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8564: Haiti's troubles testing solidarity (fwd)




From: Stanley Lucas <slucas@iri.org>

Haiti's troubles testing solidarity 
By Doreen Hemlock 
http://www.sun-sentinel.com - July 5, 2001 
Nassau, Bahamas  Haiti's boiling political and economic crisis is spilling over to its Caribbean neighbors and 
testing the limits of solidarity in a region comprised of small, developing nations. 

The problems surfaced Wednesday at an ongoing summit of Caribbean leaders that is focusing mainly on ways 
to pool limited resources and better compete in a global economy. 

Dominican Republic President Hipolito Mejia urged international funding for a program to develop business 
along the Haitian-Dominican border and help stem the massive inflow of Haitians into Santo Domingo. 

Dominican officials estimate a half-million Haitians live legally and another half-million illegally in their country of 
8 million people, straining limited resources and pushing down wages. 

The Bahamas, meanwhile, has an estimated 60,000 Haitians living there, or nearly 20 percent of its population, 
creating challenges to teach new immigrants English and find them jobs in a service-oriented economy 
increasingly dependent on tourism and financial services. 

The influx of Haitians is so great -- and so costly for the Bahamas -- that Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said 
he wants safeguards placed on any future program to ease migration within the mostly English-speaking 
Caribbean Community group, which Haiti seeks to join as a full member. 

"The solidarity of Caricom and the international community is urgently needed to address the human tragedy 
endured by the Haitian people," Ingraham said of Haiti's 8 million-plus people. 

Yet he warned that Caricom's plans for "free movement of people [including Haitians] ... would have serious 
social and political implications for the Bahamas, given its unique position as a target for unregulated 
migration" as one of the region's most prosperous societies. 

The Bahamas boasts a per-capita income of about $20,000 a year in U.S. buying power, compared with 
$5,000 a year in Jamaica and less than $1,000 a year in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas. 

Caricom has been trying to mediate Haiti's political crisis for years, spurred in part by solidarity with Haiti's 
historic symbolism as the world's first black republic in 1804. But even Caricom's patience has been wearing 
thin. 

Today, Caricom leaders will meet with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to discuss more than $300 million in 
international aid frozen because of political problems. 

Aristide was to hold a rally with Haitians living in the Bahamas late Wednesday in Nassau. 

Also, on Tuesday, the Dominican Republic appealed for Caricom's vote to win a non-permanent spot on the 
U.N. Security Council reserved for the Latin American and Caribbean region. The seat, now occupied by 
Jamaica, becomes vacant in January.