JAMAICA: Crackdown planned on farm thieves

KINGSTON — The government announced a campaign to crack down on the longtime problem of thieveOrganized rustlers working on rural back roads often strike in the dead of night and sometimes even butcher cattle right in the field. Other thieves prey on farms, grabbing goats and chickens or hauling off vegetables and fruit. s stealing livestock and crops from ranches and farms.

“It has now become a very big commercial operation,” Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke said, noting that some gangs are now operating with big trucks so they can make bigger hauls.

Glen Harris, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, said agriculture losses from thievery approached $70 million last year in a country where roughly 200,000 people make their living off farming.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said the severely backlogged justice system needs to get tougher on such crimes. He said farm bandits rarely are sent to prison.

The maximum fine for someone convicted of traveling with agricultural produce without an official receipt is nearly $3,000 but the penalty is rarely enforced.

PUERTO RICO: Major politician resigns amid probe

SAN JUAN — The minority leader in the House of Representatives resigned Feb. 28 and dropped out of the race for mayor of the island’s capital amid allegations of domestic violence, delivering a heavy blow to his party.

Hector Ferrer, who had been a member of the House for nearly 12 years, also resigned as vice president and spokesman of the Popular Democratic Party, one of the island’s two main parties.

Alejandro Garcia Padilla, the party’s leader, accepted Ferrer’s resignation but accused the governing New Progressive Party of political motives in pursuing the case against Ferrer.

Ferrer was arrested Feb. 24 after police said they received a call from his estranged wife alleging domestic violence at their home in a San Juan suburb. Police said there was evidence that Ferrer damaged the home and made crude statements to his wife in the presence of their 5-year-old son.

His attorney, Osvaldo Carlo, has said that the couple is separating and got into an argument but that there was no physical violence.

The island’s justice department has referred the case to a special prosecutorial office in charge of investigating public officials, to avoid possible political bias.

Ferrer’s resignation provides ammunition for the New Progressive Party, whose pro-statehood leader, the governor, is seeking a second term in November.

HAITI: Aristide supporters plan marches

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide are planning rallies this month to demonstrate the power of his Lavalas party and protest Haiti’s current government, a longtime Aristide ally said.

Rene Civil said the marches aim to mark special occasions such as the day Aristide returned last year from seven years in exile.

“We know that we are still the majority and we are going to keep showing that we are the majority,” Civil said by phone. “Lavalas is the only party able to do that.”

The announcement of the street marches came one day after several thousand Aristide supporters surprised Haitians by showing the level of support he still has in the shanty strongholds where he built his following as a young priest.

Aristide has kept out of the public spotlight since he came back last year and his absence has fueled speculation over what he may be planning to do.

His supporters had previously held a few rallies on his behalf but turnout usually drew no more than a couple hundred people.

But the Feb. 29 rally marked the largest demonstration against President Michel Martelly since he took office in May. It signaled that Aristide and his political party still have influence.

The following news items were compiled from Associated Press reports.