Originally: Latortue Retreats: Sends Letter Expressing Deep Regret at Collapse of Jamaican/Haitian Relations

June 6, 2004 Haiti’s interim prime minister, Gerard Latortue, has written to Prime Minister to P J Patterson saying he wants to send an ambassador back to Jamaica and expressing deep regret at the collapse of relations between Kingston and Port-au-Prince over the Aristide affair, regional sources said last night. Neither Patterson nor the foreign minister, K D Knight, who is abroad, were immediately available for comment, and Knight’s deputy, Delano Franklyn, said he had no knowledge of the correspondence. “I am not aware of it,” Franklyn said. But highly reliable sources close to the Haiti/Caribbean Community (CARICOM) diplomatic impasse said that it would not be incorrect to characterize the Latortue communication as coming close “to an apology” as was likely to be achieved in the “arcane language and world” of diplomacy. Patterson was “personally pleased with the tone and message” conveyed by the Latortue letter, said one regional source. According to regional sources, there are now behind-the-scenes efforts to have Latortue send a similar letter to the wider community ahead of a regional summit in Grenada in July when leaders are to take a decision on whether to recognize his government. This letter would be probably routed through CARICOM’s current chairman, Antigua and Barbuda’s new prime minister, Baldwin Spencer. Latortue became Haiti’s interim prime minister after the ostensible resignation and exile on February 29 of Jean-Bertrand Aristide during a wave of civil unrest and an armed rebellion in Haiti. But Aristide has insisted that he was all but kidnapped and bundled out of Haiti by the United States. The Americans deny the claim, saying that Aristide resigned in the face of an impending rebel attack on the Haitian capital. Although CARICOM, at the time chaired by Patterson, had said that the manner of Aristide’s departure set a “dangerous precedent” for leaders and called for an international investigation into Aristide’s kidnapping claim, the community signaled a willingness to work with Latortue after his appointment, even though the group did not immediately recognize his government. But relations quickly went downhill when Jamaica announced that it would allow Aristide and his wife Mildred to come to the island for a 10-week stay to reunite with their two young children. The Aristide, who left Jamaica for South Africa a week ago, had initially been taken to the Central African Republic from Haiti. Latortue declared Jamaica’s decision an unfriendly act, said he was withdrawing Haiti’s ambassador from Kingston, and claimed that CARICOM had historically hurt Haiti. He also suggested that Haiti had little to gain from CARICOM, which it formally joined in 1998. Further, the interim prime minister snubbed Patterson by not showing up in Kingston for a meeting, the invitation for which he had asked the Jamaican leader. Latortue compounded the offence when he appeared on a platform in Haiti with rebel leaders, including convicted killers and drug runners, and declared them heroes and freedom fighters. But leading up to a CARICOM summit in St Kitts in late March, Latortue, hoping to have Haiti take its place at the table, began to backtrack, telling CARICOM’s secretary-general, Edwin Carrington, by letter, that there had been misrepresentation of his remarks ? some of which were made in English – in their translation from French and Creole. Nonetheless, Caribbean leaders put his recognition on hold. Latortue has, however, continued to make overtures to CARICOM, suggesting on a recent trip to Washington that Haiti needed the community’s help. Last week, too, in Haiti he praised the manner in which the Jamaican Government had applied the rules for Aristide’s stay in the country, saying that the ousted president’s stay in the region did not cause the disruption he had feared. The same sentiments were echoed by Sue Cobb, the US ambassador in Jamaica, in an interview with the Observer. (See Pages 43 – 50) Aristide’s presence in Jamaica and CARICOM’s call for the investigation into Aristide’s removal from power strained US/Jamaica relations, but Cobb stressed the need for CARICOM to come to Haiti’s assistance. However, up to now, no CARICOM state has signed up for a United Nations peacekeeping force to Haiti. The UN peacekeepers will replace a US-led force.