From Friday’s Globe and Mail
Canada, the United States and other Western countries are sending a high-level delegation to Haiti to demand that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide replace his prime minister, release political prisoners, reform the police and begin dealing with other opposition demands.
Mr. Aristide has already promised to do these things, but he doesn’t seem to be following through, Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said yesterday.
“We’ve agreed, all of us, to a joint démarche to say, ‘Look, you’ve got to live up to your obligations,’.” Mr. Graham told reporters as pro-Aristide gangs tried to gain control in parts of Haiti.
Mr. Graham said that one of the key demands is a new prime minister who will exercise constitutional restraints on the presidency.
The team of emissaries is to arrive in Port-au-Prince tomorrow. It will include Canadian Privy Council President Denis Coderre, who is also the minister responsible for relations with francophone countries; Cesar Gaviria, secretary-general of the Organization of American States; and Roger Noriega, the U.S. government’s highest-ranking official for Western Hemisphere affairs. They will be joined by French and Caribbean community diplomats already in the country.
“Obviously, we can’t allow this to continue to develop the way it is developing,” Mr. Graham said, referring to the violence that has killed an estimated 55 Haitians in the past two weeks.
The minister said Mr. Aristide will be given a time limit to meet the demands and carry out “confidence-building measures” that will convince the opposition that he will live up to his democratic obligations.
The deadline for action is still being worked out, Mr. Graham said. “It takes two parties to come to the table in Haiti, to have the political solution that is so desperately needed.”
Meeting in Washington, delegates to the OAS passed a resolution backing Mr. Aristide and calling on him to respect the Kingston accords. But in a pointed message to the opposition, the resolution urged it to “act responsibly, denounce the use of violence ….. and engage in the democratic process.”
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, and international aid agencies fear starvation and an outbreak of disease if continuing civil disorder prevents them from delivering food and medicine. Caribbean neighbours worry about being flooded by refugees if the situation worsens.
In Port-au-Prince, government spokesman Mario Dupuy said the government will respect the Kingston accords, but will not negotiate with opponents unless they make a clean break with the rebels.
“The political opposition has to say clearly that they are going to combat terrorism,” he said.
Mr. Dupuy said he hopes the visitors will offer Haiti support against the insurgents. “We need the solidarity of the countries of the region and the peoples of the region,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the western city of Gonaïves, an armed gang of rebels who had seized control of the city declared themselves an independent state and named a president yesterday, Reuters news agency reported.