2004-09-03 / Caribbean Corner

caribbean roundup

gun battle leaves one dead two


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Gunmen opened fire on a hospital while a delegation of high-ranking French officials was inside, sparking a gunbattle that left at least one gunman dead while wounding a French soldier and a Haitian police officer, an official said.

Renaud Muselier, France’s secretary of state for foreign affairs, was in-side St. Catherine’s Hospital at the time but wasn’t injured during the attack in the Cite Soleil slum.

“The gunfire lasted an hour and a half before we could be evacuated by U.N. forces that sealed off the area,’’ Muselier said, speaking on France’s RTL radio.

“We were evacuated in a convoy of armored cars and two helicopters,’’ he said.

Muselier is the No. 2 official in the French Foreign Ministry and is on a visit aimed at boosting cooperation be-tween Haiti and its former colonial ruler.

The slum – one of Haiti’s poorest – has traditionally been a stronghold of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aris-tide, and some loyalists have pledged to resist the interim government that replaced Aristide after he left Feb. 29 amid a bloody rebellion.

The French delegation and their arm-ed escorts were holed up in the building for about two hours until Brazilian troops who are leading a U.N. peacekeeping force arrived in armored vehicles and took them away, the French official said.

He said the delegation was comprised of about 10 officials and that about 100 men from the neighborhood surrounded the hospital. A few hundred rounds were fired in the gunbattle before the peacekeepers arrived shortly after noon, the official said. He add-ed that the French soldier was lightly wounded by gunfire.

No further information was immediately available about the extent of the French soldier’s injuries or those of the Haitian police officer who was wounded. The identity of the slain gun-man also wasn’t available.

U.N. peacekeepers remained in Cite Soleil and were working to piece together what happened, said Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, a spokesman for the peacekeeping force in the Caribbean country.

Aristide has claimed U.S. and French forces forced him out, something ve-hemently denied by Washington and Paris.

While Aristide remains in exile in South Africa, tensions remain in the poorest country of the Americas, where armed rebels still effectively control some areas despite the presence of the U.N. force and where some armed Aristide supporters vow to press for his return.

Former soldiers of the disbanded army are currently occupying the police station in southern Petit-Goave and also patrolling southern Jacmel. They also have said they plan to send some to the southern town of Miragoane in the coming days, and their leaders have called for the army to be reconstituted.

Aristide was ousted in a 1991 coup and restored to power in 1994 by U.S. troops. He disbanded the army in 1995, and now some ex-soldiers are asking for their pension benefits to be restored.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) _ The president of Guyana left recently to meet with U.S. officials in Wash-ington to discuss taking the South American nation off a list of countries that the United States believes are not doing enough to stop human trafficking.

Before leaving for the weeklong visit, President Bharrat Jagdeo said Guyana was “unfairly placed’’ on the U.S. State Department’s list of 10 countries that could face sanctions this year if they don’t significantly improve efforts to stop human trafficking, the state news agency GINA reported.

Jagdeo told GINA he was optimistic about Guyana’s chances of being re-moved from the list. Earlier this month, the government introduced legislation that would impose sentences of up to life in prison against those convicted of kidnapping people for prostitution or other commercial purposes.

Jagdeo also planned to meet with top officials of the Inter-American De-velopment Bank to discuss outstanding loans worth US$108 million, mostly for infrastructure projects like roads and river bridges.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – An American man was charged with hiring a hit man to murder a taxi driver because of a long-running land dispute in Jamaica, police said.

Clement Majerus, 49, of Arlington Heights, Illinois, was arrested about two weeks ago in the western resort town of Negril, Det. Orel Simpson said.

Majerus, who has lived on the Ca-ribbean island off and on for several years, paid someone to kill taxi driver Michael Daley, 53, authorities said.

The two had been feuding for years over a two-story house that Majerus built on land owned by Daley, who was shot in the head as he stood outside his property on July 9.

Majerus’ lawyer, Vernon Ricketts, said his client is innocent and will ask for bail at a court hearing on Tuesday. He said Majerus was in the United States at the time of the killing.

High crime rate hurting tourism, government

minister says

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Jam-aica’s unprecedented crime level is threatening to derail the Caribbean island’s vital tourism industry by scaring away visitors and hurting investment, the tourism minister said.

Speaking at a political meeting on Sunday, Aloun N’Dombet Assamba said that no amount of overseas advertising dollars could counter the negative publicity associated with the island’s worsening crime wave.

“I now feel that there is nothing I can do ... to move us forward if we are constantly having to fight the battle against crime,’’ she said. “Too much of our resources are lost that way, too much of our people are lost that way.’’

More than 900 people have been slain on the island of 2.6 million this year, compared to 975 for all of 2003. The country is on pace to surpass its record of 1,138 homicides in 2001.

Despite the upsurge in violence, tourist arrivals to Jamaica have re-mained steady. More than 1.3 million tourists have visited so far this year, up 6.4 percent over the same period in 2003, officials say.

CASTRIES, St. Lucia (AP) – St. Lucia has appointed a five-member commission to investigate dozens of abuse allegations against the country’s police force, a government official an-nounced recently.

The allegations range from physical assault, verbal abuse, harassment and unjustified arrest threats, said Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Calixte George.

The panel will look into almost 200 complaints that date back to 1998, in-cluding at least 79 this year, said George, whose ministry oversees the 700-member police force.

The announcement came two years after St. Lucia passed the Police Com-plaint Act, which called for the creation of the commission. The Carib-bean country’s news media frequently reports on police brutality, and several killings by police remain unsolved.

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada (AP) – Britain has agreed to extradite a man wanted in Grenada for the murder of his wife, officials said.

Grenadian authorities issued an arrest warrant two years ago for Fazal Sayed, an Indian national who had lived on this Caribbean island for several years. The 33-year-old is wanted in connection with the July 2002 kill-ing of his 24-year-old wife, Gillian Sayed.

The British government agreed to extradite Sayed last week, said Christ-opher Nelson, director of public prosecutions. Sayed, a native of Mumbai, India, has until Friday to appeal the extradition order, Nelson said.

Police discovered Gillian Sayed’s body on a beach in southeastern Gre-nada. Her throat was slit and she had multiple stab wounds.

The same day police discovered his wife’s body, Sayed flew from Grenada to Barbados where he boarded a flight to India via London.

Interpol agents in Britain arrested Sayed and handed him over to British authorities where he has been held since.

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) – Soca music will be recognized at the Grammy Awards from 2006 when there will be an award for Best Soca Recording.

Sonata Smith, a member of the Gram-my Awards Voting Committee was quoted in the Trinidad Express newspaper as saying that everything has been put in place for voting to begin in 2005 to select the songs that will be nominated for the first Grammy for soca music.

Aruba-born Smith, a Caribbean mu-sic aficionado began an internship at the US-based Grammy organization in 1999 and since then she has been trying to convince the organization to establish a category for soca.

Her efforts were rewarded after she made a presentation to the executive committee which included historical and statistical data about Soca.

“I had to do a lot of research, which included going to the various islands collecting data and music. They had to know that the music was creating some sort of impact, at least within the Ca-ribbean community,” she told the Express.

“They did not know about the music and there was really nothing about it out there to make them sit up and take notice on their own. The song that I used as a sample was Trini To The Bone by David Rudder and Carl Jacobs, so you can see that Trinidad was given the recognition as the birthplace of the genre,” she said.

I want everyone to get online and find out how to become a voting member of the Grammys. It is easy. All the information and how to access the forms are right there,” Smith said.

Reggae has already been a part of the Grammy Awards for 19 years. Winners of the Best Grammy Album award have included Sean Paul, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Beenie Man and Ziggy Marley.

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