Sunday, November 07, 2004

Haiti: Latin America to the rescue

I haven't been following the situation in Haiti much in recent months, but my interest was piqued by the decision of El Salvador and other Central American countries to send peacekeepers there soon -- this time, of course, under a real UN mandate, unlike Iraq. There's quite a bit of pessimism, however, about the potential success of the Brazil-led mission there, as is noted in an article this week by IPS that's worth reading. One academic observer in Brazil notes that Haiti looks like it might become "the first failure of President Lula's foreign policy", since "the situation is getting worse, and for now there's no solution in sight."

But an editorial in the Jamaica Observer today has a rather different take on the situation, seeing the recent meeting of Latin Americans in Rio de Janeiro this week as a chance for CARICOM to make a comeback. At the same time, it notes that the initiative isn't necessarily going to be to the liking of what they call the Western Troika -- the U.S., France and Canada:
...the countries of the Rio Group plan to send a diplomat to South Africa to meet with Mr Aristide about their plan to rebuild Haiti, ensure security and advance democracy.

Although it has been made clear that Mr Aristide will not be invited to participate directly in the process, this initiative recognises that he remains a powerful and important force in Haiti and the legitimacy of his political movement Lavalas, which Mr Latortue and his supporters have sought to sideline.

Indeed, it flies in the face of the propositions that have been advanced by the Western Troika and re-endorses the logic of the Kingston Accord led by Prime Minister P J Patterson, which had the best potential for political change in Haiti within a constitutional framework.

Caricom proposed a power-sharing arrangement that would have allowed Mr Aristide to serve out his remaining two years as president.

That, ostensibly, was rejected by the formal opposition. The upshot was intensification of unrest in Haiti, increased violence by a force of irregulars and pressure on Mr Aristide by the United States, France and the new Canadians to resign.

Haiti is now perhaps more divided and unstable than before.Mr Latortue has consistently blamed the violence in Haiti on the hidden hand of Mr Aristide and accused South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki of breaking international law for harbouring Mr Aristide.

In that context, it does not seem that any engagement of Mr Aristide by the Latin Americans, whatever the message they carry, will find favour with Latortue. It is also unlikely to sit easy with the Americans. Yet Washington may see Latin American help as broadening the burden of Haiti and a lessening of a distraction while it grapples with Iraq.

For Caricom, the Latin American initiative, in the absence of the fine print, could be a way for the Community to find its way back into Haiti with greater insulation - a kind of new start without the total abandonment of strongly held principles.

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