Friday, March 26, 2004

T&T: Caricom turns the Haiti mess into a pissing contest

With the governance crisis situation in Haiti at the top of a packed 12-item agenda, there was a noticeable absence of the division anticipated over the likely arrival for the meeting of Haiti's interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue.

As it turned out, amid all the speculations, Latortue had failed to repudiate his earlier announcement of suspending Haiti's relations with Caricom or his embrace last weekend of armed rebels as "liberators". And, therefore, his request to attend the Caricom meeting could not have been entertained. It would not have been "politically correct" to have any Haitian official at the meeting when the issue of recognition of a post-Aristide regime in Port-au-Prince was not previously taken.

Latortue's chance of being given an informal audience by Caricom leaders, without recognition of the regime in Haiti, was dashed by his surprising embrace last weekend at a political rally in his hometown of Gonaives of armed rebels as "liberators" and "freedom fighters" in ousting President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power on February 29.
The Express was informed by conference sources that the leaders' deliberations coincided with renewed behind-the-scenes pressures from President George Bush's administration for Caricom's recognition of the interim Haitian regime of which former Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre is President and Latortue Prime Minister.

But neither Community Secretary General Edwin Carrington, nor Prime Minister PJ Patterson of Jamaica-who yesterday handed over the chairmanship, temporarily, to host Prime Minister, Denzil Douglas of St Kitts and Nevis-would confirm that Haiti's membership in the Community would now remain vacant pending new free and fair elections within two years.

The final and decisive decision was expected by last evening or to be announced today before a resumed plenary session.

But to judge from the applause, Prime Minister Patterson may have reflected a strong sentiment of his colleagues assembled around the conference table when he told the opening session:

"We may be small in size and we make no claim to military power but our influence in the hemisphere cannot be underestimated...And I believe that there cannot be a lasting and permanent solution to the crisis in Haiti without Caricom being involved."

The Community would, therefore, remain engaged on Haiti, without compromising fundamental principles of democratic governance to which it remains guided, stressed Patterson.
So, this is what it comes down to, who's the biggest BSD in the region, either GWB or the Caricom heads. Do Caricom heads really want to play lash for lash with GWB?


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