Originally: Hoping to help mediate Haiti’s political crisis, Caribbean leaders will meet with President Jean Bertrand-Aristide in Jamaica on Saturday.
Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and a small group of aides will sit down with Caribbean Community leaders Saturday in Jamaica in an effort to find a peaceful way out of Haiti’s escalating political unrest.
Colin Granderson, an assistant secretary general with the 15-member regional bloc known as Caricom, said Caricom Chairman and Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson will lead the talks in Kingston.
Patterson is expected to be joined by other prime ministers, including Perry Christie of the Bahamas, Kenny Anthony of St. Lucia and Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago. The one-day, closed-door meeting will be held in the presence of observers from the Organization of American States, Canada, the United States and possibly the European Union, Granderson said.
”We will be looking carefully at making concrete suggestions to Aristide on how to try and improve the security climate on the ground,” Granderson said. “That would be the major outcome.”
The meeting with Aristide comes on the heels of a similar session held last week in the Bahamas between Caricom leaders and key figures in Haiti’s opposition factions. Initially, Caricom leaders had hoped to meet with both sides, but Aristide’s opponents said they would not travel to the Bahamas if he or his representatives took part in the talks.
As a result of the two-day talks in the Bahamas, during which the opposition aired its grievances against the embattled president, the Caricom leaders agreed to a set of recommendations they hope will break the political impasse, which has claimed dozens of lives in recent months.
Many of the steps have already been raised and are found in Resolution 822 of the Organization of American States (OAS), which has been trying to resolve the Haitian crisis for years. They include the disarmament of street gangs, judicial reforms, guarantees for the security of anti-Aristide demonstrators and strengthening the police force.
After being presented with the list on Sunday by Christie, who traveled to Haiti at the request of Caricom, Aristide told a news conference that he had already accepted many of the proposals.
Opponents charge that he has not done anything to make them reality.
The OAS sent several diplomatic missions to Haiti in an attempt to find a solution to the crisis since disputed parliamentary elections in 2000 won by Aristide supporters. Haiti now has no working parliament because the opposition has refused to participate in new elections, saying it does not trust Aristide.
Even following what they called a successful meeting in the Bahamas, they remain adamant that they will not stop a two-month old string of street demonstrating calling for Aristide’s resignation.
Aristide has vowed to remain in office until his term ends in 2006.
Caricom leaders have insisted that their round of discussions are not a negotiation but a way to help mediate the Haitian political crisis by keeping both sides talking.
© 2004 The Miami Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.