PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) – Caribbean countries would be willing to participate in a peacekeeping force for Haiti if President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government and opposition members agree, Trinidad’s prime minister said recenlty.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning re-turned from talks in the Bahamas be-tween members of Haiti’s opposition and several Caribbean leaders.
Though Haiti has not asked for a peacekeeping force, Manning said mem-bers of the 15-nation Caribbean Com-munity might help ease tensions through participation in a neutral peacekeeping force.
"We saw the need, in the context of a return of confidence to all sides, to have some kind of impartial peacekeeping force present in Haiti at the earliest possible opportunity,’’ Man-ning said. "These are just proposals, therefore no details were discussed.’’
He did not say which Caribbean Community countries had intimated support for the idea, proposed nearly 10 years after the United Nations took over control of a U.S.-led multinational peacekeeping force of 20,000.
Three years earlier, the United States had intervened to restore Aristide to power, after he was ousted by the now-disbanded Haitian army in a bloody September 1991 coup.
Haitian government spokesman Ma-rio Dupuy said recently: "We have made no such request’’ for a peacekeeping mission. "The government only has an agreement with the Organization of American States for international po-lice technicians to support the Haitian police and prepare for secure elections.’’
Haiti has been in turmoil since Aristide’s party swept 2000 legislative elections that observers said were flawed. In the past four months, at least 47 people have been killed during protests.
The opposition, however, has refused to participate in fresh elections until Aristide resigns.
The opposition agreed, however, to consider a proposal put forward by several Caribbean leaders during this week’s meeting in the Bahamian capital of Nassau, Manning said. The meet-ings also included Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie and Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.
The proposal calls on the government to release political activists from prisons and allow demonstrations to continue freely. Government and op-position members should collaborate and begin to organize new elections that would be overseen by an international institution, the proposal says.
No other Caribbean leaders have spoken publicly about the proposals. Other countries in the Caribbean Com-munity include Guyana, Suriname, An-tigua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, Dominica, Grenada, Barbados, Belize and the British territory of Montserrat.
Aristide Meets Bahamas PM, Supports Proposals From Caribbean Leaders For Easing Crisis
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aris-tide met the Bahamas’ prime minister recently and agreed to several proposals by Caribbean leaders for easing the country’s prolonged political crisis.
Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie led a small delegation from the 15-member Caribbean Community on a one-day visit in an effort to break an impasse that has plunged the country into increasing turmoil.
Aristide said he "shared’’ the major points put forward by Christie, including the need to build a "consensus’’ government, set up an electoral council, schedule legislative elections soon and disarm politically affiliated gangs.
"I’m looking forward to the implementation of the major steps’’ in the near future, Christie said after more than two hours of talks.
Aristide said he would support form-ing a new governing council including members of his party, the opposition and civil society leaders.
But opposition leaders have refused to participate in new elections under Aristide or to negotiate with him. They have called for protests, and in the past four months at least 47 people have been killed during demonstrations.
The meeting came after Christie and other Caribbean leaders hosted separate talks with the opposition in the Bahamas last week.
"Our concern is to ensure opposing factions are able to recognize that, in Haiti’s best interests, we must avoid civil strife,’’ Christie said at a news con-ference with Aristide after their meeting.
Airline To Begin Direct Flights To Dominican Republic
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) – BWIA airline will begin direct flights to the Dominican Republic as Trinidad attempts to tranform its main airport into a regional hub, officials said.
The government is subsidizing the flights, which owns one-third of BWIA, and it estimates spending about TT $14,000 (US$2,300) on each flight to ensure the airline breaks even, Trade Minister Ken Valley said.
BWIA experienced financial problems following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States and was near bankruptcy last year before the Trinidadian government stepped in with assistance.
The airline also began flights to Costa Rica and Cuba last year with government aid.
The government wants Trinidad’s Piarco International Airport to become an "alternative port of entry’’ into the Caribbean and Latin America to compete with Miami and other U.S. airports.
Repsol’s Board Meets, Agrees To Finance Energy Studies
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) – The board of Spanish energy firm Repsol YPF met in Trinidad recently and agreed to finance courses related to the petroleum industry at a new university being formed in the Caribbean nation, officials said.
Repsol is one of several multinational firms invested in Trinidad’s Atlantic LNG, a large liquefied natural gas plant on the island. Atlantic provides the United States with about two-thirds of its LNG imports.
Repsol also owns a 30 percent share in London-based BP Amoco PLC’s Trinidad operations and has bid along with several other companies to ex-plore for oil and gas in two areas off Trinidad’s coast.
The government will decide on the bids in March.
"For Repsol YPF, the development of business in Trinidad and Tobago has been a good decision and we are firmly decided to continue increasing our investment in this country," Repsol chairman Alfonso Cortina said in a statement.
Island Sells US$250 Million In Euro Bonds To Ease Cash Shortage
KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Jam-aica sold millions in euro-denominated bonds on the international market to help finance its budget deficit, the Fin-ance Ministry said.
The ministry cited "overwhelming demand’’ for the five-year, euro200 million (US$254 million) bond, which was offered at a yield of 10 1/2 percent.
"It represents a clear indication of the increasing level of investor confidence’’ in the Caribbean island, the ministry said.
Following the bond issue, Jamaica’s central bank lowered its open-market interest rates, bringing its one-year rate down a point to 21 percent.
The bond sale comes as Jamaica’s cash-strapped government is struggling to close a budget deficit of about Jamaican $30 billion (US$495 million), or 7-10 percent of gross domestic product.
It also marks the second time in two months the government has entered the international market to raise funds. In December, officials received a US $100-million loan from Toronto-based Bank of Nova Scotia.
Island’s Opposition Party Demands Answers On Country’s Deficit
KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Jam-aica’s opposition party has said it will not resume talks with the government until it provides details on the size of the country’s fiscal deficit.
Jamaica’s growing budget gap has reached crisis level, hurting the Carib-bean island’s troubled economy and its ability to borrow money abroad, Jam-aica Labor Party leader Edward Seaga told reporters.
The former prime minister demanded the government fully disclose the amount of the deficit, estimated at 7-10 percent of gross domestic product.
"What is the true figure? We’re not prepared to wait on the pleasure of the (finance) minister to determine when he’s going to give the information to the country,’’ Seaga said.
If the government does not comply, Seaga said his party won’t cooperate with future bilateral talks, which were abandoned last year after disagreements over economic policy.
"We want to know where the country is going and as the opposition we are entitled to know,’’ he said.
Canadian Mining Company Seeking New Gold Reserves
GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) – A Canadian mining company has said it was seeking new gold reserves to keep its mine in western Guyana open past this year.
Omai Gold Mines Ltd., owned by Montreal-based Cambior Inc., must find two new gold-producing pits to replace the mine’s single operating pit, where reserves are nearly depleted after 11 years of exploitation, spokeswoman Seeta Mohamed said Jan. 15.
Engineers are exploring three po-tential sites, but have yet to determine if "they are feasible to mine,’’ Mohamed said.
In the meantime, the company’s stockpiles of mined ore would allow it to continue processing and exporting gold for 18 months, she said.
Last year Omai produced 271,000 troy ounces of gold, down from a previous annual average of 320,000. The company’s output accounts for more than two-thirds of the South American country’s total gold production, with some 10,000 independent miners producing the rest.
Chinese Company Receives Concession To Develop Palm Oil
PARAMARIBO, Suriname (AP) – The government has granted a 38-year land concession to a Chinese company for the development of Suriname’s palm oil industry.
China Zhong Hen Tai will invest some US$116 million over 11 years in cultivating 40,000 hectares (98,800 acres) in Patamacca, an area 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the capital, and in building a palm oil refinery, general manager Liu Jiang said on Jan. 16.
"This contract is based on the mutual interest,’’ Liu said. "Suriname wants to develop its palm oil industry, and China has the largest market in the world.’’
The Beijing-based company plans to employ 5,000 in the project, and begin production within six years with exports going mainly to China.