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24923: (news) Chamberlain: Haiti fails to convince Caricom (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By TONY FRASER
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, April 29 (AP) -- Haiti's bid to return to the
Caribbean Community appears to be failing, with officials telling its
visiting interim foreign minister this week that the violence-plagued
nation must first have fair elections before it can rejoin.
The 15-nation Caribbean Community suspended Haiti in March 2004, after
the United States helped installed an interim government, saying the
administration was unconstitutional and calling for an investigation into
ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's charges that Washington had
engineered a coup against him.
Haitian Foreign Minister Herard Abraham visited Trinidad and Barbados
this week, saying he was starting a tour of all 14 member states to
persuade the regional economic bloc to reinstate Haiti.
"My wish is for Haiti to take its place in the Caribbean Community" at
its July summit, he said in Trinidad on Tuesday.
Trinidad's Foreign Minister Knowlson Gift met with Abraham, but said
afterward that Haiti would have to be patient.
"A number of efforts are being made to bring Haiti back into the
democratic fold," Gift told The Associated Press on Friday. "Based on the
situation that now exists, that can happen soon after the democratically
convened elections are completed."
Trinidadian officials did not inform reporters about Abraham's visit,
and he received similar low-key treatment when he met in Barbados on
Wednesday with Foreign Minister Dame Billie Miller.
She issued a terse statement noting only that the meeting was at
Abraham's request and that "events in Haiti continue to be of grave
Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson made a fresh call Friday for
elections in Haiti, saying the Caribbean Community was willing to help and
has given technical assistance to the country's electoral office.
"We remain prepared ... to support all measures that will ensure the
return of a constitutionally elected government of the people of Haiti in
the shortest time possible," Patterson said.
Officials were tightlipped at the Caribbean Community's headquarters in
Georgetown, Guyana. Spokesman Calvin Brown refused to comment on Abraham's
diplomatic push, saying only that "Members of the community are free and
welcome to have bilaterals" with Haiti.
Haitian government officials did not respond to requests for comment.
In an editorial Friday, The Daily Nation newspaper of Barbados noted
that Abraham had chosen to start his tour in the two countries "viewed as
soft" on Haiti, but still "He was in fact on a mission impossible."
Countries opposed to Haiti's reinstatement "are very anxious for
elections to be held," Gift said.
But Caribbean leaders are critical of the interim government's alleged
persecution of Aristide loyalists and are skeptical that fair elections
could be held.
Adding to the criticism, Amnesty International on Friday criticized what
it called a pattern of political killings by the Haitian police. The human
rights group said in a statement that "the use of lethal and indiscriminate
violence by the police to disperse and repress demonstrators only serves to
increase tension in an already violence-torn country."
But Haitian police spokeswoman Gessy Coicou criticized the allegations,
saying that international human rights groups had been coopted by opponents
of Haiti's interim government: "There are people in Haiti who have their
own interests," he said.
Caribbean leaders' suspicions about the manner of Aristide's ouster have
led the region to refuse to contribute troops to the U.N. peacekeeping
mission in Haiti, which only reached its full force in September.
Haiti, with a population of 8 million people, has more than half the
Caribbean Community's population of 15 million.