CARICOM pressures Aristide

EMBATTLED HAITIAN President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was yesterday given less than two months by regional leaders to show the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) evidence of the implementation of measures aimed at resolving the political impasse in his country.

During the next inter-sessional meeting of CARICOM set for March in Antigua, a decision will be taken on what action will be taken against Mr. Aristide, who has been under pressure from Opposition forces in his country who have been calling for his immediate resignation.

Haiti has been wracked by civil unrest and demonstrations in recent months amid charges of a clamp-down on Opposition forces by the Aristide administration.

Although refusing to say what specifically would be done in the event Haiti did not comply, Jamaica‘s Prime Minister and Chairman of CARICOM, P. J. Patterson suggested at a press conference late last night that economic sanctions might still be implemented.

Coming out of yesterday’s lengthy consultations at Jamaica House attended by Aristide and four other CARICOM leaders, Prime Minister Patterson indicated that the Haitian president had accepted the “confidence building measures to facilitate the initiation of dialogue between the Haitian Government and Opposition groups”.

Among those measures were the release of persons in detention.

“All those whose release has been judicially ordered will be set free within the week,” Mr. Patterson said. He noted that persons who claim to be held because they are political activists or leaders must have access to due process.

“We believe that demonstrators who may be arrested should be processed in a period not exceeding 48 hours,” Mr. Patterson said.

President Aristide also agreed and promised to implement a programme of disarming all illegally armed gangs and the review of laws allowing demonstrations in only specified areas.

Earlier in the day, while addressing a gathering of Haitian immigrants at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, President Aristide confidently told journalists that CARICOM would not be imposing sanctions on Haiti.