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a640: Caricom urges aid for Haiti

From: JD Lemieux <lxhaiti@yahoo.com>

Caricom urges aid for Haiti
By Canute James in Belize City
Published: February 5 2002 03:18 | Last Updated:
February 5 2002 04:11

Haiti's neighbours said on Monday that social and
political problems in the impoverished Caribbean state
could be resolved if the country received some of the
hundreds of millions of dollars in aid that has been

Leaders of the 14-member Caribbean Community
(Caricom), meeting in Belize City, said that the
administration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's
president, had met several of the conditions demanded
by potential donors and creditors, but had not been

"Funds should be released to Haiti to allow the
country to strengthen the institutions that can help
it to move towards greater democracy," said Julian
Hunte, foreign minister of St Lucia, who last week led
a Caricom mission to Haiti.

The Caricom request was welcomed on Monday by the
Haitian government. However, the opposition contends
that the only solution to the political crisis is the
removal of Mr Aristide's administration.

The country of 7.5m people, the poorest in the
hemisphere, has been politically paralysed since
legislative elections in May 2000 when the political
opposition and international monitors concurred that
the vote was manipulated to the advantage of Mr
Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party. Just under $1bn that
has been promised to Haiti by foreign creditors and
donors has not been disabused. The donors are
demanding that the government implements a series of

Caribbean leaders said that Haiti's government and the
main opposition groups had made progress on
restructuring the body responsible for elections.

The government had guaranteed 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 groups. The administration had
also agreed to re-run disputed legislative elections.

Haiti is a provisional member of Caricom, which plans
to create a common market next year. However, Caricom
is insisting that Haiti's political problems are
resolved before it is admitted.

"There is growing frustration in the country as there
is a perception that changes are being made by the
administration, but that the country is not gaining
anything from this," said a senior official of one

The political situation in Haiti has worsened since an
attempted coup six weeks ago. An attack by gunmen on
the presidential palace, and subsequent violence in
which government supporters attacked the offices of
Convergence Democratique, a 15-party opposition
coalition, left 17 people dead.

There have also been indications of a growing
anti-government sentiment in the country that shares
the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Haitians earn an
average of $250 per year, and unemployment is
estimated at 60 per cent.

"The Caribbean leaders have taken the correct
position," said a spokesman for Haiti's foreign
ministry. "The government has been implementing
several changes requested by the international
community, but the people of Haiti are frustrated
because they remain in continuing poverty."

However, Haiti's opposition is unlikely to be
impressed by the position of the Caribbean leaders.
Gerard Pierre Charles, a leader of Convergence
Democratique, contends that the solution to Haiti's
political crisis is the removal of Mr Aristide from
office. He described Mr Aristide as an obstacle to
democracy in Haiti.

He said that the opposition had always been willing to
negotiate an end to the crisis, but that this had
changed after the attempted coup in December, when
offices of Convergence Democratique were attacked by
government supporters. Since then it was impossible
for the opposition to sit with Mr Aristide's Fanmi
Lavalas party, he argued.

"Mr Aristide has made concessions, but the goalposts
have been moves several times by the opposition," said
Albert Ramdin, advisor to the secretary general of the
Organisation of American States. "The removal of the
government cannot be a basis for negotiations. The
replacement of the government is not a consideration."

In Haiti, President Aristide offered an olive branch
to the opposition on Monday, urging his opponents to
start negotiations. "Iíve chosen the road of
collaboration, not confrontation," he said.

Mr Hunte said he was satisfied that, based on the
undertakings given by Mr Aristide "there is a
justification for assistance to Haiti to help to
restore confidence and stability."

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