Originally: Leaders to decide on Haiti

Monday, March 22, 2004
LATORTUE. said he would put on hold Haiti’s relationship with Caricom

Haiti’s interim prime minister, Gerard Latortue, who had declared a freeze on his country’s participation in the Caribbean Community, now wants to attend this week’s summit of regional leaders in St Kitts, Community officials have confirmed.

Last night, Jamaica said Latortue would be welcomed in Basseterre, the St Kitts capital, to discuss the political process in Haiti, but made clear that he was unlikely to have a full seat at the regional table until Caricom leaders take a decision on the recognition of his government.

In other words, officials suggest, Latortue’s involvement in the summit would be to discuss the specific issue of Haiti, but not the broader agenda items.
“Jamaica, along with the other Caricom countries, has always felt that the way to deal with democracy and the economic and social development in Haiti is through the full involvement of Caricom in that process,” the island’s foreign minister, K D Knight, told the Observer.
KNIGHT. it is desirable that the Haitian delegation be a part of the discussion on Haiti
It was in that context, Knight said, that Caricom would “give the most favourable consideration” to any request by Haiti’s interim government to present its case to regional leaders.
“My own view is that it is desirable that the Haitian delegation be a part of the discussion when they (Caricom heads of government) take that issue,” the foreign minister said.

The subject of Haiti is to be high on the agenda of the two-day summit which opens on Thursday, but it has appeared likely that the discussions would take place in the absence of a Haitian delegation.

Latortue, installed as Haiti’s interim leader after the ostensible resignation and exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a week ago announced he would put on hold Haiti’s relations with the 15-member political and economic bloc in protest against Jamaica’s decision to host Aristide, and the Community’s generally sympathetic stand to the overthrown leader.

Caricom, whose power-sharing initiative to end Haiti’s political crisis was initially embraced then tossed out by the United States, France and Canada, called for international investigation into Aristide’s charge that he was all but kidnapped and bundled out of the country by US forces, a claim denied by the United States.

Latortue not only described Jamaica’s decision to provide temporary asylum to Aristide as “an unfriendly act”, but announced that he was withdrawing his country’s ambassador from Kingston, although the diplomat had already been recalled for consultations.
Latortue also snubbed Caricom chairman Prime Minister P J Patterson by failing to show up for a meeting he had requested with the Jamaican leader to discuss the situation in his country.

But despite his public rhetoric, Latortue has not formally told either the Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat or Patterson, as its chairman, of his decision to downgrade Haiti’s role in the Community. Neither did he tell the Jamaican foreign ministry of his intention to withdraw Haiti’s ambassador.

However, yesterday, political and diplomatic sources in the eastern Caribbean said it appeared that Latortue was having a change of heart on the need for dialogue with Caricom, which Haiti joined in 1998 during the presidency of Rene Preval.
The Community’s secretary-general, Edwin Carrington, yesterday confirmed an overture from Latortue, but declined to provide details.

“All I am prepared to say at this stage is that Mr Latortue has been in contact about such a possibility,” Carrington told the Observer’s Caribbean correspondent, Rickey Singh. “…Haiti is on our agenda for the meeting in Basseterre and we remain engaged.”
In a parliamentary statement last week Patterson had warned Latortue that a decision on his part to disengage from Caricom could only hurt Haiti.