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Outrage over game urging Haitian, Cuban killing

"Grand Theft Auto: Vice City"

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MIAMI, Florida (Reuters) -- Miami's Haitian and Cuban communities are up in arms over a top-selling computer game that exhorts players to "kill the Haitians" and "kill the Cubans."

Haitian and Cuban representatives said on Tuesday "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" incited hate crimes and they were considering taking action, whether legal or in the form of a boycott, against creators Rockstar Games and its retailers.

"The game shouldn't be designed to destroy human life, it shouldn't be designed to destroy an ethnic group," said Jean-Robert Lafortune of the Haitian American Grassroots Coalition.

Grand Theft Auto III takes players into the "glamorous, hedonistic metropolis of Vice City," a Miami-like seaside city teeming with Caribbean and Latin American immigrants.

In the game, an ex-convict has to recover stolen drug money and take on the Cuban and Haitian gangs that run the streets.

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., the parent company of Rockstar, said it meant no offense.

"We empathize with the concerns of the Haitian community and we are giving serious consideration to them," it said.

"Some statements made by fictional characters in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City have been taken out of context. There was no intention to offend any ethnic group."

'Money out of blood'

Ringo Cayard, executive director of the Haitian American Foundation, said the last thing the Haitian community wanted was for the controversy to boost the game's popularity.

"They've made money out of the blood and tears of a whole nation," he said.

Cuban American National Foundation spokeswoman Mariela Ferretti said Cubans felt unnerved at being singled out.

"The saddest part of the commentary is that there seems to be a market for these kinds of violent games, regardless of who they're aiming those guns at," Ferretti said.

Grand Theft Auto is already the subject of a lawsuit.

Two teen-age Tennessee boys who went on a fatal sniping spree said they were mimicking the game.

The suit is seeking $200 million in punitive damages and $46 million in actual damages against Rockstar, Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., retailer Wal-Mart Inc., the parents of the boys and the boys themselves.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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