Haitians in Fla. angry at Clinton, outraged at Bush

January 16, 1993|By Ginger Thompson | Ginger Thompson,Staff Writer

MIAMI -- The mood in Little Haiti just northwest of downtown Miami went from bad to worse yesterday.

Haitian refugees and advocates already were smarting after President-elect Bill Clinton announced Thursday he would uphold an executive order by President Bush calling for all Haitian refugees to be summarily returned to their violent, depressed nation.

Their anger increased yesterday after hearing of a U.S. plan to establish an unprecedented barricade of boats around Haiti's shore to make sure would-be boat people stay on the island.

"This is outrageous," said Cheryl Little, an attorney who represents Haitian refugees. "They are not only making sure that people who want to flee Haiti don't come to the United States, but they are stopping them from fleeing to any other country. Now people in Haiti have no place to go.

"When he [Mr. Clinton] criticized Bush's order, there were no exceptions to that. Now he comes up with things like 'I don't want people to risk their lives at sea.' "

Tony Jeanthenor, a member of the Haitian Refugee Center, said, "This really makes me mad. All this time, President Bush hasn't stopped boats taking oil and guns to the military regime of Haiti. But he will put boats out there to stop people who want a free and safe life from coming to this country."

"I'm not surprised," said Lavarice Gaudin, head of a grass-roots Haitian organization named Veyeyo, which means "watching them" in Creole. "If I have learned one thing in my life, it is that politicians say one thing to get elected and another thing after they are elected."

Mr. Gaudin's voice was barely audible over the heated conversations of Haitian refugees gathered in front of a community center in the heart of Little Haiti. Pointing to a life-size poster of Mr. Bush with red ink, meant to be blood, on his forehead, Mr. Gaudin said Mr. Bush displayed racism by ordering a blockade of Haiti only days before he is to leave office.

"He just doesn't want more black people coming to this country," he said. "And people who don't support the Haitian refugees are people who have never supported anything good, like the civil rights movement. They are the people who killed our leaders, like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X."

Ms. Little and others still think that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, forced out in a coup in 1991, will be restored to power.

"I see people becoming more and more mobilized to fight for the rights of the Haitians," she said. "I think Clinton is doing much more than Bush ever did to restore democracy in Haiti."

A meeting has been scheduled for tonight to protest the blockade and the disparity in treatment between Haitian and Cuban refugees.

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