PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad – Caribbean countries would be willing to participate in a peacekeeping force for Haiti if
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government and opposition members agree, Trinidad’s prime minister said Friday.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning returned Thursday from talks in the Bahamas between members of Haiti’s opposition
and several Caribbean leaders.
Though Haiti has not asked for a peacekeeping force, Manning said members of the 15-nation Caribbean
Community might help ease tensions through participation in a neutral peacekeeping force.
“We saw the need, in the context of a return of confidence to all sides, to have some kind of impartial
peacekeeping force present in Haiti at the earliest possible opportunity,” Manning said. “These are just proposals,
therefore no details were discussed.”
He did not say which Caribbean Community countries had intimated support for the idea, proposed nearly 10 years
after the United Nations took over control of a U.S.-led multinational peacekeeping force of 20,000.
Three years earlier, the United States had intervened to restore Aristide to power, after he was ousted by the
now-disbanded Haitian army in a bloody September 1991 coup.
Haitian government spokesman Mario Dupuy said Friday: “We have made no such request” for a peacekeeping
mission. “The government only has an agreement with the Organization of American States for international police
technicians to support the Haitian police and prepare for secure elections.”
Haiti has been in turmoil since Aristide’s party swept 2000 legislative elections that observers said were flawed. In
the past four months, at least 47 people have been killed during protests.
The opposition, however, has refused to participate in fresh elections until Aristide resigns.
The opposition agreed, however, to consider a proposal put forward by several Caribbean leaders during this
week’s meeting in the Bahamian capital of Nassau, Manning said. The meetings also included Bahamas Prime
Minister Perry Christie and Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.
The proposal calls on the government to release political activists from prisons and allow demonstrations to
continue freely. Government and opposition members should collaborate and begin to organize new elections that
would be overseen by an international institution, the proposal says.
No other Caribbean leaders have spoken publicly about the proposals. Other countries in the Caribbean Community
include Guyana, Suriname, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, Dominica, Grenada, Barbados, Belize and the
British territory of Montserrat.
Christie will travel to Haiti this weekend to discuss the proposals with Aristide, Manning said.