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Caribbean Nations Question Aristide Ouster

by Peter Richards
Haiti Article Index

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(IPS) -- Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders will meet in an emergency session Tuesday to discuss Haiti, but already Sunday one spokesman expressed disappointment that the international community refused to heed their call earlier for a peacekeeping force to end the crisis in the strife-torn country.

The meeting in Jamaica will provide a ready platform for the politicians to reiterate their opposition to the forced removal of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Aristide fled the country Sunday after weeks of violence that left more than 80 people dead. His removal had been demanded by rebel troops and opposition political forces that earlier rejected a CARICOM peace plan that would have resulted in Aristide sharing power with them pending fresh general elections.

Haiti is one of 15 CARICOM countries.

As they were preparing to gather in Kingston, Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson, the current CARICOM chairman, was questioning the "voluntary" nature of Aristide's resignation.

"We are bound to question whether his resignation was truly voluntary, as it comes after the capture of sections of Haiti by armed insurgents and the failure of the international community to provide the requisite support, despite the appeals of CARICOM," he said in a statement Sunday.

"The removal of President Aristide in these circumstances sets a dangerous precedent for democratically elected governments anywhere and everywhere, as it promotes the removal of duly-elected persons from office by the power of rebel forces," he added.

CARICOM asked the United Nations Security Council on Thursday to send an international peace-keeping contingent to Haiti but, led by the United States and France, the body insisted on a "political solution" to end the crisis first.

After Aristide resigned Sunday, the Council agreed to send a multinational force to Haiti for three months, to be followed by a UN "stabilization" force. U.S. marines landed in the country Sunday to join 50 troops that had arrived earlier in the week. More were expected Monday, according to the Associated Press.

Jamaican Foreign Minister KD Knight warned the Council on Thursday that the unrest in Haiti also threatened the region's security.

Patterson said Sunday that at "no point in time" did the region's peace plan, which was accepted by Aristide nine days ago, advocate the "unconstitutional removal" of the president from office.

"The action plan, endorsed by the international community, was based on the precepts of shared government, binding both President Aristide and the legitimate opposition to specific commitments, which would eventually lead to a political solution in accordance with the Constitution of Haiti and result in a peaceful settlement of the crisis and the promotion of the democratic process," he said.

"Any suggestions therefore that CARICOM was a party to a plan or was in consultation or had subscribed to the removal of President Aristide from office, as a prior condition, would be in complete contradiction to the long-held CARICOM position that the removal of the constitutionally elected president by unconstitutional means could not be supported by the CARICOM Community," he added.

Patterson's efforts to draw a clear distinction between CARICOM's position and the stance of western nations was apparently fueled by obvious inferences at the United Nations that CARICOM fully backed an initiative to get Security Council endorsement for a U.S.-led peace-keeping force for Haiti.

Washington's UN ambassador John Negroponte had counted CARICOM among a group -- including the United States, France, Canada, Brazil and Chile -- that had drafted a resolution for adoption by the Security Council.

"The Friends of Haiti have worked on a draft that would authorise a multinational interim force and we're hoping, if possible, to pass the resolution this evening," Negroponte told reporters.

"For despite the fig leaf of constitutionality with which these western powers, and supposed bastions of democracy, have sought to shroud the act, what happened in Haiti yesterday was nothing short of a coup d'etat," it said adding, "Haiti has been raped."

Patterson also questioned the appointment of Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre to replace former Roman Catholic priest Aristide as president.

He said the Haitian constitution provided for his affirmation by a two-thirds majority of parliament. Yet the terms of the country's elected national officials expired in January.

"The non-existence of a parliament in Haiti would bring into question the constitutionality of the arrangement as reported. It further underlines why the CARICOM action plan sought to promote a framework, which would permit the elections to parliament that would be free and fair, so soon as the requisite conditions were in place."

Patterson said the situation now in Haiti "raise(s) grave issues which the Caribbean Community now needs to address."

He listed them as: CARICOM's response to the installation of a regime in Haiti achieved by capitulation to armed groups; how the grouping will respond to any further action by the international community now that the political solution outlined in the original action plan is no longer possible, and how to deal with a possible increase in Haitian asylum-seekers.

CARICOM continues to deplore the continued breakdown of law and order in Haiti, the loss of lives and the wanton damage to property, added Patterson

"CARICOM has no desire to abandon the people of Haiti, and would wish to see the quick restoration of peace and stability in that country, and the earliest return to constitutional democracy."

Anslem Remy, who chairs the sociology department at the State University of Haiti, says the absence of any developed political system will provide another problem.

"The question is what will happen. I believe we will have some kind of a coalition of tendencies rather than political parties, because there is not a neatly-drawn ideological line between the parties, groups within the political opposition," he said in a radio interview here.

The coalition would then have to consider the position of the rebels and "that will create a different dimension to the problem," added Remy.

He has suggested that CARICOM "free itself from the hold of the United States," and develop its own policy towards Haiti, which was granted CARICOM membership in 2001.

"They (CARICOM) will have to realize that whatever personal, emotional ties they have developed with Aristide are gone. His historical time is over; he is no longer a response to the demands of the time," Remy added.

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Albion Monitor March 1, 2004 (

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