2004-05-13 / Caribbean Corner

caribbean roundup

caribbean roundup

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) – Caribbean nations have asked the Organization of American States to in-vestigate the ouster of Haitian Presi-dent Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Trinidad’s foreign minister said.

The 15-member Caribbean Com-munity had initially called for a U.N. investigation after Aristide left Haiti under pressure from the United States and France on Feb. 29. Aristide says he was forced to resign by the United States, a claim Washington denies.

Opposition from France and the United States at the U.N. Security Coun-cil makes it unlikely an investigation would originate there, Foreign Affairs Minister Knowlson Gift said.

For that reason, Caribbean leaders decided at a meeting held recently in Antigua to take their request to the Washington-based OAS, he said.

"It is quite likely it may reach the (OAS) general assembly later on this year,’’ Gift said. Caricom has taken the matter to the OAS permanent council "as a first step,’’ he said.

OAS officials were not immediately available for comment.

Caricom has refused to recognize Haiti’s U.S.-backed interim government, saying it will reconsider the issue at a meeting in July in Grenada.

Caribbean leaders also tentatively agreed at their meeting this week to contribute peacekeepers and police to an upcoming U.N. mission in Haiti.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) – Ousted Haitian President Jean-Ber-trand Aristide is preparing to leave Jamaica for South Africa, where he has requested asylum, Caribbean officials said.

South Africa confirmed recently that Aristide has asked for asylum until his personal situation "normalizes,’’ but didn’t elaborate. Foreign Affairs Min-ister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said she will take the request later this week to the first meeting of the Cabinet appointed since general elections last month.

Aristide is expected to depart for South Africa around mid-May, in a few days’ time, a senior official of the Guy-ana-based Caribbean Community said on condition of anonymity.

Asked how soon, Caribbean Com-munity Secretary-General Edwin Car-rington said: "Those plans are not in my hands ...

"I know that arrangements are being made, but as far as exact dates I really have no information,’’ Carrington told The Associated Press by telephone from London, where he was attending talks of Caribbean and British officials.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Two prominent supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have been arrested, prompting criticism by a leader of Aristide’s party and a human rights group.

Annette Auguste, a pro-Aristide street activist, was detained early Monday by international forces on suspicion of illegal activities, and she also threatened the troops, U.S. Marine spokes-man Col. David Lapan said.

She was turned over to Haitian po-lice and was charged with "criminal conspiracy,’’ police spokesman Max Harry-Isaac said, without elaborating.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether troops from the United States, Canada, Chile or France were involved. Police said a warrant had been issued for her arrest and that more arrests were expected.

Meanwhile, pro-Aristide former may-or Maxson Guerrier of the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas was detained last week at Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic – an arrest de-nounced as illegal by the National Coalition for Haitian Rights because there were no charges against him.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Fran-cis Forbes said the region needed to act urgently to prevent governments fall-ing into the hands of drug barons.

He was quoted in the Jamaica Ob-server as saying that intelligence analysts are detecting an alliance between organized drug cartels and politicians in the region but he did not name any specific countries where this problem exists.

"The strategy involves large financial support not to political parties but to individual candidates," he said.

"Many in the intelligence community are of the view that if pursued successfully, this strategy could very well result in a prime minister or minister of national security whose decisions, when appropriate are influenced by those who head the illicit narcotics trade - an un-tenable situation which should be avoid-ed at all costs," Mr Forbes said.

Attorney Delroy Chuck, the opposition Jamaica Labor Party spokesman on justice, told The Associated Press that the police should act against this but their actions must be based on concrete evidence.

"Propaganda is a very big part of Caribbean life so the very fact that a person has money - and believe me in the Caribbean there are people who have large sums of money and are legitimate outstanding businessmen - but on the street you will hear people alleging that they must have made their money from drugs and the evidence to support it is non-existent.

"If the Commissioner has hard compelling evidence, it is important that evidence should go forward," Mr. Chuck said. "So until he can demonstrate that there is strong compelling evidence, it is better for him to shut up."

Mr. Chuck said that his party is totally against associating with people known to be involved in the drug trade. He said the JLP has a strict screening process for prospective candidates in all levels.

"With candidates at the parish council level and even at the parliamentary level, we cannot be policing every activity that they’re engaged in but if we know that they’re actively associating (with drug barons) or it is brought to the party’s attention, it is something the party would frown on and would certainly not put up those people for parliamentary or local government elections."

Mr. Chuck told The Associated Press that in the past, the JLP has turned down money from people with "suspicious connections", and he has also rebuffed offers of money from such individuals.

"There are people who I suspect of being involved with drugs who have offered me open checks and I have said, ‘it’s ok, I’m well funded, I don’t need it’."

In the past, politicians and political analysts have warned about the links between politicians and the drug trade but it is the first time the issue of narco-politics has been raised by the country’s police chief.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) – The US has apologized to Barbados for wrongly portraying the Caribbean state as suffering from rising violent crime and an inept police force.

The state department said the re-marks published were wrong and had been removed from its website.

Barbadian Attorney General Mia Mottley said she accepted the apology but felt "disappointment and disgust".

However, there are fears the economic damage has already been done to a state which depends largely on tourism.

One newspaper, The Barbados Ad-vocate, asked in an editorial how the inaccurate description had been allow-ed to sit on the US website for four months unchallenged.

The state department has now re-vised its travel notes for Barbados, de-leting its earlier reference to a rise in crime and poor policing but retaining a plea for vigilance, particularly on the beaches at night.

The state department said the of-fending material had been intended for another, unspecified country.

"It was inaccurate and has been re-moved from our website and replaced," said Stuart Patt, a spokesman for its Bureau of Consular Affairs.

US Consul General Robert Fretz also apologized in the Barbadian capital Bridgetown, telling reporters the embassy looked forward to continuing the "co-operative and productive relationship" it had always had with the police there.

Daniel Becker, the embassy’s security officer, expressed his "deepest regret" about the possible impact on the police’s reputation in a letter to the Barbados Advocate.

"It saddens me that the reputations and personal sacrifices of these men and women may have been diminished by our mistake," he wrote.

BRADES, Montserrat (AP) – A veteran British diplomat on Monday be-came the first woman to hold the post of governor in an overseas British territory.

Deborah Barnes-Jones was sworn as governor of Montserrat, a small island in the eastern Caribbean.

"I hope that we will forge a partnership that will make a difference in Montserrat,’’ she said.

Barnes-Jones, 47, will take over for outgoing Gov. Anthony Longrigg, who is retiring from the diplomatic corps as he turned 60. Her appointment as the representative of Queen Elizabeth II on the island was announced in July.

The new governor’s previous assign-ment was British ambassador to Georgia.

In her new role, Barnes-Jones will take on responsibility for ensuring pre-parations are in place to make sure the 4,500 residents are safe from the is-land’s active volcano.

Barnes-Jones started her career with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1980 and has served in Russia and Israel, among other places. Before her assignment in Georgia, she was deputy head of mission in Uruguay from 1996-99.

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua (AP) – A LIAT flight made an emergency landing in Antigua on Monday when one of the plane’s wheels fell off shortly after takeoff, officials said. No injuries were reported.

LIAT Flight 523, from St. Maarten to St. Kitts, was able to land on its three remaining wheels without damage to the plane, airline CEO Gary Collen said.

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