JEB BUSH IN HAITI - Mitch Perry

06/17/04

Responding to a request by the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, Governor Jeb Bush yesterday made his first trip to the economically devastated country to demonstrate South Florida's solidarity with the Haitian people.

The daylong trip not only highlighted U.S. support for the interim Haitian government through President Bush's brother, but also raised hopes that economic progress might soon be on the horizon.

Jacob DePetra is a spokesman for Governor Bush (roll tape#1 o.q.that's already happening")

The governor was joined by U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew Natsios and Assistant Administrator to Latin America and the Caribbean, Adolfo Franco. He traveled on a state aircraft with a Florida Department of Law Enforcement security detail and a travel aide.

The governor made the trip at the invitation of James Foley, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti. While there, he met with President Boniface Alexandre and Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, , as well as other government and business leaders.

Miami Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek used the visit to point out his disagreement with President Bush over policies toward Haiti.

In a letter, Meek asked the governor to pressure the president to increase aid to the impoverished nation and support temporary protective status for Haitian refugees who face deportation. He also called for support of the Haitian Economic Recovery Opportunity Act, known as the HERO Act, a bill in Congress that would restore textile-manufacturing jobs to Haiti; and for Haiti to re-establish ties with CARICOM, which has refused to recognize the interim government. The Caribbean community has called for an investigation into the departure of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide, who claims he was kidnapped by the U.S. government.

Aides to Gov. Bush dismissed all suggestions of election-year political motivations or selfish economic incentives tied to the governor's visit. They also criticized Meek for calling on the governor to push for various political reforms.

(roll tape#2 o.q."and that's what he did")

State Representative Philip Brutus told the Miami Herald that he was encouraged by the Governor's visit, saying, "hopefully some financial resources can be made available, especially when it's the president's brother."

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