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France recognizes Holocaust role

Tue., Feb. 17, 2009, midnight

France’s top judicial body on Monday formally recognized the nation’s role in deporting Jews to Nazi death camps during the Holocaust – but effectively ruled out any more reparations for the deportees or their families.

Jewish groups welcomed the ruling by the Council of State, the clearest legal acknowledgment to date of France’s role in the Holocaust.

Nearly 70 years ago, the Vichy government helped deport some 76,000 people – including 11,000 children – from Nazi-occupied France to concentration camps during the war. Fewer than 3,000 returned alive.

The council said that the French government of the time “allowed or facilitated the deportation from France of victims of anti-Semitic persecution.”

FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique

Outcry over prices leads to protests

Strikes that have nearly frozen everyday life on France’s Caribbean islands burst into clashes on Monday as police battled protesters angry at high prices and resentful of a tiny white elite on lands better known for beachside vacations.

Police detained about 50 people after coming under a barrage of stones as they tried to take down barricades on the island of Guadeloupe, said Nicolas Desforges, the island’s top government official.

On the sister island of Martinique, 100 miles south of Guadeloupe, police said that as many as 10,000 demonstrators marched through the narrow streets of the capital to protest spiraling food prices and denounce the business elite.

Mexico City

Mexico denies salvage inquiry

Mexico has denied a U.S. sea salvage company’s request to explore and recover artifacts from a sunken 17th-century Spanish galleon in the Gulf, the government said Monday.

The ship in question, the galleon Our Lady of Juncal, was part of a fleet hit by a powerful storm in 1631.

The proposal by Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. of Tampa, Fla., “is not intended to conduct research and does not have the approval of archaeologists or an academic institution of recognized prestige,” according to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. Odyssey Marine chairman Greg Stemm said in a statement that “the proposal presented to Mexico for archaeological services is in compliance with the UNESCO Convention and would keep all cultural artifacts together in a collection.”

The Our Lady of Juncal set sail from the Gulf coast port of Veracruz on Oct. 14, 1631, as part of a 19-ship fleet bearing what the Institute described only as “a valuable shipment of the goods obtained by the king’s ministers to feed the Spanish empire.” Most of the fleet never made it.

From wire reports

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