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One Man’s Story: Jean Willy Charles Is Leaving Town With AM-Haiti-Refugees, Bjt

July 3, 1994

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Jean Willy Charles tried before and is on his way again, this time taking his wife and four children to the coast, to a sailboat and - he believes - to the United States.

Charles, 40, went to the capital pier Sunday to book passage to the port of Jeremie, 180 miles to the west. It’s the first step in the journey, which his wife’s family is paying for.

In June 1993, he said, he was sent directly home by the U.S. Coast Guard. Now, under President Clinton’s 2-week-old policy on Haitian boat people, he would be sent to an offshore refugee processing center.

″Now there’s more hope. Now I have assurance,″ said Charles, a ″100 percent″ supporter of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The accumulated factors of political repression, economic despair and a liberalized U.S. immigration policy made him decide to leave.

″Better death than this life,″ he told The Associated Press. ″Even if my children die, we will die together.″

His Morne Hercule neighborhood in suburban Petionville has been one of the most fiercely repressed in greater Port-au-Prince. He can’t sleep some nights for the gunfire by civilian auxiliaries of the military.

The same people ″hang around″ the downtown U.S. refugee processing center, keeping him away, Charles said.

He worked in the state flour mill during Aristide’s brief administration and remains certain that only the populist Roman Catholic priest can save Haiti. ″I’m for him, even if it means death,″ he said.

After Aristide’s ouster Charles shipped charcoal and fish to the capital from Corail, his wife’s hometown near Jeremie. But someone on the Cite Soleil pier stole the vessel in May while it was loaded with his goods.

Charles thinks the odds of his receiving political asylum are high. But he is not optimistic about Haiti’s immediate future.

He believes the army’s allies may massacre people outside the capital if the American military intervenes to restore Aristide.

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