billion, U.S.-led military intervention in 1994 to restore      
democracy there. U.S. Border Patrol, Coast Guard and Bahamian     
officials said that more than 600 Haitians who have come ashore from the
Bahamas to Florida in the past week also testify to a booming human   
smuggling trade that is further encouraging the precarious journey
through hidden reefs and dangerous seas to the United States. Coast
Guard officials who helped rescue the 288  Haitians on Thursday from the
Bahamas'Flamingo Cay said their abandoned boat had all the trappings of
a smuggler's vessel run aground.At least two migrants -- and possibly as
many as 14 -- died from exposure and dehydration. In addition, 31
Haitians detained early yesterday morning as they darted from the beach
at the sleepy Florida seacoast town of Hillsboro near the Broward-Palm
Beach county line told agents they had paid $1,500 each for the journey
from the Bahamas -- a key way station on the sea route between northern
Haiti and South Florida. Fifteen other Haitians detained in Key Biscayne
on Thursday said they had paid $4,000 for the trip on a modern speedboat
outfitted with twin 200-horsepower engines. Border Patrol spokesman Joe
Mellia said the Border Patrol has detained 51 Haitians on the South
Florida coast this month alone; last year,no one was arrested in all of
April. And last month, the agency apprehended 76 Haitians,more than
double the 36 they caught the previous March. Last month also marked the
beginning of major political violence in Haiti, where nearly a dozen  
candidates and local party leaders -- mostly opposition figures -- have
been slain during the ongoing parliamentary and municipal campaign.   
Haiti has been without a legislature since President Rene Preval
dissolved Parliament 16 months ago and began ruling by decree. Preval,
who was elected to succeed Jean- Bertrand Aristide in 1996, has
postponed elections several times this year. Preval agreed two weeks ago
to hold the two rounds of voting May 21 and June 25. But on Thursday,
the president of Haiti's independent Provisional Electoral Council
warned that no vote would take place if the violence continued.        
Yesterday, associates reported that unknown attackers used machetes to
hack to death and  behead Ducertain Armand, a 70-year-old campaign
director for the opposition Haitian Christian Democratic Party, on
Tuesday in a small town about 15 miles from the capital, Port-au-Prince. 
 Ira Kurzban, a Miami immigration lawyer who represents the Haitian
government, asserted that the latest migrant wave is unrelated to
political strife in the country. `These are not under any circumstances
people fleeing Haiti for political reasons. These are      people
looking for a better life in the U.S.,''Kurzban said, blaming the
nation's disastrous economy on a cutoff of international aid. But most
U.S. and international aid -- several hundred million dollars worth --
has been frozen because Haiti has no Parliament to earmark it,and most
analysts lay the blame for the refugee wave on the nation's political