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Many Haitian leaders among earthquake deaths

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - They were the voices of reason and compromise in a country where words are often used as weapons of political warfare, where political turmoil is a chronic condition, like hardship and economic chaos.

And now these rising stars have been lost forever, swallowed in the rubble of the earthquake.

They were women's rights leaders, political militants, university professors, men of God.

With many still unaccounted for, the news of every confirmed death is gripping the country, even bringing tears to the eyes of its leaders.

"Every time you hear another name, you can't help but feel it," said Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who last week excused himself from a meeting with Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, walked outside and broke down in tears. "There is only so long you can hold in the emotion."

Moments earlier, word was just making the rounds that Micha Gaillard, the university professor and firebrand political militant, who became known as the voice of the opposition during the movement to oust former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was dead.

Gaillard was attending a meeting at the ministry of justice when the earthquake hit. Despite attempts by both the minister of justice, who spent hours digging through the rubble, he died, said Dr. Ariel Henry, a friend and fellow member of Fusion, the political party they helped form a few years ago.

Henry was among the last to speak to Gaillard during a 1 a.m. conversation Wednesday.

"It's clear that in this catastrophe all kinds of individuals were victims. You find people in the bourgeoisie, in the middle class, in popular neighborhoods, in peasant communities who have died," said former Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis.

The loss, he said, extends to Haitians from the Diaspora who were visiting last week. These, the middle-class Haitians who come here regularly, have been part of a vital lifeline to those struggling in Haiti.

Bellerive, the current prime minister, said he can't give an analysis of what has happened to the country, but acknowledged that the loss is immeasurable.

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