CARICOM must keep Haiti close – Stabroek News

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No member country of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has come even close to experiencing the litany of tragedies and trauma which Haiti has, historically, had to endure. Poverty, natural disasters, unstable governments, unspeakably brutal military regimes and mind-boggling descent into gang-driven violence are experiences that are etched in the country’s history.
Most recently, on July 7th last, in a bizarre demonstration of the fragility of public security even in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s President, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated inside his residence where, one assumes, security would have been at its tightest. There persists the still widely expressed view that the country’s serving Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, knows much about the circumstances of President Moise’s demise.
After President Moise’s slaying, in mid-October, seventeen missionaries – 16 American and one Canadian – were kidnapped, reportedly by one of Haiti’s many armed gangs. The captors’ multi-million dollar ransom demand, it seems, has circumvented Haiti’s fragile government and appears to be targeted directly at the United States.
Just days ago an alleged criminal conglomerate reportedly led by a former Haitian policeman nicknamed ‘Barbecue’ used the forum of a ‘press  conference’ to reinforce their demand that Henry cease to be the country’s Prime Minister. The demand was reportedly buttressed by the chilling threat that if necessary, their demand could be enforced “at a cost of blood.” That pronouncement would appear to speak to the clout that illegal operators, including criminal gangs have in Haiti’s mainstream political process.
What is known as the G9 Family is also reportedly calling for the United Nations and the Unit-ed States to cut ties with the incumbent Haitian leadership in order to help “liberate Haiti”, an example of a grotesque brand of ‘diplomacy’ that sees Haiti’s illegal, even criminal groups seeking to ‘negotiate’ with globally recognized governments and international organizations.  
All of this is entirely ‘out of the league’ of a decidedly staid Caribbean Community (CARICOM) of which Haiti is a member.
As was the case after the 1983 killing of Grenada’s deposed Prime Minister Maurice Bishop during the course of a reported coup d’etat, it was the United States that was looked to for intervention. The Grenada crisis, like the contemporary circumstances in Haiti reached a point where corrective diplomacy was, quite simply, above CARICOM’s ‘pay grade.’
With Haiti, there are two problems.  The first has to do with arriving at an understanding of who governs in Haiti at this time. There is no telling whether CARICOM, an institution that is, more than likely, little known to some of the key players in Haiti crisis will possess any meaningful traction in that type of negotiating setting. Secondly, the criminal gangs whose positions appear to have been strengthened in the wake of the killing of President Moise and the attendant further deterioration in Haiti’s tenuous security situation, would appear to have positioned themselves to become a factor in any negotiations that have to do with the country’s political future. Does CARICOM possess the negotiating machinery to deal with a circumstance that is as complex and fluid as Haiti’s?
 Nor would it work to CARICOM’s advantage that a stage now appears to have been reached where Haiti’s governance structure would appear to have become dysfunctional and disregarded; so that even if dialogue were possible who does CARICOM negotiate with?
So what is to be done?
 Haiti is a complex country, quite different from any other in CARICOM. Its history as an independent country precedes that of any other in the regional movement by a century and more. So too does its history of social and political upheaval and its reputation for poverty, violence and natural disasters.
Haiti’s socio-political culture, decorated as it is with  riveting voodoo folklore and a clamorous slave history and ‘maximum’ military and civilian rulers,  is derived from a conglomerate of West African, Latin American and colonial European influences. There are no parallels anywhere else in the Community. The Caribbean’s ‘real’ connection with Haiti reposes in the richness of creative talents that Haiti brings to the table. There can be no question than that Haiti’s cultural contribution enormously enhances the treasure trove of Caribbean culture.
CARICOM, therefore, is obliged to understand that it cannot, on the one hand, embrace Haiti for the value that it adds to our Caribbean cultural milieu whilst, simultaneously, leave the country to itself, its travails and its tragedies. CARICOM must not lose sight of its binding obligation to keep Haiti in the regional family.
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