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17827: (Hermantin)Miami-Herald-Haitian exiles aid beaten professor (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Posted on Sat, Jan. 10, 2004
CRISIS IN HAITI
Haitian exiles aid beaten professor
A Haitian university president who has become a rallying symbol for the
antigovernment movement there stops in Miami on his way to get treatment for
his broken legs. He vows to return.
By JACQUELINE CHARLES
He was the president of a university, trying to run one of the few bright
spots in a country on the verge of political collapse.
Then he had both of his legs broken with a metal bar during an
antigovernment student demonstration at the State University of Haiti in
Port-au-Prince, and Pierre-Marie Michel Paquiot unwittingly became the
latest rallying point in the growing discord over Haitian President
Paquiot is a mathematician and physics professor once known mainly in
academic circles, but his name is now on the lips of anti-Aristide
protesters from Port-au-Prince to Miami.
''Frankly, I didn't think that this was going to happen,'' said Paquiot, who
has not been able to walk since he was attacked in the university's School
of Social Sciences in Port-au-Prince.
Paquiot, 55, arrived in Miami on Friday en route to New Orleans, where a
Weston-based Haitian group has arranged for him to receive rehabilitation
and follow-up medical treatment on both his legs at Touro Hospital. Doctors
in Haiti operated on both legs after the attack in hopes of repairing
ruptured tendons and major thigh muscles. He now has casts on both legs.
Dr. Aldy Castor, president of the Haitian Resource Development Foundation in
Weston, said he arranged the treatment with the help of Haitians in New
Orleans and the U.S. Embassy in Haiti because it was the humanitarian thing
Castor said he chose New Orleans because of its long history with Haiti.
Many Haitians migrated to the city during Haiti's war for independence
against France more than 200 years ago. Also, Paquiot has academic
relationships with some of Louisiana's scholars.
During a layover in Miami, Paquiot, who was pushed in a wheelchair around
Miami International Airport, recalled the Dec. 5 assault that propelled him
into the international spotlight during the latest clash between student
demonstrators and Aristide supporters in Haiti.
He said he went to the School of Social Science to mediate a confrontation
between student demonstrators and Aristide supporters who had broken down a
wall to enter the building. When he arrived, the site was surrounded by
police, and pro-government thugs were beating up students and firing at
'They were shooting. I was inside a room with some students. They got inside
the room with guns and started shooting at everybody and asking the students
to shout, `Long Live Aristide,' '' Paquiot said.
``I was hit but I didn't see who, because there were a lot of them. I fell
At one point, the thugs even attempted to throw Paquiot from an upper floor
of a building but were stopped.
Also injured during the attack was Paquiot's vice president for academic
affairs, Wilson Laleau.
Laleau, an economics professor, has been in Miami for two weeks getting
medical care and tests on injuries from a blow to the head. He said at least
30 of the 500 student demonstrators were injured.
At one point, Laleau said, an unidentified person tried to strangle him with
his own necktie and held a gun to his chest.
''All I could do was pray,'' Laleau said Friday at MIA, where he had gone to
Government spokesmen in Haiti have said a commission is being formed to
investigate the events.
Amnesty International denounced the attacks, saying: ``The authorities have
to act quickly and decisively to bring those responsible to justice, so as
to break the cycle of impunity in Haiti.''
While the State University of Haiti has been closed since the protests, both
men say they plan to return because the university has to be the moral
authority in the country. The university has about 15,000 students and 11
schools. It is home to Haiti's oldest school -- the School of Law, founded
''When you attack the university, you attack the people you say you are
defending,'' Paquiot said of Aristide, whom he blames for the tensions in
``I am not going to say he is behind everything that has gone on, but he has
created such an atmosphere where people can do anything.''
The only thing that will bring change in Haiti, he said, is for Aristide to
leave power before his term expires in 2006.
''He has no vision for the country,'' Paquiot said. ``
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