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25469: (news) Holmstead- Miami Herald: Journalist flees Haiti for Miami (fwd)
FROM: John Holmstead <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Posted on Thu, Jun. 23, 2005
Journalist flees Haiti for Miami
A respected opinion-maker and foe of Haitian President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide left Haiti for Miami amid
threats to her safety.
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
As one of Haiti's most prominent investigative
journalists, Nancy Roc is no stranger to assassination
attempts, death threats or harassment.
But when attackers recently shot up her Port-au-Prince
home and her closest friends got anonymous calls
saying she would soon be kidnapped, Roc decided she
had seen and heard enough. The woman who rarely runs
scared packed her bags and promptly left for Miami.
Not even her bullet-proof bedroom door or her 24-hour
body guards were enough to make her feel safe in a
country where kidnappings have become the crime du
jour following the Feb. 29, 2004, ouster of former
Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. ''The calls
were saying -- through people who were connected to me
-- to tell me, that my kidnapping was a question of
hours, and they were going to kidnap me at any cost,''
said Roc, who took the last American Airlines flight
out of Haiti for Miami a week ago today.
The alleged purported kidnappers: drug dealers.
''I wonder if it was not used as a diversion?'' said
the award-winning journalist and author, keenly aware
that even in Haiti, where drug smugglers have taken
over, things are rarely what they seem and rumors of
pending threats are proven to silence opponents.
No matter who is behind the rumors, Roc said she knows
her life is in danger. Her decision to leave Haiti
illuminates the fear gripping Haitians just months
before the country's eight million people are
scheduled to elect a new president along with 30
senators, 90 representatives, 133 mayors and 266 vice
mayors -- two for every mayor position.
''The city is a hostage,'' said Roc, whose
predominantly French-language radio show Métropolis on
Port-au-Prince-based Radio Métropole has made her a
''Haiti is a jail without bars; a country with no
values. We need collective psychiatric help,'' she
Diplomatic sources and Roc's boss, radio station owner
Richard Widmaier, confirmed the kidnapping plot
rumors. But they are careful to point out that
journalists in Haiti are in no more danger than
average citizens. They say this is not the same kind
of anti-press war that occured under Aristide, a time
when several Haitian journalists were killed or forced
to flee into exile.
''A lot of those who participated in demonstrations in
the overthrow of Aristide last year, some in the
media, are also being targeted,'' said Widmaier,
himself the target of a botched kidnapping two weeks
''We have a situation here that is more similar to
what you see happening in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's
terrorism,'' he said. ``You have guys who pretend to
be supporters of former President Aristide, attacking
people in the streets, burning cars and kidnapping
As many as 200 people have been kidnapped in recent
months in Port-au-Prince as part of the mounting crime
wave in the capital city.
Reached by telephone late Wednesday, Interim Prime
Minister Gerard Latortue declined to discuss Roc or
her claims. But a Haitian police spokeswoman could not
immediately confirm or deny her allegations.
Roc is an easy target. As Aristide's former press
secretary, she gained notoriety as one of his
staunchest critics after his return from exile in
The criticism nearly cost Roc her life.
She blames Haiti's decaying society on Aristide,
Latortue's interim government and the international
community's failure to stabilize the country following
the former president's departure early last year.
''The transition has been a failure. Latortue didn't
listen to the people on the field. He was incompetent
in his leadership and he's taking his orders from the
international community,'' Roc said.
Adding to Haiti's problems, she said, is a weak U.N.
peacekeeping force, corruption in the Haitian National
Police and the ''private sector mafia'' that wanted
Aristide out but did little else to rescue the
country. ''The violence is going to blow up in our
faces,'' said Roc, who said she has no plans to return
to Haiti anytime soon.
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