Boat carrying 300 Haitian refugees runs aground in Florida Keys – National & International News – MON 7Mar2022
Boat carrying 300 Haitian refugees runs aground in Florida Keys. Trucker convoy circles D.C. for second day. Ukraine: Russian shelling prevents civilian evacuations.
Boat carrying 300 Haitian refugees runs aground in Florida Keys
Yesterday, a wooden boat overloaded with more than 300 Haitian refugees ran aground in North Key Largo in the Florida Keys. About half of the refugees dove into the water and swam roughly 300 yards to shore. Many were in need of medical attention. An image from local media shows the beleaguered vessel leaning dangerously to one side with dozens of people in the water. Another image shows dozens of refugees sitting on the beach with towels draped over their shoulders. Several federal, state and local agencies responded to the scene to help in the rescue effort.
A deadly earthquake and the assassination of Haiti’s president Jovenel Moise last year have caused widespread political turmoil and economic hardship in Haiti. Most recently, there have been large scale protests calling for increases to the minimum wage. Haitian police resorted to firing upon protesters. Despite this, the government has increased the minimum wage by 50%.
The nonprofit Haiti Partners says that 59% of Haitians live on less than $2 per day. Haiti’s gross national income per capita is $1,730, far below the average $14,098 for other developing countries across the Caribbean and Latin America.
Unsurprisingly, there’s been a recent uptick of unseaworthy vessels making the dangerous journey to reach American shores, including the Florida Keys. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) responded to a similar event in January involving nearly 200 refugees.
CBP have referred yesterday’s disaster as a “maritime smuggling event“.
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Trucker convoy circles D.C. for second day
Big rig trucks have begun to converge on the Washington, D.C., area in large numbers over the weekend. It’s difficult to get an accurate count of participants. Convoy organizers say there are over 1,000 vehicles taking part, while authorities have simply noted “several hundred”.
The truckers have not entered D.C. itself but are congregating in nearby areas. The convoy organizers have shifted their focus from snarling up traffic in D.C. itself to circling the city on the I-495, commonly referred to as the Beltway. Despite the increased number of slow-moving trucks, their presence hasn’t so far succeeded in causing greater than normal congestion on the usually hectic Beltway. However, organizers say more trucks are on the way.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has extended the heightened National Guard presence in the city until Wednesday. There are currently about 700 unarmed members of the National Guard in the city tasked with managing traffic flow. So far, there have been no reports of overtly violent incidents in connection with the protest.
The demands of the convoy participants are somewhat hard to pin down. Most say they are there protesting vaccine and masking mandates. At present, there is no federal vaccine mandate in force, and most states are lifting masking rules. Some of the grievances are more wide-ranging protests of the Biden government itself. Others are protesting high gas prices.
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Ukraine: Russian shelling prevents civilian evacuations
For three days running, Russian shelling of evacuation routes have prevented thousands of civilians from fleeing several Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv and Mariupol. The shelling violates an agreement reached late last week to guarantee “humanitarian corridors” to allow aid to get into cities and citizens to get out.
Western media has widely reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the imposition of international sanctions on Russia “an act of war”. This reporting is not exactly correct and has contributed to ever increasing tensions and fears of a broader conflict. What Putin actually said was that the sanctions were “akin to” an act of war. He further added, “but thank God it hasn’t come to that”. It’s unclear what exactly he meant by that second statement, but it was clearly meant to soften the “act of war” rhetoric. It’s a small, but important, qualifier in the current climate.
The Biden administration is in talks with Poland to supply war planes to Ukraine. So far, Biden and NATO have prudently refused to establish a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine, despite calls to do so, including from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Establishing and enforcing a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine would inevitably end in U.S. or NATO troops firing on Russian aircraft, which would officially kick-off a new world war.
Protests in Russia continue despite crackdown
Meanwhile in Russia, the Duma (or Parliament), unanimously passed a law this weekend to clamp down on anti-war protests and media coverage of the invasion. “Publicly discrediting” (or protesting) Russian actions in Ukraine is now punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Anyone “supporting foreign sanctions” can earn themselves a 3-year sentence. Any individual or organization “spreading false information” about the Russian army faces up to 15 years in prison.
Despite these laws coming into force on Saturday, thousands of Russians in dozens of cities took to the streets on Sunday to protest the war. Police arrested at least 5,000 people on Sunday alone. Since the war started, at least 10,000 protesters have been arrested.
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