Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has dismissed as “utter nonsense” the conditions outlined by Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders for recognizing the U.S.-backed administration in the former French colony.

Among the conditions, Caricom is calling for: an “inclusive” political process in Haiti; equal commitment of the Haitian authorities in the pursuit of all known criminals; and no persecution or arbitrary treatment of political opponents whatever their persuasion.

Caricom Chairman and Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, in outlining the conditions at the just-ended Caricom summit in Grenada, also said that Caricom wanted assurances that appropriate election machinery is in place “so that elections will be free and fair and transparent” and that the polls, which are due next year, “should take place in an acceptable time-frame and under the supervision of the international community, including Caricom.”

The “Caliviginy Statement on Haiti” issued at the end of the summit also made it clear that re-engaging Haiti, whose seat was declared vacant within the fifteen-member Caricom grouping in March, should not be viewed as an acceptance of the undemocratic change of government in Haiti.

But Latortue told reporters on Friday, July 9 that as long as his government is recognized by the United Nations and the Organization of American States, then Caricom should have nothing to say.

However, Latortue said that he is prepared to deal on a bilateral basis with any Caricom country that is willing to work with his government.

Caribbean leaders were publicly split on the issue of Haiti, with some prime ministers notably, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Dr Ralph Gonsalves, indicating that the environment, which prevailed following the controversial removal of Jean-Bertrand Aristide from office, still existed.

The statement said that the leaders “remained opposed to any interruption of the democratic process and reiterated that any such development could constitute a dangerous precedent for democratically-elected governments.”

“The removal of democratically-elected governments by extra-constitutional means is unacceptable to the membership of the Community,” they said, recalling that the reasons, which led to the invitation in 1997 to Haiti to become a member of Caricom, are as valid today “as they then were, if not more so.”

“The paramount concerns then as now, related to the improvement of the welfare of the people of Haiti and ending the country’s historical geopolitical isolation in its own region,” the regional leaders said in their statement.

They have agreed to send a five-member foreign ministerial delegation to Haiti “soon” to “create a channel for engagement with the interim administration.”

The delegation will “discuss recent developments and conditions of participation by the interim administration of Haiti in the councils of the Caribbean Community” and also discuss Caricom’s participation in the efforts of the United Nations under Security Council Resolution 1542, which seeks to strengthen Haiti’s institutions and to support the development of the Haitian society.

The delegation will report to the “bureau” of the regional leaders “which will then make its recommendations to heads of government on the way forward,” the statement said.

Dr. Mitchell said that the leaders had also appointed former Dominica Trade Minister Charles Maynard as the region’s special envoy to Haiti.

Meanwhile, Aristide’s Lavalas family party has welcomed Caricom’s position and accused the Latortue government of launching a witch-hunt against its members.

Lavalas members say they are also looking forward to meeting with the Caricom delegation of foreign ministers next week.