Aristide Agrees to Some Reforms in Haiti


KINGSTON, Jamaica — Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has vowed to disarm politically affiliated gangs, reform the police force and implement other measures to end the country’s recent unrest.

Aristide made the pledge late Saturday after meeting with the 15-member Caribbean Community, which put forth the measures that included allowing demonstrators to protest freely and releasing prisoners who have been detained since a Dec. 5 protest at
Haiti‘s university. Aristide had outlawed street protests in the capital.

The Haitian leader also promised to disarm gangs that have caused much of the violence in support of political parties. He also said he would reform Haiti’s 5,000-member police force and work with the opposition to appoint a new prime minister.

“You need good will on both sides,” Aristide said following the one-day visit to Jamaica. “I believe my brothers in the opposition will come together for the benefit of our country.”



Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said most of the reforms should be carried out within four to six weeks. He declined to outline consequences if Haiti doesn’t comply, but said leaders haven’t ruled out sanctions.

Aristide also expressed support for a new governing council made up of members of his government, the opposition and civil society.

Haiti has been in turmoil since Aristide’s Lavalas Family party swept legislative elections in 2000 that observers said were flawed.

Aristide has pledged to hold new elections, but the opposition coalition refuses to participate unless he steps down. Aristide says he will not step down until his term ends in 2006.

At least 50 people have been killed since mid-September in clashes between protesters and police, and protesters and Aristide supporters.

Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie said he hoped the new measures would encourage the opposition to negotiate.

“We have to demonstrate a sufficient commitment for change in Haiti to achieve a level of credibility with the opposition,” he said.

The prime ministers of Trinidad and St. Lucia and observers from the United States, Canada and the Organization of American States also attended Saturday’s talks.