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a386: Dominican-Haiti (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By ANDRES CALA
SANTO DOMINGO, Jan 16 (AP) -- Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
sought to ease tensions with the Dominican Republic Wednesday, expressing
satisfaction with its actions against a suspect in an alleged December coup
attempt in Haiti.
Aristide spoke during his first official visit to the Dominican
Republic, a country that shares a Caribbean island and centuries-old
grudges with its Creole-speaking neighbor.
"My smile is the mirror that reflects the harmony that exists between
both nations," Aristide said.
Aristide hugged Dominican President Hipolito Mejia. The two leaders
signed an agreement to discuss better cooperation on economic, border and
His visit comes amid tensions in the wake of the Dominican government's
refusal to turn over a former Haitian police official, Guy Philippe,
accused of helping to plot a Dec. 17 attack on Haiti's National Palace in
the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Gunmen took control of the National Palace for seven hours in what
Aristide has called an attempted coup. Ten people died and at least nine
were wounded in the attack and violence that followed.
Philippe was in the Dominican Republic at the time of the attack.
Some two weeks after the alleged coup attempt, Mejia said he would not
allow his country to become a focus of efforts to conspire against Haiti's
On Tuesday, his government said that although Philippe would not be
handed over to Haiti, he would not be allowed to remain and would be
deported to a third country.
"I am very satisfied with what Mr. Mejia has done," said Aristide,
answering questions about Mejia's handling of Philippe.
Aristide also met with former presidents Joaquin Balaguer and Leonel
Fernandez at their homes and was to have met privately with leaders in the
Haitian community before completing the one-day visit.
Relations between the countries also have been aggravated the fact that
11 former Haitian soldiers now are living in the Dominican Republic and are
accused of a July attack on a Haitian police academy.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic lack an extradition treaty, an issue
that has muddied relations for decades.
The government has no statistics on how many Haitians live in the
Dominican Republic. But estiamtes put the number at 800,000.
Haiti won its independence from France in 1804, becoming the first black
republic in the New World. After independence, Haitian leaders controlled
portions of what is now the Dominican Republic. The Spanish-speaking
country celebrates the day Haitian leaders were ousted in 1844.
In 1937, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the country cleansed
of Haitians. Approximately 12,000 to 25,000 were killed in massacres.
Dominicans complain about the flow of illegal Haitian immigrants, and
mass deportations of Haitians are often criticized by human rights groups.