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Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2006
                     
U.S. lawmaker says deportees not fueling crime in Haiti
      
By The International Herald Tribune

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - A senior U.S. legislator pledged Monday to help resolve a dispute between Haiti and the United States over deporting Haitian convicts to their homeland but rejected Haiti's assertion that the U.S. policy has fueled violent crime.

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, called the long-standing disagreement over deportees "a sensitive issue" but emphasized that Haitian convicts sent home by the United States were not "the only reason why there is a lack of security" in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

"It might be simple to say that if we just solve the deportee problem, everything will be well with security. But we don't believe that," said Engel, the incoming chairman of the House western hemisphere subcommittee.

Haiti Senator, Gabriel Fortune, who has long urged Haiti to return with the death penalty for those convicted of kidnapping or terrorist related crimes, Tuesday, December 12, 2006, during an anti-kidnapping/terrorist sit-in said "Haiti Senate will soon demand that Prime Minister, Jacques Edourd Alexis, submits a full list of the bandits he says to be currently negotiating with." wehaitians.com

"We are however committed to try to bring the two sides together on the deportee issue," he added during a news conference. "We believe Haiti must tackle the problem of security and we are eager to help." Haitian officials weren't immediately available to comment.

Engel was speaking at the close of a two-day trip to Haiti along with five other Democrats €” Donald Payne, of New Jersey; Kendrick Meek, of Florida; and Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey, all of California.

Last week, Haitian Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis said the United States would soon increase the number of criminal deportees it sends to Haiti from 25 to 100 per month €” a move he said would "complicate the security situation."

Alexis also said the United States warned Haitian officials that they would lose vital aid and U.S. travel rights unless they cooperated with the policy €” an accusation denied by the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.

Engel said the lawmakers met with President Rene Preval and Alexis but didn't say whether they discussed the deportee issue.

Haiti's government doesn't track how many crimes are committed by people who have been deported, and no hard evidence exists to suggest they significantly affect crime in Haiti, which has a police force of 4,000 to patrol a country of 8 million.

The country has struggled to disarm politically aligned street gangs that flourished in the aftermath of a 2004 revolt that toppled former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In recent months, dozens of foreigners and Haitians have been kidnapped, and violence has forced hundreds of slum dwellers to flee their homes despite the presence of an 8,800-strong U.N. peacekeeping force.

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