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Haitian migrants put Joe Biden’s immigration policies to test in Texas

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Marie Martine and Briyanne Jeanniton fled their native Haiti, traveled for years on parallel journeys across two continents before landing at the Texas border.

Their paths never crossed but, in March, they each made what they hoped would be their last leg: They surrendered to Border Patrol agents, one in El Paso, the other in Del Rio.

They met remarkably different fates.  

Agents in Del Rio gave Jeanniton, 23, a “credible fear” screening that put her on a legal path to seek asylum — she acknowledged she was afraid to return to Haiti — and they released her to travel freely to a friend’s apartment in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Briyanne Jeanniton, a Haitian migrant lived in Tapachula, Chiapas before traveling to Monterrey, Mexico, and eventually crossing into the U.S. and making her way to Florida in March of 2021. In the photo, Jeanniton is photographed in Chiapas in February of 2020.

Agents in El Paso loaded Martine, 49, and husband Fanfan Jean into a van, dropped them at a downtown bridge to Juárez and told them to return to Mexico.

“I feel free,” Jeanniton said in a video call, using Spanish she acquired during time spent in Chile and traversing South and Central America, to Mexico. “I don’t know if you can understand me. Ten or 12 countries behind me! And when you arrive, you feel free. Like when a person was a slave and becomes free, because the journey is over.”

Back in Juárez, in a hastily rented room, Martine said her experience at the border was “mal, mal, mal” — very bad.

The Border Patrol “didn’t ask me about Haiti,” she said. “Haiti is very dangerous. If I go to Haiti, I could be killed. But they didn’t ask me about Haiti. They only told me, “You are going back to Mexico.”

Briyanne Jeanniton, Haitian migrant living in Tapachula, Chiapas
Ten or 12 countries behind me! And when you arrive, you feel free.

The U.S. asylum system ― whose dismantling by the Trump administration began with an Obama policy blocking Haitian asylum seekers in 2016 ― remains in disarray. As a result, asylum seekers are making strategic decisions about where to present their claims, and unequal encounters are playing out in Texas border cities from El Paso to Brownsville. 

Border where chances are hit or miss

The White House has repeatedly said that the border is closed and that pandemic protocols that allow Border Patrol to quickly return migrants to Mexico — known as Title 42 — remain in effect.

A group of Haitians crosses into the Rio Grande to enter El Paso, Texas on April 2. 2021.

A group of Haitians crosses into the Rio Grande to enter El Paso, Texas on April 2. 2021.
Omar Ornelas/ El Paso Times

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection public affairs spokesperson said border agents evaluate a migrant’s circumstances on a case-by-case basis, taking into account U.S. legal requirements, COVID-19 protocols, changes in Mexican law, U.S. holding capacity and and the health of the individual.

‘All I want is a tranquil life’: Asylum claims skyrocket in Mexico as Haitians flee to U.S. border

“The border is not open, and the vast majority of people are being returned under Title 42,” the spokesman said in an emailed response to questions.

Separately, Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector confirmed in an email that Haitian citizens have been returned to Mexico under Title 42.

Like Jeanniton and Martine, Haitians who have been waiting years in Mexico for an opportunity to seek asylum in the U.S. are now testing the Biden administration and a border where their chances are — evidently — hit or miss.

Marie Martine and her husband Fanfan Jean discuss their next options after a failed attempt to be allowed to remain in the U.S. The couple have lived in Mexico for the last five years in Tijuana.

“They’re being left with a risky decision on the off chance they will go the right (border) sector at the right time, and we have no explanation for who gets in and why,” said Linda Rivas, executive director of the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso. “It is extremely arbitrary. It highlights that we don’t have a functional asylum system.”

Mark Morgan, who served as acting CBP commissioner under Trump, called the Biden administration’s uneven application of Title 42 along the border “absurd.” 

Linda Rivas, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center executive director in El Paso
It is extremely arbitrary. It highlights that we don’t have a functional asylum system.

“Any time there is a policy or authority shift, it’s exploited,” he said. “Either the smugglers are going to exploit that or the migrants are going to exploit that. Title 42 is not being applied evenly across the border. It shouldn’t depend on where you enter the Southwest border illegally what happens to you.”

Jeanniton’s calculation paid off. She left Border Patrol custody with a negative COVID-19 test and paperwork in hand requiring she meet with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If not a guarantee that she could stay, she may have a chance to make her case.

Sent back to Mexico empty-handed, Martine was disappointed but undeterred. 

Marie Martine and her husband Fanfan Jean, walk around downtown Ciudad Juarez in search of a belt and shoe laces. U.S. Customs and Border Protection had taken the shoelaces from the migrants when they attempted to enter the U.S. without documentation.

“I am thinking about checking another border,” she said, employing a mix of Spanish and Portuguese acquired during long stints in Venezuela and Brazil and Mexico. “I’m going to wait a while to see how things go. I’ve been waiting here so long. I want to cross.”

A Guatemalan father brought his 10-year-old daughter to the U.S.-Mexico border.: He learned to regret it.

Well-worn route north

For decades Haitians have left their half-island nation, the poorest in the western hemisphere, in search of stability.

They fled the back-to-back dictatorships of François Duvalier and son Jean-Claude Duvalier in the 1970s, then the fallout of the 1991 coup d’etat that ousted democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Then came the 7.0 earthquake in 2010 that flattened much of capital city Port-au-Prince, which was followed by a destructive Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The country is now on the verge of collapse, as President Jovenel Moise has consolidated power and dissolved core governing institutions; anti-government protests have become widespread and violent.

From left, Herve Alverna, Marie Martine and Fanfan Jean lace up their shoes after a street vendor in downtown Cuidad Juarez gives them free shoelaces. The migrants' shoelaces and belts were taken from them by U.S. Border Patrol, a typical security measure, when they entered the U.S. without proper documentation.

Martine left Haiti in 2008 for Venezuela, then in 2014 to Brazil. Jeanniton left in 2017 for Chile.

At the time, Brazil and Chile had fast-growing economies and welcomed Haitian labor; the governments provided work permits and visas. Both women made a life for themselves in growing Haitian communities in each country.

But the Chilean and Brazilian economies soon contracted, and as civil unrest and anti-immigrant fervor took hold, Haitian workers were among the first to lose their jobs.

Martine left for Mexico in 2016. Jeanniton left for Mexico two years later.

They each followed a route well-worn by their compatriots, Cubans and others with limited means: They walked the jungle of the isthmus that connects Colombia with Panama, took buses or rides across Central America to the Guatemala-Mexico border.

Haitian migrants arrived in the cities of Mexicali and Tijuana, Baja California in 2016. Many of the migrants remained in Tijuana and Mexicali for years, working in the informal economy and in the factories of the border cities. In this photo, Haitian migrants are photographed in a migrant shelter in Mexicali in September of 2016.

They were among the more than 13,000 Haitian nationals who filed applications for asylum, or what’s known in Mexico as refugee status, from 2016 through the first two months of 2021, according to COMAR, Mexico’s refugee commission. 

Mexico’s denial rate for those applications by Haitians hovers around 90%, according to the U.S.-based Haitian Bridge Alliance. But the country gave many Haitians temporary permission to live and work in the country, Martine and Jeanniton included.

With legal status to travel and work in Mexico, thousands made their way to Mexico’s northern border where jobs are plentiful — if poorly paid — and the U.S. appears within reach.

Haitians at forefront of restrictive policies

Martine and her husband landed in Tijuana in 2016 where they found factory jobs assembling TVs for American consumers. Jean worked a 12-hour night shift for $85 a week.

Martine rubbed her fingers together to emphasize how little money they earned.

“Working here you can’t get ahead,” she said, sitting in a restaurant in downtown Juárez. “You work a lot. You earn a little.”

Briyanne Jeanniton, a Haitian migrant lived in Tapachula, Chiapas in 2020 before making her way to Monterrey, Mexico and eventually making her way into Florida in March of 2021.

Briyanne Jeanniton, a Haitian migrant lived in Tapachula, Chiapas in 2020 before making her way to Monterrey, Mexico and eventually making her way into Florida in March of 2021.
Omar Ornelas/The Desert Sun

Haitians settled in to cities south of the California border — Tijuana and Mexicali — in large part because the United States was closed to them. 

By the time Martine arrived in Tijuana, the Obama administration had blocked the ports of entry to asylum seekers with a practice immigrant advocates call “metering.”

Linda Rivas, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center executive director in El Paso
It leaves people with one option: to cross in a way that is deadly, through a river that is unforgiving, over a wall that is higher than it has ever been. You have to contemplate death before you make the decision.

“Haitians unfortunately have often been at the forefront of asylum restriction policies over the last five or six years,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the nonprofit American Immigration Counsel. “The whole concept of metering — of restricting access to asylum at ports of entry — began in San Diego in response to the arrival of Haitians.”

The practice spread to every port of entry at the U.S. border and remains in effect.

“It leaves people with one option: to cross in a way that is deadly, through a river that is unforgiving, over a wall that is higher than it has ever been,” Rivas said. “You have to contemplate death before you make the decision.”

Martine and Jean didn’t try to cross the border without permission, not yet. They waited, hoping for a change in U.S. policy.

Slim chances for asylum seekers

Around the time Joe Biden was elected president in November, Jeanniton headed north toward the U.S. border to Chihuahua City about four hours south of Juárez. She had spent more than a year in southern Mexico, in migratory limbo in the humid border city of Tapachula in Mexico’s southern Chiapas state.

The U.S. was her longed-for destination, she told the El Paso Times in Tapachula in early 2020. 

Biden sticks to infrastructure pitch: Pressure builds on immigration, gun control

Marie Martine walks in downtown Cuidad Juarez past Central American migrants near the Paso Norte Bridge.

Marie Martine walks in downtown Cuidad Juarez past Central American migrants near the Paso Norte Bridge.
Omar Ornelas/ El Paso Times

More than 680,000 Haitian immigrants live in the U.S., according to the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute. More than 55,000 benefited from humanitarian protection afforded them through Temporary Protected Status; others have sought asylum or other legal status.

Haitians are the sixth-largest group of asylum seekers in the U.S. behind those from China, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

Their chances of winning asylum are comparatively low.

U.S. immigration judges denied 82%, or 26,401 of 32,129 asylum petitions by Haitian nationals between 2001 and 2021, according to data published by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

Herve Alverna, the cousin of Marie Martine, contemplates whether to return to Tijuana or continue to another area of the Mexican northern border to make an attempt at entering the U.S.

Herve Alverna, the cousin of Marie Martine, contemplates whether to return to Tijuana or continue to another area of the Mexican northern border to make an attempt at entering the U.S.
Omar Ornelas/ El Paso Times

The denial rate in Haitian cases is on par with what Central Americans face and is much higher than for applicants from China (33%), Colombia (64%) or India (45%), according to the TRAC data.

‘You’re going to cross alone’

Martine, who has family in Georgia, has gotten most of her information about the border by word of mouth, from other Haitians in the U.S. and in Mexico.

She said she’s afraid to be sent back to Haiti, but asked whether she wanted protection under the U.S. asylum system, she answered that she reads the Bible.

“Only God can offer protection,” she said.

Despite her failed attempt to reach the U.S., returning to Tijuana isn’t an option, she said. She and Jean sold the few things they had. They would look ahead.

Marie Martine grows worried about what do to next after a failed attempt to be allowed to remain in the U.S.

Marie Martine grows worried about what do to next after a failed attempt to be allowed to remain in the U.S.
Omar Ornelas/ El Paso Times

“Conditions in Mexico are not good,”  said Nicole Phillips, legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, a nonprofit that advocates for Haitian immigrants. “With COVID-19, a lot of people lost their jobs or whatever businesses they staffed fell apart. They fell on hard times economically. The ports of entry are completely closed (to asylum seekers) because of Title 42. There has been no explanation in Haitian Creole about what is happening.”

Jeanniton learned what she could from other Haitians on the move.

U.S.-Mexico border: Some migrant families are taken in, others ‘kicked out’

Briyanne Jeanniton, fled native Haiti
There are days that people lose their life.

In March, she traveled to Ciudad Acuña, across the border from the rural community of Del Rio, Texas, where the Rio Grande runs wide and deep and dangerous. Three months earlier, Border Patrol in Del Rio sector recovered the body of a pregnant Haitian woman, believed to have drowned.

Jeanniton found a “guide,” she said, who showed her the way.

“He told me, ‘you’re going to cross alone,'” she said. 

She waded into the river. She carried her cell phone and a change of clothes.

“There are days that people lose their life,” she said. “You know that I am tall, and when I crossed, the water came up to my waist. You have to be so careful not to fall.”

Rising migration, ongoing deportations

Biden promised a more “humanitarian approach” to immigration enforcement. To many would-be immigrants in the Americas, the message sounded something like opportunity.

A Haitian child who recently arrived from Tijuana watches cartoons. The child and his parents attempted to enter the U.S. that night but were returned and decided to return to Tijuana, Baja California.

A Haitian child who recently arrived from Tijuana watches cartoons. The child and his parents attempted to enter the U.S. that night but were returned and decided to return to Tijuana, Baja California.
Omar Ornelas/ El Paso Times

The administration is now struggling to contain increased unauthorized immigration at the Southwest border.

Border Patrol apprehensions and encounters swelled to more 100,000 in February, up from roughly 37,000 in February year ago, according to CBP data. The number of Border Patrol apprehensions and encounters — which include numerous repeat crossings — has risen each of the past 10 months. 

Haitian migration presents special challenges.

The country carries the U.S. State Department’s most extreme travel warning due to “crime, civil unrest, kidnapping and COVID-19.”

“Because of the political turmoil and crises that is happening in the country, nobody should be deported to Haiti right now,” Phillips said. “It’s as unsafe to travel to Haiti as it is to travel to Afghanistan or Somalia, according to the Department of State.”

After briefly halting deportation flights to Haiti, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement resumed Title 42 returns and deportations to Haiti.

Mark Morgan, former acting CBP commissioner under President Donald Trump
Regardless of where you stand on the politics, there was a better way to undo Trump policies.

“There have been a couple a week, with at least 1,400 people deported, since Feb. 1,” Phillips, the Haitian Bridge Alliance legal director, said. “On those planes are some Haitians who were convicted of a crime, but the vast majority — 95 or 99% are Title 42 people.

Morgan, the former acting CBP chief, said he worries that the hit-or-miss application of Title 42 is going to exacerbate unauthorized migration in areas where Mexico’s capacity to take back expelled migrants is limited and Border Patrol facilities are overcrowded.

“You’re going to see those areas that are already the epicenter, it’s just going to get worse,” he said. “Regardless of where you stand on the politics, there was a better way to undo Trump policies.”

Story continues below.

‘You see the lights of the country’

Jeanniton quickly settled into a friend’s apartment in West Palm Beach. Resting on a pale pink blanket, sunshine streaming through a window, she said she felt a combination of exhaustion and relief.

She spoke giddily, remembering. “On the first bus, traveling at night,” she said of the trip across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to Florida, “you see the lights of the country, like it was a movie.”

“There are beautiful cities in every country,” she said. “But the United States is the United States!”

In the weeks ahead she planned to find a job and check in with ICE. 

“You have to go to the appointments,” she said.

In Juárez, in late March, Martine sat on a concrete bench across from where she and her husband briefly stayed when they arrived from Tijuana, the Hotel Bombín, whose $25-a-night rooms are three blocks from the U.S. border next to a night-spot called “El Faro Ladies Bar.”

Her husband and a cousin walked up with to-go boxes of Church’s fried chicken and biscuits for breakfast.

They couldn’t afford another night in the hotel. Martine worried out loud about where they would go and when — or where — their journey would end.

Lauren Villagran can be reached at lvillagran@elpasotimes.com.

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Justin Trudeau condemns ‘appalling’ assassination of Haitian president – National

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined world leaders on Wednesday in condemning the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise.

Trudeau took to Twitter and called the deadly attack on the president “appalling,” adding that “Canada stands ready to support the people of Haiti and offer any assistance they need.”

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During a press conference in Calgary later in the afternoon, the prime minister further described the act as “absolutely unacceptable and not something anyone wants to see anywhere in the world.”

“Canada has been and will continue to be a close friend to the Haitian people,” Trudeau told reporters in Calgary.

“They’ve had a number of difficult years, including politically. Canada has continued to be there for them and we will continue into the coming difficult months to stand with the people of Haiti and move toward greater stability and greater opportunity for everyone.”

Moise was killed in an attack on his private residence early Wednesday, according to Haiti’s interim prime minister. First lady Martine Moise was shot in the overnight attack and hospitalized. It wasn’t immediately clear who was behind the assassination in a country that had grown increasingly unstable and disgruntled in recent years.


Click to play video: 'Haiti President Jovenel Moïse assassinated at home, official says'







Haiti President Jovenel Moïse assassinated at home, official says


Haiti President Jovenel Moïse assassinated at home, official says – Jul 7, 2021

Read more:
Haiti President Jovenel Moïse assassinated at home by mercenaries: official

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Kevin Edmonds, an assistant professor of Caribbean Studies at the University of Toronto, said Canada and the United States have been involved in cultivating over the long term the current political situation in which the assassination took place.

In February 2004, a military coup overthrew a democratically elected government led by president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He accused the United States, France and Canada of orchestrating his ousting.

About 500 Canadian troops went to the Caribbean country after the coup “to restore order until a new UN stabilization mission could be well established,” according to Veterans Affairs Canada website. It says UN peacekeeping missions in Haiti reached about 7,500 military members and civilian police, from dozens of countries. It also says that at times, over 750 members of the Canadian Armed Forces and 100 civilian police officers have served there.

Since 2004, Edmonds said, a series of fraudulent elections have brought deeply unpopular presidents to power while a UN mission supported them.

Haiti is the largest recipient of development assistance from Canada in the Americas.

Since the January 2010 earthquake, Ottawa has provided $1.5 billion to Haiti, including $345 million in humanitarian assistance and $1.15 billion in development assistance.

Edmonds said Canada played a role in pushing for a national election to be held in 2010, when many Haitian parliamentarians and politicians had lost their lives in the natural disaster. The general election originally scheduled to take in February was put off until November that year and the presidential election was held the following spring.

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“Canada and the United States were very insistent that elections happen right away, and a lot of voices within in Haiti, civil society, politicians, the citizens were saying ‘let’s wait a bit,’” Edmonds said, adding there were concerns about electoral fraud and parties banned from running.

In a 2019 report, Human Rights Watch said the Moise government’s elimination of subsidies led to widespread protests that had escalated since July 2018, with opposition groups demanding Moise’s resignation amid allegations that he had mismanaged government funds designated for social programs.

Edmonds said Moise was “very repressive,” but that he was also friendly to foreign investment as he was getting rid of regulations for mining, oil and gas companies and repressing labour unions.

“Having a weak but accommodating centre-right government in Haiti is good for Canadian interests U.S. interests,” Edmonds argued.

“I would have thought that Moise would have been tipped off that something’s gonna happen but this (assassination) is kind of unprecedented.”

The assassination drew shock and condemnation from leaders in Latin America, Europe and the U.S., along with calls for calm and unity in the troubled Caribbean nation.

Colombian President Ivan Duque condemned what he called a “cowardly act” and expressed solidarity with Haiti. He called for an urgent mission by the Organization of American States “to protect democratic order.”

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Mercenaries responsible for assassination of Haiti’s president, country’s ambassador to the U.S. says


Mercenaries responsible for assassination of Haiti’s president, country’s ambassador to the U.S. says – Jul 7, 2021

Other initial reactions reflected concern about Haiti’s security.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, tweeted that “this crime carries a risk of instability and (a) spiral of violence.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “shocked and saddened at the death of President Moise.”

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“Our condolences are with his family and the people of Haiti,” he added. “This is an abhorrent act and I call for calm at this time.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the assassination.

“I’d like to make an appeal for political unity to get out of this terrible trauma that the country is going through,” Sanchez said during a visit to Latvia.

The White House described the attack as “horrific” and “tragic.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. stands ready to assist Haiti in its time of need.

“It’s a horrific crime and we’re so sorry for the loss that (the people of Haiti) are all suffering and going through as many of them are waking up this morning and hearing this news,” Psaki said during a previously scheduled interview with CNN. “And we stand ready and stand by them to provide any assistance that’s needed.”


Click to play video: 'Haiti’s first lady in stable but critical condition, country’s ambassador to the U.S. says'







Haiti’s first lady in stable but critical condition, country’s ambassador to the U.S. says


Haiti’s first lady in stable but critical condition, country’s ambassador to the U.S. says – Jul 7, 2021

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen offered her condolences in a statement on Twitter.

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“We wish the First Lady a prompt recovery, & stand together with our ally Haiti in this difficult time,” Tsai wrote. Haiti is one of the few countries in the world that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

— With files from Global News and The Canadian Press




© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Haiti’s murdered president laid to rest with tensions high

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  • President Jovenel Moise was murdered on 7 July at his home in Port-au-Prince.
  • The attack was carried out by a group that included 26 Colombian former soldiers.
  • Moise’s funeral was attended by foreign dignitaries including US President Joe Biden’s top advisor.

Pallbearers in military attire carried late Haitian President Jovenel Moise’s body in a closed wooden coffin as his funeral got underway on Friday, two weeks after he was shot dead at home in an assassination still shrouded in mystery.

The bearers placed the polished casket on a dais garlanded with flowers in an auditorium. Four stood guard as a Roman Catholic priest blessed the coffin and a Haitian flag was unfurled.

Foreign dignitaries including US President Joe Biden’s top advisor for the Western Hemisphere flew to Cap-Haitien to pay their respects to Moise, joining mourners who have taken part in a series of commemorations in Haiti this week.

Moise was gunned down in his home in Port-au-Prince before dawn on 7 July, setting off a new political crisis in the Caribbean country that has struggled with poverty, lawlessness and instability.

Protests by angry supporters of Moise convulsed the slain leader’s hometown, the northern city of Cap-Haitien, for a second successive day on Thursday as workers prepared for the funeral.

The protesters set tires on fire to block roads, while workers paved a brick road to Moise’s mausoleum on a dusty plot of several acres enclosed by high walls.

Set on land held by Moise’s family and where he lived as a boy, the partly built tomb stood in the shade of fruit trees, just a few steps from a mausoleum for Moise’s father, who died last year. Police controlled access to the compound through a single gate.

ALSO READ | Roiled by presidential assassination, Haiti swears in new PM

The assassination was a reminder of the ongoing influence foreign actors have in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere despite it becoming Latin America and the Caribbean’s first independent state at the start of the 19th century.

The attack was carried out by a group that included 26 Colombian former soldiers, at least six of whom had previously received US military training. Haitian-Americans were also among the accused.

The attack’s plotters disguised the mercenaries as US Drug Enforcement Administration agents, a ruse that helped them enter Moise’s home with no resistance from his security detail, authorities have said. At least one of the arrested men, a Haitian-American, had previously worked as an informant for the DEA.

The turmoil has pushed Haiti up Biden’s foreign policy priorities and on Thursday the State Department named a special envoy for the country. Biden has rebuffed a request by Haiti’s interim leaders to send troops to protect infrastructure.

Screens inside the auditorium broadcast images of Moise and his meetings with world leaders including Pope Francis, French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

ALSO READ | ‘Alleged assassins’ of Haitian president in custody as uncertainty grows

Helen La Lime, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Haiti, was among the guests.

A former banana exporter, Moise failed to quell gang violence that surged under his watch and he faced waves of street protests over corruption allegations and his management of the economy.

However, the demonstrators in Cap-Haitien were venting anger over the many questions that remain unanswered about the assassination, including who planned it and why.

Banners celebrating Moise festooned buildings along the narrow streets of Cap-Haitien’s old town, with proclamations in Creole including, “They killed the body, but the dream will never die,” and “Jovenel Moise – defender of the poor.”

Source: News24

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At least 1 U.S. citizen arrested in connection to killing of Haitian president, official says

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Haitian officials say 15 people have been arrested and four were killed following the early morning assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, and at least one of those arrested — possibly two — are U.S. citizens.

Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s minister of elections, told multiple news outlets on Thursday, including The New York Times and The Associated Press, that Haitian American James Solages was among six people arrested in the brazen killing of Moïse by gunmen at his home in the pre-dawn hours on Wednesday.

Pierre would not provide additional details about Solages’ background, nor provide the name of the second Haitian American. The U.S. State Department said it was aware of reports that Haitian Americans were in custody, but could not confirm or comment.

The FBI said Friday it would be helping Haitian authorities investigate Moïse’s murder. “The Haitian government requested assistance today from U.S. law enforcement with the investigation into President Moïse’s assassination,” said a spokesperson for the bureau. “The FBI is currently engaging with the U.S. Embassy in Haiti and our law enforcement partners to determine how we can best support this effort.”

Thursday night, Haiti’s national police said authorities were looking for nine people in connection with the assassination.

Police also said that four people were killed in an exchange of gunfire with police, and that automatic weapons were seized. Police had earlier said that seven suspects had been killed.

Police late Thursday said that of the 15 arrested, 13 were Colombians.

Léon Charles, Haiti’s director of National Police, had said earlier that three police officers had been held hostage, but police freed them.

Haiti’s government has blamed mercenaries for the attack.

Moïse was killed early Wednesday in what the country’s acting prime minister, Claude Joseph, described as a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.”

Joseph said a group of “highly trained and heavily armed” people attacked Moïse’s residence around 1 a.m., shooting the president and his wife.

First lady Martine Moïse was flown to Florida and receiving medical attention in Miami, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States said.

Moïse, who was 53 and took office in February 2017, was attacked in his home in a suburb of the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas.

Police officers walk near the private residence of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse after he was shot dead in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.Estailove St-Val / Reuters

Joseph called for calm in the country. He told The Associated Press that elections scheduled for later this year should be held and pledged to work with Moïse’s allies and opponents alike.

U.S. President Joe Biden said he was shocked and saddened to hear of the assassination of Moïse and the attack on his wife and called it a heinous act.

“The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” Biden said in a statement.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the assassination in the strongest possible terms and said the U.N. will continue to stand with the government and people of Haiti.

“The Secretary-General calls on all Haitians to preserve the constitutional order, remain united in the face of this abhorrent act and reject all violence,” a spokesperson for Guterres said in a statement.

Moïse had been resisting calls to step down from opponents who accused him of corruption and who insisted his term expired in February because the country’s constitution starts the clock once a president is elected, rather than when he takes office.

He had been demanding to serve out the remainder of the year and threatening to amend the constitution to give himself more power.

Gabe Gutierrez, The Associated Press and Julia Ainsley contributed.

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Telstra bids on Digicel amid South Pacific tech expansion

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Developments in the South Pacific region include Telstra’s $2 billion bid for Digicel in an effort to block China from acquiring the mobile network assets, writes Paul Budde.

LAST WEEK, we published the first part of the overview of broadband developments in the South Pacific, where we covered the three largest countries – Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji.

Australia has a special relationship with our South Pacific neighbours and we have a responsibility to collaborate with them and assist them, especially also in the fields of information technology and telecommunications. Therefore, I would like to share this information with you that BuddeComm has prepared for this region.

It is also important to report on the latest development since last week. The Australian Government together with Telstra have made a $2 billion offer for the Digicel telco assets in the South Pacific. The Irish company is one of the largest mobile operators in island nations in both the Caribbean and the South Pacific. It is facing financial difficulties because of the drop in revenues from tourists that would normally visit these islands.

China has shown interest in buying the assets in the South Pacific and the Australian Government is keen to block that. For that purpose, it has offered $1.5 billion to assist Telstra in buying these assets. At this point, it is still uncertain if Digicel accepts the offer.

Now back to an overview of broadband developments in New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and Samoa.

Broadband development crucial for the South Pacific region

Demand for broadband and data-based services is growing in the South Pacific, improving both economic and social conditions in the region.

New Caledonia

The telecom sector is dominated by OPT-NC, which holds a monopoly and provides fixed and mobile voice services, mobile internet, fixed broadband access and wholesale services for other ISPs.

The country is well serviced by extensive 3G and LTE networks and is considered to have one of the highest smartphone adoption rates in the Pacific region.

While DSL is still the dominant fixed broadband technology, OPT-NC is also deploying a nationwide FttP network. Fibre subscriber numbers had increased to over 20,000 by end 2020 with 32,800 homes passed.

French Polynesia

With improved international connectivity, fixed broadband penetration has become among the highest in the region. A considerable number of consumers access FttP-based services. With the first data centre in French Polynesia on the cards, the quality and price of broadband services will improve as content will be able to be cached locally, reducing costs for consumers.

About 43% of the country’s mobile connections are on 3G networks, while LTE accounts for 12%. By 2025, LTE is expected to account for more than half of all connections. It is estimated that 77% of mobile subscribers will have smartphones by 2025.

Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste has been moving forward with the regeneration of its economy and rebuilding key infrastructure, including telecommunications networks, that were destroyed during the years of civil unrest.

Fixed-line and fixed broadband penetration in Timor-Leste remain extremely low, mainly due to the limited fixed-line infrastructure and the proliferation of mobile connectivity. The number of subscribers through to 2026 is expected to develop steadily, though from a low base.

The country has three telecom service providers who jointly achieved 98% network coverage nationally. All three major mobile operators – Timor Telecom, Telkomcel and Telemor – launched LTE services during 2019.

Earlier this month, the Timor-Leste Government announced it will issue a public tender for the purchase and installation of a fibre optic submarine cable connection from capital Dili to Darwin and Port Hedland. Costs are estimated between U.S.$40-$60 million (AU$54.6-$82 million). The project could be completed in September 2022. The cable is likely to be built with the money pledged by the Australian Government back in 2019.

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Vanuatu

For many years, GSM was the primary mobile technology for Vanuatu’s 300,000 people. Recent infrastructure projects have improved access technologies, with a transition to 3G and, to a limited degree, to LTE. Vanuatu has also benefitted from the ICN1 submarine cable and the launch of the Kacific1 satellite, both of which have considerably improved access to telecom services in recent years. Vanuatu’s telecom sector is liberalised, with the two prominent mobile operators Amalgamated Telecom Holdings (operating as TVL) and Digicel Vanuatu offering effective competition.

While fixed broadband penetration remains low, the incumbent operator is slowly exchanging copper fixed lines for fibre. Several ongoing submarine cable developments will also assist in increasing data rates and reduce internet pricing in the coming years.

Samoa

Samoa was one of the first Pacific Island countries to establish a regulatory infrastructure and to liberalise its telecom market. In 2006, it became the first in the region to see the market entrance of Digicel, which has since launched services in other Pacific nations. The advent of competition in the mobile market saw prices fall by around 50% and network coverage increase to more than 90% of the population.

LTE is developing on the back of its initial launch in 2016 by Digicel Samoa, followed by BlueSky Samoa (now Vodafone Samoa) in early 2017. Digicel Samoa completed its LTE network in September 2020.

Like other countries in the Pacific Islands, Samoa’s telecoms sector has been inhibited by a lack of international connectivity. While Samoa has had access to the Samoa-American Samoa (SAS) cable laid in 2009, this cable has insufficient capacity to meet the country’s future bandwidth needs.

This issue was addressed with two new submarine cables which became available in 2018 and 2019. These, combined with the Samoa National Broadband Highway (SNBH), have improved internet data rates and reliability and have reduced the high costs which were previously associated with internet access in Samoa.

Paul Budde is an Independent Australia columnist and managing director of Paul Budde Consulting, an independent telecommunications research and consultancy organisation. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBudde.

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How I Travel: Questlove Is Finally Learning How to Vacation

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Ahmir Thompson, best known as Questlove, has not really stopped producing content once during his fifty years. While most know him as the drummer of the Roots, which has been the house band of The Tonight Show since 2014, he’s also a radio host, composer, Broadway producer, author of four books, actor, and now, a filmmaker: he makes his directorial debut this month with Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). The documentary, in theaters and on Hulu now, shares the story of the Harlem Cultural Festival, a nearly forgotten concert series the same summer as Woodstock that featured performers like Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, and Nina Simone.

In case it wasn’t clear, Questlove isn’t really a kick-back-with-a-tiki-drink kind of guy when it comes to travel. “I’m super notorious,” he says. “My reputation is known for being anti-vacation. The pandemic slowed that down, and made me realize the importance of resting.” He shared his other inspiration for more leisure time, as well as his favorite cities and why private planes are overrated, with Condé Nast Traveler.

His catalyst for trying to become a vacation person:

In the past five years, I’ve struck up a friendship with a gentleman named Shep Gordon. He had a documentary made about his life, directed by Mike Myers, called Supermensch. And when I saw Supermensch, I went on social media and just stalked him, like, “If anyone knows who Shep Gordon is, contact me.” Weird enough, Apollonia was like, “That’s my BFF.” So Shep, he invented the rockstar manager rule book, like everyone from Alice Cooper to Anne Murray to Teddy Pendergrass, Rick James. He’s had them all. Like me, he was a workaholic, and then one day he just walked from it all. He’s just like, “I’m letting everything go. I’m going to make relaxation my priority.” He basically opened up a utopian getaway for fellow workaholics. All you have to do is call him up and say, “Shep, I need a break.” Once a year, for the last five years, I go to Maui just to do nothing. It’s his house, and it’s really simple, a beautiful, sprawling estate. But he has the world’s best grass. There’s nothing like walking on his grass with your bare feet. That’s one of my top five feelings in the world, is just to sit and let hours go by. And that’s the thing, I go there specifically to do nothing. Sleep, sit, and do nothing. Wake up and go back to sleep. Just to unwind.

His love affair with JetBlue:

People think I’m joking, but I’m dead serious—JetBlue Mint, to me, is even better than private planes. Private planes aren’t fun at all. The only good thing about private planes is the bragging that you get to do in that 20 second walk up to the plane. Once you’re in it, there’s no space. I’m in 11-man groups, so you’re crunched in there. If you’re the kind of person that gets off on that one Instagram story that makes it look like your life is that fabulous, more power to you. But for starters, [JetBlue has] the right balance of the movies I like to watch. Right now, their whole summer is dedicated to Hitchcock. I usually catch up on the black and white films or musicals or thrillers that were done between the ’50s and ’60s that I always say I’m going to watch and never do. I’ll say that yes, I often do sometimes just go to sleep, but most of the time, if I’m on a plane, chances are I’m doing a DJ gig, so I’ll practice what my plan is going to be.

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