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Caribbean news briefs

Caribbean news briefs

MARTINIQUE: Strikers say they reached accord with employers to end monthlong strike
FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique (AP) _ Union leaders said Wednesday they are ending a monthlong strike on the French Caribbean island of Martinique after reaching agreement with employers on a pay raise.
Michael Monrose, president of the "February 5 Collective," said blockades will be lifted and businesses and schools should reopen within 48 hours.
The agreement, reached around 2 a.m. Wednesday after 12 hours of negotiations, calls for a 200 euro ($250) monthly salary increase for 47,000 low-wage earners. Those who make more will see a smaller increase. The agreement is applicable from March 1, and workers will receive retroactive pay.
The pact matches an agreement that ended a 44-day strike on the French island of Guadeloupe on March 4.
Martinique's employers welcomed the deal with relief but also a hint of bitterness.
As protesters began melting away on Wednesday, businesses began to cautiously reopen _ though many owners left their cars parked far away to avoid encountering strikers. Customers waited patiently in long lines to buy leftover products.
Trucks and tractors removed tires and wooden blockades to clear the entrances of several commercial zones and the first of 7,600 immobilized shipping containers began to move as the port also reopened.
ANTIGUA: Nervous over aftermath of alleged $8 billion Stanford fraud, voters pick new government
ST. JOHN'S, Antigua (AP) _ Voters worried by the fallout from an alleged $8 billion fraud scheme involving Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford will decide Thursday between the ruling party and the one that welcomed him with open arms nearly two decades ago.
Both main political parties have promised to strengthen Antigua's economy, which has been hit hard after Caribbean regulators took over local banks controlled by Stanford.
The financier is one of the island's most prominent citizens and its largest private employer. Hundreds of people work for his two restaurants, a newspaper, cricket grounds, a development company and a three-branch local bank as well as the headquarters of his Stanford International Bank.
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of the United Progressive Party, which is seeking to retain its majority of 17 parliamentary seats, accuses the opposition of "literally giv(ing) away Antigua and Barbuda to Allen Stanford" when the financier brought his offshore bank here from Montserrat in 1990.
Spencer's opponent, Lester Bird, a close Stanford ally, denies the claim _ although his Antigua Labor Party was in power at the time.
The ALP dominated island politics for 28 years before Spencer wrested control away in 2004.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has accused Stanford and his top officers of an $8 billion fraud related to certificates of deposits and other investments. An attorney for Stanford has denied the allegations made in civil court.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: MLB investigates prospects over alleged age discrepancies
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Major League Baseball is investigating more than 40 cases involving Dominican Republic prospects suspected of lying about their age upon signing professional contracts, according to the league's vice president of international affairs.
Lou Melendez said Wednesday the request came from the U.S. consulate in the Dominican Republic as a result of a new U.S. State Department policy.
Consulate spokesman David Searby said he could not immediately comment.
"They have asked us to investigate, and we have detected around 42 cases of possible irregularities related to the real age of these young men," said Melendez, who also was Puerto Rico's general manager during the World Baseball Classic.
The investigation began a week ago.
Several Latino players have said they lied about their ages in recent years, including Vladimir Guerrero and Miguel Tejada.
Melendez said players found lying about their age could face a cancellation or temporary revocation of their visas. The State Department would make that decision, he said.
SURINAME: Heavy rains force businesses, schools to close during dry season
PARAMARIBO, Suriname (AP) _ Heavy rains are flooding regions of the South American country of Suriname and forcing businesses and schools to close.
A spokesman for the meteorological service says more than 110 millimeters (4 inches) of rain fell in the last 24 hours. Jimmy Samijo says it usually rains about 10 millimeters (0.4 inches) a day during the dry season.
He said Wednesday that heavy rains will continue until Saturday, with Indian communities in the interior at risk of flooding.
Most of the flooding so far has occurred in the capital of Paramaribo. More than half of the country's 476,000 residents live there.
The country's rainy season begins in mid-April.
HAITI: UN delegation continues push for stability amid isolated unrest
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ A U.N. Security Council delegation arrived in Haiti Wednesday for a four-day visit to promote stability and economic progress.
Delegation leader and Costa Rican ambassador Jorge Urbina said the 15-member group will meet with President Rene Preval, lawmakers, election officials and the private sector.
Protesters stoned and burned a U.N. vehicle in front of a Port-au-Prince university shortly before the mission arrived.
The U.N. has maintained a 9,000-member peacekeeping force in Haiti since 2004.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Haiti earlier this week to encourage an increase in aid and investment in the impoverished country.
PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rico beats Netherlands 5-0 to go undefeated in first round of WBC
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Alex Rios hit an RBI triple and Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands 5-0 to finish undefeated in the first round of the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday.
Carlos Beltran, Ivan Rodriguez and Geovany Soto each drove in a run for the Puerto Ricans, who won Group D and will face the U.S. in their second-round opener in Miami on Saturday.
Winning pitcher Jonathan Sanchez allowed two hits in four strong innings, striking out four and walking one. Seven relievers combined to finish the shutout.
Puerto Rico took advantage of Pim Walsma's early wildness to score its first run. Walsma walked Jesus Feliciano and uncorked a wild pitch that sent Feliciano scurrying all the way to third. Ramon Vazquez then walked, and Beltran grounded into a fielder's choice that scored Feliciano.
In the fifth, Rios tripled to center to drive in Carlos Delgado. Rodriguez's single then sent Rios across the plate for Puerto Rico's third run.
Soto added an RBI single with the bases loaded in the sixth. Two innings later, Hiram Bocachica reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on a single by Alex Cora.
It was Puerto Rico's second win over a scrappy Dutch squad that eliminated the star-laden Dominican Republic. The Netherlands is also headed to the second round in Miami, where it will play Venezuela on Saturday.
TRINIDAD: Denesh Ramdin to captain West Indies in Chris Gayle's absence for T20
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) _ Captain Chris Gayle was ruled out injured for this weekend's one-off Twenty20 match against England with wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin taking over West Indies.
Ramdin, who celebrates his 24th birthday on Friday, was Gayle's vice captain during the just-concluded test series. Gayle strained his right hamstring in the fifth and final test which ended on Tuesday.
Dwayne Bravo, the ebullient allrounder who has been out of international cricket since last July while rehabilitating from ankle surgery, returns to boost the Caribbean side.
Andrew Fletcher, the opening batsman who was a part of the Stanford Superstars team that whipped England last November to win the $20 million Twenty20 match, was included in the 13-man squad named on Wednesday.
The majority of the Twenty20 squad participated in the recent five-test series but allrounders Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy were drafted in.
There was no place for test players Daren Powell, Brendan Nash and Ryan Hinds, who return to play for their countries in this weekend's West Indies four-day competition.