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Tensions mount in Haiti after voodoo ceremony attack

Quake destroyed 50 percent of Haiti GDP: president
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Feb 25, 2010 - The quake that ravaged Haiti over six weeks ago destroyed up to 50 percent of the Caribbean nation's gross domestic product, President Rene Preval said Thursday. "This earthquake ... led to the deaths of 200,000 to 300,000 people and destroyed from 35 to 50 percent of the GDP," Preval said. He was speaking as he met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at a UN-Brazilian military base in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, which was ravaged by the January 12 7.0-magnitude quake. "What is important now is to strengthen the Haitian government," said Lula, adding to the Haitian people: "at this moment of pain, at this moment of desperation, we must lift our heads up." He also called on the international community to cancel Haiti's debt.

Brazilian president visits quake-devastated Haiti
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Feb 25, 2010 - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visits Haiti on Thursday, more than a month after an earthquake devastated the country's capital, with 20 Brazilians among the dead.

Brazil, which heads a UN force here, saw 18 of its peacekeepers killed in the January 12 quake.

Two Brazilian civilians were also killed: the deputy UN head of the peacekeeping mission, Luis Carlos da Costa, and a high-profile children's rights campaigner, Zilda Arns.

Following the quake last month, Brazil decided to double its UN force in Haiti to 2,600 as well as authorize 205 million dollars in aid for the country, which was already the poorest in the Americas before the catastrophe.

In a speech a month ago, Lula held developed nations responsible for Haiti's dire poverty and misery.

"The developed world is responsible for what happened in Haiti," Lula said.

"Perhaps now the earthquake will stir the shame of the human beings governing this planet, and we can now do what should have been done (for Haiti) 40 or 10 years ago."

Lula is to tour damaged areas as well as meet Haitian President Rene Preval during the visit, which is expected to last about seven hours.

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed more than 200,000 people and left some 1.2 million homeless in what some experts say could be the worst natural disaster in modern history.

by Staff Writers
Mariani, Haiti (AFP) Feb 25, 2010
Haiti's supreme voodoo leader has vowed to wage "war" after Evangelicals attacked a ceremony organized by his religion honoring those killed in last month's massive earthquake.

The attack on Tuesday in the capital's sprawling Cite Soleil slum came amid rising religious tensions, as Protestant Evangelicals and other denominations recruit followers in the wake of the earthquake that killed more than 200,000.

Some of the fresh converts have said they did so because they believed God caused the earthquake.

"It will be war -- open war," Max Beauvoir, supreme head of Haitian voodoo, told AFP in an interview at his home and temple outside the capital.

"It's unfortunate that at this moment where everybody's suffering that they have to go into war. But if that is what they need, I think that is what they'll get."

The quake also left more than a million homeless and left much of the capital and surrounding areas in ruins in this Caribbean nation of more than nine million.

Police said a pastor urged followers to attack the Cite Soleil ceremony, resulting in a crowd of people throwing rocks at the voodoo followers.

Rosemond Aristide, a police inspector in Cite Soleil, said he had since spoken with the pastor, who agreed to allow voodoo ceremonies to take place there.

But he would not explain why no arrests were made nor provide further details.

Beauvoir claimed the Protestant Evangelicals attacked the ceremony along with other people they hired, causing a number of injuries.

He also accused Evangelical denominations of using post-quake aid supplies such as food and medicine to try to "buy souls."

"I would like to see each one of them tied up in ropes and thrown in the sea, and I hope the best of them will be able to catch a plane and run away and leave in peace," the voodoo priest said.

"Because this is what we need right now -- peace."

Asked whether he would encourage voodoo followers to respond with the same kind of violence, Beauvoir said he would.

"They have not been aggressors," he said of voodooists. "I think they are aggressed (attacked), and they will have to answer with the same type of aggression. I don't mean for (Evangelicals) to die. I am not out to kill them."

Speaking of Evangelical leaders in Haiti, Beauvoir said most of them studied in places like Alabama and Mississippi, "where they have learned hatred and fear."

"They say Jesus talks to them, and Jesus told them that voodoo should not be present in Haiti," he said.

About half of Haiti's population is believed to practice voodoo in some form, though many are thought to also follow other religious beliefs at the same time.

The religion -- whose practitioners often use the vodou spelling as opposed to the Westernized version -- evolved out of beliefs slaves from West Africa brought with them to Haiti. It is now deeply rooted in Haitian culture.

A voodoo priest named Boukman has been credited with setting off the country's slave rebellion in the late 18th century, which eventually led to the creation of the world's first black republic.

But Evangelicals have been making inroads in Haiti lately.

One Evangelical priest in the middle-class Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville claimed Wednesday that more than 200 people came to his church to convert after the January 12 quake.

"They say that God struck the country," said Sainvoyus Raymond of the First Baptist Church of Petionville, adding that some of those who converted were previously voodooists.

Raymond, however, condemned the attack in Cite Soleil, saying violence should not be condoned and anyone was free to worship in whatever way they chose.

Rejecting claims that voodoo practices in the country were to blame for the killer quake, Raymond said instead that the disaster was God's response to all evil in Haiti, including violence and kidnapping.

Beauvoir said the government had brought the earthquake onto itself by denying the country's roots in favor of the beliefs and habits of "settlers," referring to Haiti's colonial past.

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Scores feared dead in Indonesian landslide
Ciwidey, Indonesia (AFP) Feb 24, 2010
Hopes faded Wednesday for up to 70 people buried by a landslide that killed at least 16 in Indonesia, as more rain and fears of fresh slippages forced rescuers to suspend their search. Stunned villagers stood by in silence as bodies were dug out of the sticky clay that crushed homes, offices and a processing plant at a tea plantation south of Jakarta on Tuesday. Survivors said the earth ... read more

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