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CRAWFORD, Texas, March 5 (Reuters) - The Bush administration plans to pay the salaries of the Haitian Coast Guard to help prevent a massive outflow of refugees that could pose political problems for U.S. President George W. Bush in an election year, people familiar with the plan said on Friday.
The Bush administration informed key congressional committees that it will pay salaries for up to 500 Haitians for up to three months. U.S. taxpayers will also pay to refurbish Haitian Coast Guard facilities damaged by mobs.
U.S. President George W. Bush has bluntly told Haitians not to flee to the United States. A major refugee outflow, such as one that occurred in the early 1990s, could place Bush in a difficult position in an election year.
Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor of Florida, the closest state to the turbulent island. In the e
arly 1990s, well over 50,000 Haitians took to the sea in rickety boats trying to reach Florida. Virtually all were returned to Haiti.
Florida is considered an important state in the president's
re-election. And Bush is aware that a few hundred votes in that swing state could decide the 2004 election, as happened in 2000.
The Bush administration will divert -- from a State Department fund for peacekeeping operations -- up to $20,000 a month to pay Haitian Coast Guard salaries, according to people briefed on the plan.
Approximately $100,000 more would pay for fuel and spare parts and to repair damaged guard facilities.
"The idea is to keep them (the Haitian Coast Guard) functioning. Nobody there is paying the salaries and we don't want them to desert their posts," one source said.
Lawmakers could raise objections to the funding, but congressional aides said that was not expected.
Bush has been criticized for doing too little to staunch the
chaos in the poorest nation in the Americas.
He ordered U.S. Marines to the island on Sunday after pushing Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign.
At the time, Bush the United States was prepared to help start "a new chapter in the country's history."
But congressional aides said the administration has yet to come forward with new aid -- beyond the funds for the Haitian Coast Guard.
The military also is preparing a camp capable of housing tens of thousands of migrants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, near the prison where it is holding hundreds of captives in the war on terrorism.
Congressional aides said payments to the Haitian Coast Guard are unusual but not unprecedented.
Last year, the Bush administration paid up to $1,500 a month to Iraqi exiles being trained by the U.S. military to help in the invasion of Iraq.
(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed)
Question: Has the U.S. ever, I mean "E-V-E-R
", at any point in its history, stopped the flow of refugees from Western Europe headed towards its shore, for either political or economic reasons?
Oh yeah... I seem to remember an instance (was it during World War II) that they forcefully diverted a boat of persecuted Jewish people from coming to America. Anyone who would want to comment on this, with or without historical references, is welcome.
Now the U.S. wants to pay Haitians to stop Haitians who may be seeking to save their lives. In this sort of ideology, backed up by the might of the United States Armed Forces, how many Haitian lives would balance the loss of life of ONE American? Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands?