NASSAU – Leaders of the 15-member Caribbean Community met with representatives of Haiti’s opposition parties behind closed doors Tuesday to hear their grievances against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The two days of talks are being led by Prime Ministers Perry Christie of the Bahamas, P.J. Patterson of Jamaica and Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago. U.S. and Canadian observers are also here, as well as Luigi Einaudi, deputy secretary general of the Organization of American States, and Colin Granderson, assistant secretary general of CARICOM. Einaudi and Granderson have long been involved in attempts to ease Haiti’s political crisis.
”This is an important opportunity to exchange views on the situation of Haiti,” said Lionel Delatour of the Center for Free Enterprise and Democracy, a private-sector opposition group. Other opposition members here represented various sectors of Haitian society.
CARICOM, which has been criticized by the opposition as partial to Aristide, recently sent a delegation to Haiti in hopes of mediating the political crisis. It had hoped to meet with both sides, but opposition leaders quickly dismissed that idea. CARICOM officials are to meet later in the Bahamas with Haitian government officials.
While the CARICOM involvement may be an important step in helping the region’s leaders understand Haiti’s crisis, observers said the two sides are miles apart.
Aristide has called on the opposition to support new legislative elections, but his leading critics call for his resignation and have drafted a plan for an interim government until elections are held.