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7095: Barbados Nation on Haiti and Aristide (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <maxblanchet@worldnet.att.net>

The Haitian Problem For CARICOM - Thursday-15-February-2001

THE PRESIDENT of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide, is scheduled to arrive in
Barbados today to participate in the 12th Inter-Sessional Meeting of
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders that started last evening at the
Sherbourne Confernce Centre.

He comes as the  newly-inaugurated head of state and government from a
country sharply torn by political divisions over its system of governance,
and where the mass of Haitian people continue to struggle for survival in
abject poverty.

Finalisation of arrangements for Haiti's full membership of CARICOM is one
of the agenda issues for the meeting at Sherbourne.

But it would be most surprising if the Community leaders simply adopt a
business-as-usual approach on Haiti in their dialogue with President
Aristide. There must be consistency in the pursuit of electoral democracy
and good governance throughout the Community.

There is clearly a political crisis in Haiti that cries out for resolution
as speedily as possible. Particularly since it is being used by the
international donor community to block the release of urgently needed
financial aid to that Caribbean nation.

The combined opposition parties, now grouped in what is known as the
"Democratic Convergence Alliance" (DCA), had boycotted last November's
presidential poll at which there was a remarkably low voter response, by
some estimates no more than 25 per cent of the electorate.

The successful boycott was an extension of the protests against the
legitimacy of the parliament based on what the opposition parties, civic
organisations and overseas observers had deemed electoral malpractices at

Those controversial elections had given Aristide's "Lavalas" party control
of both houses of parliament amid the cries of "foul play". Then came the
presidential poll which the opposition had warned they would boycott.

However, although CARICOM observers had also confirmed that there had been a
very low turn out of voters, as if Haitians have already become
disillusioned with the comparatively new experiment in electoral democracy,
the fact is that Aristide is the legally elected president of Haiti.

There has been no credible report that he was not fairly elected by those
who opted to cast their ballots. His presence at the Inter-Sessional Meeting
is his first official overseas engagement since his inauguration on February

Nevertheless, CARICOM cannot ignore its moral responsibility, indeed its
obligation to seek to persuade President Aristide to have constructive
dialogue with the opposition parties and civil society to achieve a
realistic compromise on governance arrangements. The possibility of early
new parliamentary elections is one of the demands by his opponents.

At the same time, CARICOM must be prepared to exercise whatever influence is
possible to get the foreign donors to adopt a flexible approach in the
release of the much needed but frozen aid for Haiti.

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