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Perhaps the saddest dilemma facing South Florida is the plight of the refugees from Haiti. Law enforcement officials pick up about 500 Haitians a month on Florida's beaches, but probably just as many slip in without getting caught. The 600-mile journey from Haiti is often arduous, a measure of how desperately Haitians want to leave their country. Many sell all their possessions and hire professional smugglers, who often starve them, beat them, or even dump them overboard. Others pool their money to buy a makeshift boat and then hire a local fisherman, who may know little about navigation, to bring them to America. The trip can easily end in tragedy, as happened when a rickety 30-ft. sailboat carrying 63 Haitians was swamped in the Florida surf last month, claiming the lives of 33.
Still they come, for Haiti is both a desperately poor country—its per capita income of $260 a year is among the world's lowest—and an oppressive dictatorship, ruled by Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc") Duvalier. The Reagan Administration holds that nearly all the Haitian refugees are fleeing their country to escape poverty, not repression, and are thus not eligible to be admitted as political refugees. Others believe that many of the refugees are indeed entitled to political asylum, and cite evidence of those returned being beaten and tortured in Haitian prisons. As Father Gérard Jean-Juste, a Haitian exile leader, puts it, "There's a song being sung in Haiti now: 'The teeth of the sharks are sweeter than Duvalier's hell.' "
Some 1,000 Haitians are in Dade County's Krome Avenue North Detention Center, which is designed for no more than 530 people. The fortunate former detainees who have been released to sponsors are likely to be found in Little Haiti, the neighborhood north of 36th Street in Miami. "The Haitians take care of each other as well as they can," says Fernand Cayard, owner of a local supermarket. "No one is sleeping on the streets." Jean François, a 25-year-old Haitian, shares a three-bedroom wooden frame house with 19 fellow refugees. "Everyone sleeps in shifts," explains François. "He who works gets the shift of his choice. Those who can pay help pay the rent."
Not all the foreign newcomers to
South Florida are poor. Inspired by the Nicaraguans who fled their country after the downfall of President Anastasio Somoza in 1979, wealthy families from El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela and Argentina are nervously preparing a South Florida refuge in case their own governments totter. They are pouring their fortunes into Miami banks; it is estimated that as much as $4 billion in Latin exile money is socked away in Miami.
Hope Somoza, the widow of the Nicaraguan President, lives in Key Biscayne. Nicole Duvalier, who opposes her brother Baby Doc, owns a sumptuous home in southwest Miami. The son of the late Fulgencio Batista, former President of Cuba, works as a model in Fort Lauderdale. A retired leader of the Tonton Macoute, the Haitian secret police, lives in Miami. Says one leading political exile, alive and