Fathoming Haiti's diplomacy


Monday, November 15, 2004

We were beginning to feel last week that finally there was an opportunity for a breakthrough in Caricom/Haiti relations.

As we suggested they ought to do, Caribbean Community Heads of Government, at their summit in Port of Spain, announced that they would sign on to an initiative by Latin American leaders to provide economic and political support for Haiti.

A significant aspect of the Rio Group's plan was its proposal to send a diplomat to South Africa for talks with Haiti's ousted leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was deposed in a coup d'etat last February.

This, we believe, was important. For no pragmatic diplomatic and political initiative to rescue Haiti from its miasma can have credibility, or be sustainable, without the recognition of the legitimacy on the ground in Haiti, no matter how finely finessed of Mr Aristide and his Party Lavalas. This is what Caricom leaders understood in the Kingston Protocol last December that sought a constitutional resolution to Haiti's crisis, but which, in the end, was given short shrift by the Americans, the French and the new Canadians.

By somehow bringing Aristide in the loop, but not necessarily providing him direct involvement in the process, the Rio Group hoped to create an environment for a dialogue in Haiti that would include all players, including the country's most potent political force, Lavalas.

Caricom could sign on to this effort on the basis that Haiti was being placed on a path for a return to constitutional rule and that the preconditions they had set for the interim government of Mr Gerard Latortue to take Haiti's seat in the councils of the Community were beginning to be observed. We were optimistic. Unfortunately, things are likely to unravel.

We are beginning to believe, though, that Mr Latortue cannot be the political or diplomatic klunk that his actions make him out to be. He is perhaps a smart and astute player, who pretends otherwise.

If this perception were true, which we dearly hope it is not, Mr Latortue's aim would be to wreck any initiative aimed at ending tensions in Haiti and to build a process of conciliation. In the absence of a Machiavellian intent, the interim prime minister's politics and diplomacy continue to confound.

Within days of the announcement of the Rio Group's initiative, Brazil's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva dispatched a diplomat to Port-au-Prince to talk through the ideas of the Latin American leaders. In the context of these developments, including Caricom's response, we were surprised at Saturday's announcement by Mr Latortue to seek an international arrest warrant for Mr Aristide, supposedly for corruption. This is not the kind of action aimed at creating an environment for dialogue, much less trust. It can, at best, only add to the political instability in Haiti where Mr Aristide enjoys obvious support.

Mr Latortue's statement about arresting Mr Aristide comes after his accusation that South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki was breaking international law by providing asylum to Mr Aristide - a declaration which is likely to have added heat, rather than light, to Haiti's political darkness.

Further, Mr Latortue, as interim leader, should be focussed primarily on rebuilding political systems and ensuring stability in the country and seeing to it that the Haitian people receive basic services. The big political issues, like who should be arrested, should be left for an elected leadership.

Mr Paul Martin, the Canadian prime minister, was in Haiti yesterday. Mr Martin's country was a member of the troika that trampled the Caricom initiative that offered an opportunity for a constitutional way out of Haiti's crisis. Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight and an appreciation of responsibility Mr Martin found the will and the way to tell Mr Latortue a few home truths.

The Jamaica Observer

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