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9856: Miami Herald Editorial (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

The U.S. Coast Guard did the right thing Monday when, after rescuing 185 
Haitian migrants from a severely overcrowded sailboat, it brought them to 
shore. Usually Haitians interdicted at sea are interviewed aboard ship and 
promptly returned to Haiti.
An Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesperson said that the 
Haitians would be given full interviews and that any who make a credible 
claim of political persecution will be allowed to request asylum in the 
United States. This is fine -- but only to a point. It doesn't deal with the 
larger issue of Haiti's dramatically changed political environment and the 
need for more-direct U.S. involvement to help set aright Haiti's fragile, 
fledgling democracy.

If history is a guide, most of the Haitians picked up in Biscayne Bay aren't 
likely to win asylum, despite deteriorating political circumstances in their 
country. On Monday, for example, a Haitian radio journalist who had been 
warned about inviting opposition supporters onto his talk show was stoned 
and hacked to death by a mob near the town of Petit-Goave.

The murder was the latest in about 40 deaths associated with political 
unrest in Haiti this year, including the murder in April of popular radio 
commentator Jean Dominique, who had been critical of President Jean-Bertrand 
Aristide's policies.

The Haitians' dilemma -- so clearly illustrated in these episodes of flight 
on the high seas and escalating violence at home -- is that they are fleeing 
a putative democratic regime and are presumed to be economic refugees, and 
thus they not eligible for asylum petitions. Nevertheless, thousands 
continue to risk their lives across 800 miles of treacherous sea in unfit, 
dangerous wooden boats.

Regardless of the outcome of the interviews with the latest Haitian 
arrivals, the need for more U.S. assistance in Haiti -- economic and 
technical support -- is clear. When he was a candidate, President Bush 
dismissed the idea that the United States should be involved in ``nation 
building'' or helping struggling countries to develop their infrastructure 
and internal political and judicial institutions. However, in directing the 
campaign against terrorism in Afghanistan, the president has acknowledged 
that ``nation building'' sometimes may be necessary.

The circumstances in Haiti make it a prime candidate for a renewal of U.S. 
nation building there.

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