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8654: Caricom in plea for Haiti (fwd)

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

Caricom in plea for Haiti
By Canute James
Published: July 11 2001 18:04GMT | Last Updated: July 11 2001 19:58GMT

Haiti's neighbours have asked donors and creditors to release hundreds of
millions of dollars that have been promised to the impoverished Caribbean
state, saying this will encourage further breakthroughs in resolving the
political crisis that has crippled the country this year.

The request by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) follows agreement between
Haiti's government and the main opposition groups on restructuring the body
responsible for elections.

The administration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has also agreed to
re-run disputed legislative elections held 14 months ago, which the local
opposition, foreign governments and regional organisations concurred were
manipulated to benefit Mr Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party.

"The Haitian administration has now complied with undertakings to the
Clinton administration, and reaffirmed to the Bush administration, and has
qualified for receiving the promised economic and financial aid," said
Hubert Ingraham, prime minister of the Bahamas and chairman of Caricom, a
15-nation group that is creating a common market. Haiti is a provisional

Caribbean officials say that about $1bn in credits, grants and technical
assistance has been promised to Haiti, the poorest country in the
hemisphere, by governments and international financial institutions, but
that disbursement has been tied to political reform in the country of 7.5m

Mr Aristide had earlier promised Caricom and the Organisation of American
States that the country's electoral system would be restructured. However,
efforts last month to find a solution were frustrated by the failure of
Fanmi Lavalas and Convergence Democratique, a 15-party coalition of
opposition parties, to discuss their differences.

"Initial consultations with Fanmi Lavalas, Convergence Democratique and
civil society in late June and last week were transformed into direct
negotiations that have resulted in an agreement on elements of a solution,"
said Kenny Anthony, prime minister of St Lucia and the Caricom leader
responsible for Haitian affairs.

The government will now guarantee the funding, independence and security of
an electoral council, which will have representatives from Convergence
Democratique and Fanmi Lavalas as well as religious, political and business

Haiti's government is doing all that has been asked of it, an aide to Mr
Aristide said on Wednesday. "The opposition had first refused to discuss our
proposals, but came under heavy pressure from abroad," the official claimed.
"Now they are talking. However, in doing all of this to regularise the
situation, we have nothing to show for this. This financial embargo is being
unfairly continued."

In calling for the release of funds to Haiti, Caricom leaders said poor
Haitians were suffering most as the country's economy deteriorated.
Unemployment in Haiti is estimated at 60 per cent.

Mr Aristide's critics claim he is making the political changes because he
needs the funds. But Caricom officials contend that the changes made by the
government indicate that the pressure was working.