Originally: The Bush administration is angry with Jamaica over its hosting of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Jamaica’s decision to welcome former Haitian President Jean-BertrandAristide has infuriated Bush administration officials, who say U.S. relations with English-speaking Caribbean countries have reached a new low.
Senior U.S. officials refuse to speculate whether Washington will retaliate against Jamaica, which currently presides over the Caribbean Community(CARICOM) regional bloc.
But other U.S. officials say that if Aristide’s return from Africa to the Caribbean triggers new bloodshed in Haiti and U.S. troops get in harm’s way, there would be congressional calls for a strong U.S. reaction against Jamaica.
Asked whether the United States will take any concrete measures against Jamaica, U.S. officials say the Bush Administration will not cut aid to fight AIDS in the region or reduce other kinds of humanitarian assistance. But they hint that other non-humanitarian bilateral programs could be slowed
”We are reviewing the relationship to see what is the appropriate reaction,” said one of the officials, who asked for anonymity.
The officials say the White House is fuming over Jamaica’s red-carpet welcome to Aristide, who is expected to stay there for 8 to 10 weeks and reunite with his two daughters, who had been living in New York. Administration officials were also angered by CARICOM’s willingness to believe the former president’s claims that he was forced to resign and ”kidnapped” by U.S. forces. Washington has vehemently denied those allegations.
”I think you are going to see a cooling of relations,” a well-placed U.S. official said. “Their actions on Haiti, and their willingness to believe a pathological liar like Aristide over the verifiable facts of his departure, have damaged U.S.-CARICOM relations a great deal.”
Earlier this week, the Bush administration communicated its view to top Jamaican officials, U.S. officials say. Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, in a statement to Parliament on Tuesday, said Aristide will not be involved in the political affairs in Haiti while he is in Jamaica.
NO MORE PROBLEMS
Aristide, who was reunited with his two young daughters Thursday, said his visit, which has caused friction between Kingston and the new Haitian government, would not cause further problems.
”I want to assure the people of Jamaica that I would never use the kind hospitality provided by my brothers and sisters here in Jamaica to do anything that is political or that could hinder the process of peace in my
beloved country of Haiti,” Aristide said, according to Agence France-Presse.
CARICOM officials say that despite the diplomatic differences, they will continue to work with the United States and the international community.
Colin Granderson, CARICOM’s assistant secretary general in charge of foreign relations, would not comment on the U.S. officials’ complaints but disagreed with their portrayal of soured U.S.-Caribbean relations.
”We see this as part of democracy on the international stage,” Granderson said in a telephone interview from Guyana.
MEETING NEXT WEEK
Leaders of CARICOM’s 15 member nations, which include Haiti, will meet March 25-26 in St. Kitts, where Haiti will be at the top of the agenda. Officials are expected to decide whether to recognize Haiti’s new interim government.
U.S.-Caribbean ties had already deteriorated badly last year, when Jamaica, the Bahamas and other English-speaking Caribbean islands became some of the most outspoken critics of Bush’s decision to launch the war on Iraq.
U.S. officials say much of CARICOM’s tilt to the left in recent years is because of its member countries’ reliance on Venezuelan oil and their chronic complains that Washington fails to pay attention to its Caribbean neighbors. Venezuela’s leftist President Hugo Chávez, a close ally of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, is influencing most Caribbean decisions these days, they say.
In recent months, U.S.-Caribbean tensions were partly defused because of Bush meetings with Caribbean leaders in Washington and at a hemispheric summit in Mexico.