[lbo-talk] Caricom calls for UN probe of Aristide's ouster

Diane Monaco dk_monaco at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 4 10:44:01 PST 2004

[So the Bush Administration wants to move forward on the framework outlined by the Caribbean Community for moving forward on a democratic and constitutional resolution to the situation in Haiti. Well, CARICOM is talking… Diane]

Caricom calls for UN probe of Aristide's ouster

AP Thursday, March 04, 2004

Caribbean leaders yesterday called for a United Nations-led investigation into Sunday's ouster of Jean-Bertrand Aristide from the Haitian presidency, a declaration that is likely to offend the United States whom Aristide accused of effectively kidnapping and shunting him out of Haiti.

At the same time, Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders continued to brand Aristide's overthrow as unconstitutional and said that it "set a dangerous precedent to elected governments everywhere".

The leaders, at the end of a summit here yesterday, decided to defer consideration of Haiti's future in the 15-member regional grouping until they meet again later this month and they have had time to assess the interim administration that emerges in Port-au-Prince. Yet they signalled their commitment to the Haitian people and the country's long-term participation in the Community, which Haiti joined in 1998.

Caricom though warned that rebels, including death squad leaders who led an insurrection against Aristide, should not be part of the interim government. ".No action should be taken to legitimise the rebel forces nor should they be included in any interim government," the leaders said in a statement. "The heads of government also agreed that the issue of relations with the interim administration would be the subject of urgent review at the upcoming inter-sessional meeting of the Conference (of Caricom Heads of Government)."

In fact, Jamaica's Prime Minister P J Patterson told reporters yesterday that Haiti's continued participation in Caricom would depend on what transpires there in the next few days. "(Caricom) was not prepared to deliberate with thugs, anarchists and persons with reputations contrary to the tenets of civil society," he told reporters.

With suspicion running deep over America's role in Aristide's removal, the leaders made clear that their countries would not participate in the US-led Interim Multinational Task Force, which the UN Security Council authorised for Haiti on Sunday, but said that Caricom would be part of a "follow-on" stabilisation force which would provide humanitarian assistance and help to rebuild the Haitian economy, civil society and democratic structures.

Surprisingly, though, there was no formal mention in the official end-of-summit statement of Caricom's effort to forge a common approach to the Haitian crisis with South Africa, with whose president, Thabo Mbeki, the Caribbean prime ministers had spoken on Tuesday.

However Perry Christie, the prime minister of The Bahamas, explained at a news conference that Mbeki was interested in countries inside and outside the region working together "for the betterment of Haiti as well as Aristide's political asylum".

Patterson, who is the current chairman of Caricom, called the two-day summit - attended by six leaders - in the wake of Aristide's ostensible resignation and departure from Haiti early Sunday night after weeks of street protests by the formal Opposition, which was buttressed by an insurgency led by men who previously ran right-wing death squads or were involved in past coups.

Caricom, a trade and economic group of small regional states, felt betrayed by the United States, France and Canada, which backed away from their initial support of its proposal that would have involved Aristide sharing power with the Opposition. Instead, they joined the Opposition calls for Aristide to resign and leave the country.

Regional leaders were further angered that these countries refused to support a UN-peacekeeping force for Haiti after the rebels took over several towns and cities, but yet pushed through the authorising resolution at the Security Council only hours after Aristide's departure.

Caricom's suspicion of the attitude of the troika deepened on Monday when Aristide claimed from the Central African Republic, where he is in temporary exile, that he was forced to write a letter of resignation, forced out of his home and placed on a plane by US forces, heading into exile in an unknown destination.

The United States has vehemently denied the allegations, saying that it was Aristide who asked for US help to get him out of the country to prevent a bloodbath.

"Heads of government were deeply perturbed at the contradictory reports surrounding the demission from office of the constitutionally-elected president," the regional leaders said in a communiqué. "These concerns were heightened by public assertions by President Aristide that he had not demitted office voluntarily. Heads of government called for an investigation under the auspices of the United Nations to clarify the circumstances leading to his relinquishing of the presidency."

The leaders did not say what mechanisms might be employed in the probe, but the proposal is unlikely to be welcomed by the Bush administration which is deeply suspicious of the UN where it was badly bruised when it attempted to make its case for war in Iraq.

There was no immediate response last night from either the US embassy in Kingston, the White House or the State Department to the Caricom proposal.

While the region was peeved at how Aristide was removed, the Caricom leaders sought to drive a distinction between those whom Patterson branded as thugs and the Haitian people, whose social and economic development the region wants to support.

"Accordingly, heads of government mandate the Caricom secretary-general to establish a task force to coordinate Caricom's assistance to Haiti in areas where it has the capacity," the communiqué said.

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