Five Caribbean foreign ministers said Wednesday they were satisfied with Haiti’s pledges to hold elections and uphold justice, indicating the way had been cleared for resuming diplomatic ties.
The delegation will make a report soon to the fifteen-member Caribbean Community, Barbados Foreign Affairs Minister Billie Miller said. It remained unclear how soon the regional bloc could decide on restoring ties suspended since the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide four months ago.
“We hope that this impasse will come to an end soon,” Miller told reporters, standing beside interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue at Port-au-Prince’s airport.
They shook hands and embraced, a sign of warming relations since Aristide left the country Feb. 29, claiming the United States had kidnapped him and masterminded a coup.
The United States has denied the allegation, but the Caribbean Community has persuaded the Organization of American States to investigate.
The Caribbean bloc — of which Haiti is the most populous and poorest member — has laid out several conditions, including new elections and disarming rebels who led an uprising against Aristide.
“We have been reassured by Latortue that in 2005 there will be elections — parliamentary, presidential and local elections — and then in February of 2006 a new president will take power,” Miller said. “We’ve been assured of clean elections, no reprisals, and that known criminals will be persecuted.”
Asked if there were any sticking points, she said no.
There is no longer a rift between the two sides, said Raymond Lafontant Jr., Latortue’s chief of staff.
“Relations should be smooth now,” Lafontant said. “The delegation has a better idea of what happened in February with Aristide, and of what this transitional government is trying to do.”
Miller said before departing that the delegation made clear the community will not try to “impose its will on Haiti.”
She was accompanied by counterparts from Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda and the Bahamas.
The delegation also met leaders of Aristide’s Lavalas Family party, who expressed concern about the detention of Aristide’s former prime minister, Yvon Neptune. Neptune turned himself in last month to face accusations of orchestrating political killings. He claims innocence.
“Prime Minister Latortue assured us that he had visited Neptune and assured him of justice,” Miller said.
Lavalas Party spokesman Gilvert Angervil said the community shouldn’t recognize a “de facto” government “incapable for planning fair elections.”
“We can’t talk about elections until the repression stops,” Angervil said, citing Neptune’s imprisonment.
Latortue had suspended membership in the Caribbean Community in March, angry that Jamaica gave temporary refuge to Aristide, who moved to South Africa on May 30 to begin a temporary asylum there.
Caribbean leaders then refused to recognize his government.
The delegation’s visit came as a new report by the World Bank and other agencies said Haiti will require $1.3 billion over the next two years to rebuild and fight poverty. So far $440 million is available, including government funds and financing from international lenders.