U.N. Condemns ‘Acts’ in Israeli Flotilla Raid

Israel’s commando raid on a flotilla of pro-Palestinian “aid” ships that left nine activists dead has touched off a chain of events from the United Nations to Egypt’s border with Gaza that threaten to isolate the Jewish state from the international community.

The U.N. Security Council called early Tuesday for an “impartial” investigation of Israel’s deadly raid and condemned the “acts” that resulted in the loss of at least nine lives, a watered-down version of a resolution sought by Islamic nations leading the ferocious international condemnation of Israel.

Not far from the site of the naval raid, several thousand Gazans are making a furious rush to the Egyptian border, hoping to take advantage of a rare chance to escape the blockaded territory.

Egypt announced Tuesday it was temporarily opening its border with Gaza to allow aid into the impoverished territory, where 1.5 million Palestinians have been hemmed in by land and sea since Hamas took over in 2007. Dozens of Hamas police with automatic weapons were patrolling the border Tuesday as residents made a mad dash to escape the area.

Organizers of the flotilla, which was intercepted by Israeli commandos as it tried to run a blockade, said they were undeterred and that another cargo boat was off the coast of Italy en route to Gaza Tuesday. A second boat carrying about three dozen passengers is expected to join it, said Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement, which organized the flotilla. She told the Associated Press the two boats would arrive in the region late this week or early next week.

“They’re going to have to stop the blockade of Gaza, and one of the ways to do this is for us to continue to send the boats,” she said.

The flotilla set sail from Turkey and was packed with 679 activists — many of whom were from the onetime close ally of Israel. But on Tuesday Turkey’s Prime Minister called the raid a “bloody massacre,” withdrawing its ambassador to Israel and demanding that the United States condemn the botched raid.

“Today is a turning point in history,” said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Nothing will be same again.”

Marathon negotiations at an emergency meeting of the Security Council produced a presidential statement weaker than was demanded by the Palestinians, Arabs and Turkey because of objections by the United States.

The Islamic nations had called for condemnation of Monday’s attack by Israeli forces on the flotilla “in the strongest terms” and “an independent international investigation.”

But the presidential statement that was finally agreed to and read at a formal council meeting instead called for “a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.” And it only condemned “those acts” that resulted in deaths, without naming Israel.

The long and difficult negotiations were conducted primarily by the United States with Turkey and Lebanon, which are both non-permanent council members.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose country drafted the initial presidential statement, called the Israeli raid “banditry and piracy” on the high seas and “murder conducted by a state.”

Palestinian U.N. observer Riyad Mansour called it a “war crime,” and told an open Security Council meeting that “those fleets, one after the other, will be coming until the unethical blockade is put to an end and the suffering stops for our people.”

While the Palestinians and Turks insisted that the activists on the ships were delivering aid to impoverished Gazans suffering under a three-year Israeli embargo, Israel’s deputy U.N. ambassador Daniel Carmon said “this flotilla was anything but a humanitarian mission.”

Some activists have “terrorist history” and its organizers support radical Islamic groups such as Hamas, which controls Gaza and refuses to recognize Israel’s existence, he said.

Carmon defended the legality of Israel’s blockade and the boarding of the ships — which refused repeated calls to send their cargo to Gaza through Israel — as “a preventive measure.” He called the results “tragic and unfortunate.”

The U.N.’s presidential statement also “deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries” and requests the immediate release of the ships and civilians being held by Israel. It urges Israel to permit consular access and allow countries to retrieve their dead and wounded immediately.

The council also urged Israel “to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance from the convoy to its destination” and stressed that the situation in Gaza “is not sustainable.”

Council members reiterated “their grave concern at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and stress the need for sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza as well as unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance through Gaza.”

Mansour said this was “the clearest statement by the Security Council on lifting the siege against the Gaza Strip.”

The flotilla was the ninth attempt by sea to breach the blockade Israel and Egypt imposed after Hamas violently seized the territory. Israel allowed five seaborne aid shipments through but snapped the blockade shut after its 2009 war in Gaza.

There was little call in Israel for an end to the blockade. Israelis have little sympathy for Gaza, which sent thousands of rockets and mortar rounds crashing into Israel for years before last year’s war.

Tensions along the Israeli-Gaza border were tense following the naval raid.

The Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad said three of its fighters were killed Tuesday shortly after firing rockets into southern Israel. Israeli authorities say the rockets landed in open areas and caused no injuries.

The Israeli military confirmed its airstrike, and Gaza’s chief medical examiner also said there were three deaths.

On Tuesday morning, the Israeli military said Gaza militants infiltrated Israel and exchanged fire with troops. Israeli rescue services said two militants were killed, but the military would not immediately confirm that.

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Rogue Thai general reputed to be Red Shirt’s military strategist shot in the head in Bangkok

BANGKOK (AP) — A renegade army general accused of leading a paramilitary force among Thailand’s Red Shirt protesters was shot in the head Thursday, apparently by a sniper, an aide said, after the government warned it would shoot “terrorists.”

In an interview with The Associated Press about 90 minutes before he was shot, Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdiphol said he anticipated a military crackdown soon — as security forces moved to seal an area of central Bangkok which has been occupied by thousands of the protesters for weeks.

“It’s either dusk or dawn when the troops will go in,” he said. He was shot soon after night fell.

An aide who answered Khattiya’s mobile phone described the injury as “severe.” The AP called Khattiya’s phone after several gunshots and explosions were heard late Thursday from the vicinity of the Red Shirt’s redoubt in the upscale Rajprasong district.

“Seh Daeng was shot in the head,” said the aide, referring to Khattiya by his nickname. The aide hung up without identifying himself.

The government’s medical emergency center confirmed that Khattiya was shot in the head and admitted to the intensive care unit at a hospital.

It was not possible to verify the aide’s claim that Khattiya was shot by a sniper. Calls to police and army spokesmen seeking comment were not answered.

The Red Shirts, many from the rural poor, are demanding an immediate dissolution of Parliament. They believe Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s coalition government came to power illegitimately through manipulation of the courts and the backing of the powerful military.

Tens of thousands of them streamed into the capital on March 12 and occupied an area in the historic district of Bangkok. An army attempt to clear them on April 10 led to clashes that killed 25 people and wounded more than 800. Another four people were killed in related clashes in the following weeks.

Thursday’s shooting will only deepen fears of more bloodshed.

Khattiya is a renegade army major general whom the government has labeled a “terrorist” and a mastermind behind some of the violence.

He bitterly opposed reconciling with the government and had recently become critical of Red Shirt leaders, some of whom had wanted to accept a government proposal to end Thailand’s political crisis.

The firing came after the government said it will impose a military lockdown on the Rajprasong area to evict the protesters.

Khattiya, who helped construct the Red Shirt barricades of sharpened bamboo stakes and tires around the protest area, was accused of creating a paramilitary force among the anti-government protesters and had vowed to battle against the army if it should launch a crackdown.

In the AP interview, he accused Red Shirt leaders of taking government bribes to accept Abhisit’s reconciliation plan to hold elections on Nov. 14. However, the plan was abandoned after the Red Shirts made new demands and refused to leave.

“The prime minister and the Red Shirts were on the verge of striking a deal but then I came in. Suddenly, I became an important person,” he said.

“This time, the people’s army will fight the army. There is no need to teach the people how to fight. There are no forms or plan of attack. You let them fight with their own strategies,” he said.

Khattiya was suspended from the army in January and became a fugitive from justice last month after when an arrest warrant was issued against him and two dozen others linked to the Red Shirts for their purported roles in the violence. Yet he has wandered freely through the protest zone, signing autographs just yards (meters) from security forces keeping watch over the protesters.

Earlier Thursday, an army spokesman, Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, said security forces were preparing to impose a lockdown on the 1-square-mile (3-square-kilometer) area where the Red Shirts have barricaded themselves in a posh area of shopping malls, hotels and upscale apartments. A reporter for TNN television said electricity went out late Thursday.

Sansern said armored personnel carriers and snipers will surround the area. Power, public transport and mobile phone service in the area was also suspended.

Sansern said troops will use rubber bullets first but will not hesitate to use live ammunition in self-defense if attacked.

“In addition, another unit of … sharpshooters will be on the lookout and will shoot terrorists who carry weapons,” he said.

The Red Shirts see Abhisit’s government as serving an elite insensitive to the plight of most Thais. The protesters include many supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist leader accused of corruption and abuse of power and ousted in a 2006 military coup.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire who fled overseas to avoid a corruption conviction, is widely believed to be helping to bankroll the protests. He claims to be a victim of political persecution.

May Be Wednesday Before Hole Drilled in Search for W.Va. Mine Blast Survivors

MONTCOAL, W.Va. — A huge underground explosion blamed on methane gas killed 25 coal miners in the worst U.S. mining disaster since 1984, and rescuers on Tuesday began a dangerous and possibly futile attempt to rescue four others still missing.

Crews were bulldozing an access road so they could drill 1,000 feet into the earth to release gases and make it safe to try to find the missing miners. They were feared dead after the Monday afternoon blast at a mine with a history of violations for not properly ventilating highly combustible methane.

Rescuers were being held back by poison gases that accumulated near the blast site, about 1.5 miles from the entrance to Massey Energy Co.’s sprawling Upper Big Branch mine.

They had to create an access road above it before they could begin drilling four shafts to release methane and carbon monoxide. Gov. Joe Manchin said at a news briefing Tuesday that it could be Wednesday night before the first hole is drilled.

“It’s a slow process,” Manchin said. “It’s just going to be a slow process.”

It had already been a long day for grieving relatives, some angry because they found out their loved ones were among the dead from government officials or a company Web site, not from Massey Energy executives.

“They’re supposed to be a big company,” said Michelle McKinney, who found out from a local official at a nearby school that her 62-year-old father, Benny R. Willingham, died in the blast. “These guys, they took a chance every day to work and make them big. And they couldn’t even call us.”

McKinney said her husband is a miner too and her 16-year-old son doesn’t want him to go back to work. Willingham, who had mined for 30 years, the last 17 with Massey, was just five weeks from retiring and planned to take his wife on a cruise to the Virgin Islands next month.

U.S. Rep. Nick Rayhall, D-W.Va., said at a press briefing Wednesday that Massey should have been in better contact with families.

Three members of the same family were among the dead. Diana Davis said her husband, Timmy Davis, 51, died in the explosion along with his nephews, Josh Napper, 27, and Cory Davis, 20.

The elder Davis’ son, Timmy Davis Jr., said his brother, Cody Davis, and an uncle, Tommy Davis, were also at the mine at the time and survived the blast. He said his brother was taking it particularly hard because he and their father were best friends.

Timmy Davis Jr. described his dad as passionate about the outdoors and the mines.

“He loved to work underground,” the younger Davis said. “He loved that place.”

President Barack Obama offered his condolences at an Easter prayer breakfast in Washington on Tuesday and said the federal government is ready to assist with whatever the state needs. He also asked the audience to pray for those lost in what he called a tragic accident.

Kevin Stricklin, an administrator for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, said the situation looked grim for the missing miners.

“All we have left is hope, and we’re going to continue to do what we can,” he said.

Officials hoped the four miners still unaccounted for were able to reach airtight chambers stocked with food, water and enough oxygen for them to live for four days, but rescue teams checked one of two such chambers nearby and it was empty. The buildup of gases prevented teams from reaching other chambers, officials said.

A total of 31 miners were in the area during a shift change when the explosion rocked the mine, about 30 miles south of Charleston.

“Before you knew it, it was just like your ears stopped up, you couldn’t hear and the next thing you know, it’s just like you’re just right in the middle of a tornado,” miner Steve Smith, who heard the explosion but was able to escape, told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Some of those killed may have died in the blast and others when they breathed in the gas-filled air, Stricklin said. Eleven bodies had been recovered and identified, but the other 14 have not. Names weren’t released publicly.

He said investigators still don’t know what ignited the blast, but methane likely played a part.

The death toll is the highest in a U.S. mine since 1984, when 27 died in a fire at Emery Mining Corp.’s mine in Orangeville, Utah. If the four missing bring the total to 29, it would be the most killed in a U.S. mine since a 1970 explosion killed 38 at Finley Coal Co., in Hyden, Ky.

“There’s always danger. There’s so many ways you can get hurt, or your life taken,” said Gary Williams, a miner and pastor of New Life Assembly, a church near the southern West Virginia mine. “It’s not something you dread every day, but there’s always that danger. But for this area, it’s the only way you’re going to make a living.”

Though the situation looked bleak, Manchin said miracles can happen and pointed to the 2006 Sago Mine explosion that killed 12. Crews found miner Randal McCloy Jr. alive after he was trapped for more than 40 hours in an atmosphere poisoned with carbon monoxide.

In Monday’s blast, nine miners were leaving on a vehicle that takes them in and out of the mine’s long shaft when a crew ahead of them felt a blast of air and went back to investigate, Stricklin said.

They found seven workers dead. Others were hurt or missing about a mile and a half inside the mine, though there was some confusion over how many. Others made it out.

In a statement early Tuesday, Massey Chairman and CEO Don Blankenship offered his condolences to the families of the dead.

Massey Energy, a publicly traded company based in Richmond, Va., has 2.2 billion tons of coal reserves in southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia and Tennessee. It ranks among the nation’s top five coal producers and is among the industry’s most profitable. It has a spotty safety record.

In the past year, federal inspectors fined the company more than $382,000 for repeated serious violations involving its ventilation plan and equipment at Upper Big Branch.

Methane is one of the great dangers of coal mining, and federal records say the Eagle coal seam releases up to 2 million cubic feet of methane gas into the Upper Big Branch mine every 24 hours, which is a large amount, said Dennis O’Dell, health and safety director for the United Mine Workers labor union.

In mines, giant fans are used to keep the colorless, odorless gas concentrations below certain levels. If concentrations are allowed to build up, the gas can explode with a spark roughly similar to the static charge created by walking across a carpet in winter, as at the Sago mine, also in West Virginia.

Since then, federal and state regulators have required mine operators to store extra oxygen supplies. Upper Big Branch uses containers that can generate about an hour of breathable air, and all miners carry a container on their belts besides the stockpiles inside the mine. Upper Big Branch has had three other fatalities in the last dozen years.

Upper Big Branch has 19 openings and roughly 7-foot ceilings. Inside, it’s crisscrossed with railroad tracks used for hauling people and equipment. It is located in a mine-laced swath of Raleigh and Boone counties that is the heart of West Virginia’s coal country.

The seam produced 1.2 million tons of coal in 2009, according to the mine safety agency, and has about 200 employees.

Hot World News: 5 Pakistani Soldiers, 21 Militants Killed in Border Clash

PARACHINAR, Pakistan — Taliban fighters attacked a security checkpoint close to the Afghan border, sparking clashes that killed five soldiers and 21 insurgents in a region that has seen heavy fighting in recent days, the army said Friday.

The attack took place Orakzai, a tribal region where the military is pursuing Pakistani Taliban insurgents believed to have fled a major offensive in nearby South Waziristan.

The army said in a statement the clashes started when security forces tried to recapture a checkpoint taken Thursday night by militants in the Kalaya area. It said 21 militants and five security force members, including a senior officer, were killed in the fighting that ended with the military regaining control of the area.

Orakzai is considered a major base for Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban’s top commander, who is believed to have died in a U.S. missile strike in January. The Taliban have denied his death, but have not shown any evidence he is still alive.

On Thursday, Pakistani fighter jets bombed militant targets elsewhere in Orakzai, killing 61 militants sheltering in a religious seminary, a mosque and a school, according to security officials.

The Pakistani Taliban have been under pressure in their main stronghold, the South Waziristan tribal region, since the army launched its ground offensive there in October. Many insurgents are believed to have scattered to other parts of the tribal belt, which borders Afghanistan in Pakistan’s northwest.

Orakzai and the neighboring tribal area of Kurram have witnessed numerous airstrikes over the past few months. The inaccessibility of the regions makes it very difficult to get independent confirmation of the casualty figures provided by officials and the identity of those killed.

Warned of Priest, Vatican Failed to Remove Him

VATICAN CITY — Two Wisconsin bishops urged the Vatican office led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — to let them conduct a church trial against a priest accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys, but the Vatican ordered the process halted, church and Vatican documents show.

Despite the grave allegations, Ratzinger’s deputy at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ruled that the alleged molestation had occurred too long ago and the accused priest, Rev. Lawrence Murphy, should instead repent and be restricted from celebrating Mass outside of his diocese.

The New York Times broke the story Thursday, adding fuel to an already swirling scandal about the way the Vatican in general, and Benedict in particular, have handled reports of priests raping children over the years.

On Thursday, a group of clerical abuse victims provided the documentation to reporters outside the Vatican, where they staged a press conference to denounce Benedict’s handling of the case. During the conference, a policeman asked for their documents and they were subsequently detained, police said.

“The goal of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, was to keep this secret,” said Peter Isely, Milwaukee-based director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

“This is the most incontrovertible case of pedophilia you could get,” Isely said, flanked by photos of other clerical abuse victims and a poster of Ratzinger. “We need to know why he (the pope) did not let us know about him (Murphy) and why he didn’t let the police know about him and why he did not condemn him and why he did not take his collar away from him.”

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement noting that the case had only reached the Vatican in 1996, that Murphy died two years later, and that there was nothing in the church’s handling of the matter that precluded any civil action from being taken against him.

Murphy worked at the former St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis from 1950 to 1975. He died in 1998.

Church and Vatican documents obtained by two lawyers who have filed lawsuits alleging the Archdiocese of Milwaukee didn’t take sufficient action against Murphy show that as many as 200 deaf students had accused him of molesting them, including in the confessional, while he ran the school.

While the documents — letters between diocese and Rome, notes taken during meetings, and summaries of meetings — are remarkable in the repeated desire to keep the case secret, they do suggest an increasingly determined effort by bishops to heed the despair of the deaf community in bringing a canonical trial against Murphy.

Ratzinger’s deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, though, shut the process down after Murphy wrote him a letter saying he had repented, was old and ailing, and that the case’s statute of limitations had run out.

According to the documentation, in July 1996, then-Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland sent a letter seeking advice on how to proceed with Murphy to Ratzinger, who led the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 until 2005, when he was elected pope.

Weakland received no response from Ratzinger, and in October 1996 convened a church tribunal to hear the case.

In March 1997, Weakland wrote to the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, essentially the Vatican high court, asking its advice because he feared the statute of limitations on Murphy’s alleged crimes might have expired.

Just a few weeks later, Bertone — now the Vatican’s secretary of state — told the Wisconsin bishops to begin secret disciplinary proceedings against Murphy according to 1962 norms concerning soliciting sex in the confessional, according to the documents.

But a year later, Bertone reversed himself, advising the diocese to stop the process after Murphy wrote to Ratzinger saying he had repented and that the statute of limitations on the case had expired. Bertone suggested that Murphy should instead be subject to “pastoral measures destined to obtain the reparation of scandal and the restoration of justice.”

The archbishop then handling the case, Bishop Raphael Fliss objected, saying in a letter to Bertone that “I have come to the conclusion that scandal cannot be sufficiently repaired, nor justice sufficiently restored, without a judicial trial against Fr. Murphy.”

Fliss and Weakland then met with Bertone in Rome in May 1988. Weakland informed Bertone that Murphy had no sense of remorse and didn’t seem to realize the gravity of what he had done, according to a Vatican summary of the meeting.

But Bertone insisted that there weren’t “sufficient elements to institute a canonical process” against Murphy because so much time had already passed, according to the summary. Instead, he said Murphy must be forbidden from celebrating Mass publicly outside his home diocese.

Weakland, likening Murphy to a “difficult” child, then reminded Bertone that three psychologists had determined he was a “typical” pedophile, in that he felt himself a victim.

But Bertone suggested Murphy take a spiritual retreat to determine if he is truly sorry, or otherwise face possible defrocking.

“Before the meeting ended, Monsignor Weakland reaffirmed the difficulty he will have to make the deaf community understand the lightness of these provisions,” the summary noted.

The documents contain no response from Cardinal Ratzinger, the head of the office.

The documents emerged even as the Vatican deals with an ever-widening church abuse scandal sweeping several European countries. Benedict last week issued an unprecedented letter to Ireland addressing the 16 years of church cover-up scandals here. But he has yet to say anything about his handling of a case in Germany known to have developed when, as cardinal, he oversaw the Munich Archdiocese from 1977 to 1982.

Lombardi, a spokesman for the Vatican, said in a statement that the Vatican was not told about the abuse allegations against Murphy until 1996, years after civil authorities had investigated and dropped the case. Lombardi also said Murphy’s age, poor health and a lack of more recent allegations were factors in the decision not to defrock him.

He noted “the Code of Canon Law does not envision automatic penalties” and that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested the Milwaukee archbishop consider such things as restricting Murphy’s public ministry and requiring that he “accept full responsibility for the gravity of his acts.”

The Times obtained the Murphy documents from Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan, attorneys for five men who have sued the Milwaukee archdiocese alleging fraud.

After Murphy was removed from the school in 1974, he went to northern Wisconsin, where he spent the rest of his life working in parishes, schools and, according to one lawsuit, a juvenile detention center.

Previously released court documents show Weakland oversaw a 1993 evaluation of Murphy that concluded the priest likely assaulted up to 200 students at the school.

Weakland resigned as archbishop in 2002 after admitting the archdiocese secretly paid $450,000 to a man who accused him of sexual abuse.

Obama to Sign Promised Executive Order on Abortion

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to sign an executive order Wednesday reaffirming longstanding restrictions on federal funding of abortion, but he won’t hold an event like the signing ceremony a day earlier.

The order is part of an 11th-hour agreement with Democratic abortion opponents in the House that brought them over to Obama’s side and pushed the health insurance overhaul over the top.

Obama has invited members of the Democrats’ anti-abortion bloc, including its leader, Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, to the private afternoon signing at the White House.

Stupak is under fire from his fellow abortion opponents for accepting the order as his price for supporting the health care overhaul. He released a statement Tuesday defending the order, placing it on a list of other significant orders that included Abraham Lincoln’s freeing of the slaves and Harry Truman’s 1948 order desegregating the U.S. armed forces.

“Throughout history, executive orders have been an important means of implementing public policy,” Stupak said in a statement. “The most famous executive order was the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln in 1863.”

The Stupak-negotiated executive order has drawn withering criticism from both pro-life and pro-choice groups. The former say he is allowing more openings for abortion, the latter say he’s denied abortion services to women.

Stupak says the order merely upholds the status quo that taxpayer money shouldn’t be used for abortion services.

“This executive order has the full force and effect of law and makes very clear that current law of no public funding for abortion applies to the new health care reform legislation,” Stupak said.

The White House also contends the executive order merely re-states existing law under the “Hyde amendment” that prohibits direct federal funding of abortion through Medicaid.

“He believes that the bill maintains the status quo and he thinks the executive order reiterates that strong belief,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said of Obama’s take on the underlying bill and the executive order. “What the bill does and what the executive order does is underscore that the status quo is preserved.”

It’s not clear the support of Stupak and a handful of other pro-life Democrats guaranteed the bill’s passage.

“I’m not sure that that’s altogether knowable,” Gibbs said.

Bush and Clinton to visit rubble-filled Haitian city

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are traveling to Haiti’s rubble-filled capital Monday as part of their effort to raise aid and investment for a country still reeling from a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

It is the first joint visit to the impoverished Caribbean nation for the two former leaders, who were tasked by President Barack Obama with leading the U.S. fundraising effort.

After meeting with President Rene Preval on the grounds of the collapsed national palace, they are expected to tour the tarps-and-tent city on the adjacent Champ de Mars, the national mall filled with 60,000 homeless quake survivors living in squalor.

While the government and business leaders hail their appearance as a signal of America’s commitment to help, the visit by two ex-presidents who have played major roles in Haiti’s recent political trajectory is also reminding the country of its tumultuous past.

Supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have scheduled protests for Monday — demanding the return of their exiled leader and pleading for more aid.

“We are going to bring our message to the presidents, that our situation here is no good. The way people are living in Haiti is no way for anyone to live,” said Fanfan Fenelon, a 30-year-old resident of the Bel Air slum.

Clinton and Bush will arrive in a country struggling to feed and shelter victims of the magnitude-7 quake, which killed an estimated 230,000 people. Another 1.3 million quake survivors are homeless, with many living in camps prone to dangerous flooding in the April rainy season.

The visit aims to spotlight the dramatic need ahead of a critical March 31 U.N. donors conference in New York, where Haitian officials will ask for $11.5 billion in reconstruction help.

Monday will be Bush’s first trip to Haiti. Clinton, who is the U.N. special envoy to the country, has made two visits since the quake and five in the past two years. He also visited as president.

The pair has arguably shaped Haiti’s history as much as anyone alive today.

Clinton presided over a refugee crisis born of the 1991 ouster of Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president. He returned Aristide to power in 1994 with a force of 20,000 U.S. troops.

Bush is remembered by many Haitians — especially the thousands in Port-au-Prince’s teeming slums — as the U.S. leader whose administration chartered the plane that flew Aristide back into exile during a 2004 rebellion.

The nonprofit Clinton Bush Haiti Fund has raised $37 million from 220,000 individuals including Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who gave $1 million, and Obama, who among other donations gave $200,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize. About $4 million has gone to such organizations as Habitat for Humanity, the University of Miami/Project Medishare mobile hospital in Port-au-Prince and the U.S. branch of the Irish charity Concern Worldwide. The rest has yet to be allocated.