Guardian Staff Reporter
Haiti‘s opposition groups, “Convergence Democratique” and “Group of 184,” both agreed they were pleased with the two-day talks here and were leaving with a new perception of CARICOM, a body which they believe respects them.
The groups presented their views about the talks at the Wyndham Nassau Resort and Crystal Palace Casino on Thursday.
Major sticking point
A major sticking point however, is that they are still not seeing eye-to-eye with CARICOM and neither side is about to change its view. Mr. Gervais Charles, attorney at Cabinet Charles and Associates and a member of Group of 184, said the opposition believes that president Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the source of the problem and should resign, however, CARICOM believes that Aristide should remain and both sides should work out their differences.
Mr. Charles added that the opposition previously believed Aristide was the only person in Haiti who was a part of CARICOM, while the the country of Haiti was not.
He said the talks in the presence of CARICOM heads and international observers were groundbreaking and the fact that they were invited to participate in discussions was an important step.
He noted that they were never extended such a privilege in previous international talks with Haiti, which only involved Aristide. He said now the tables have turned as opposition groups are talking to the same people Aristide is talking to.
Mr. Charles also claimed that Aristide is not interested in talking to the Haitian people, only foreign groups, and the last negotiation session they had with him was in 2000, proved fruitless.
He said Aristide breaks his promises on agreements and even broke his word on an agreement he signed with the Organisation of American States where three key provisions involving domestic security and the electoral process were not being followed.
He also claimed that Aristide is destroying Haiti day by day and has done nothing to improve the economy of the republic ? using the country’s money to pay lobbyists and other groups who support his interests.
The attorney then pointed out that instead of creating a secure environment for Haitians, Aristide has created an environment of insecurity. He said Aristide is bent on strong-arm tactics and is not governing the citizens of the country, but rather hurting and killing them with his arm gangs and police force.
Attacks on students
Members of Convergence Democratique said they were also very concerned about the state of violence in the country. They said students are not learning anything because of the fear of being shot or killed.
Officials from The State University of Haiti were reportedly attacked with batons, rocks and firearms during anti-government demonstrations on Dec. 5, 2003. Nineteen students were also reportedly attacked and detained in the university precincts. As a result of the violence, schools and universities have been closed since December and students continue to protest.
The opposition groups said they would continue to mount pressure on Aristide’s government and call for his resignation. They said they believe he would cower and eventually resign.
President Aristide’s presidential term does not end until 2006. He is presently ruling by decree following Haiti‘s failure to establish a self-governing Provisional Electoral Council in 2003 when elections were expected to be held. However, the elections never took place and the mandate of parliament expired two weeks ago.
CARICOM chairman and Jamaican Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson said CARICOM is not going to be a part of a process involving the removal of a leader from power in a country, contrary to the constitutional provisions of that country.
The Haitian delegation left the capital Thursday. They said they were very concerned about what may happen to them when they arrived in Haiti and wanted the media to “pray for them.” The expression was not taken as a tongue-in-cheek one due to the continuing political violence in that country. Anti-Aristide demonstrations have been held there all this week and 47 people have been killed during such demonstrations over the past four months.
Officials from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights also expressed grave concern about continuing unrest in Haiti.
The Commission’s issued a statement saying Haitian authorities should bring to justice anyone responsible for violence, including attacks on political opponents and journalists.