At the Karibe hotel, where the summit will take place, artisans were setting up an exhibit of their work, and at Oasis, presidential security was making final arrangements for a state dinner on the final night, sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism.
Haiti also hopes to benefit from the Caribbean’s tourism expertise as it seeks to reclaim its place as a leading tourism destination in the region.
“It should be remembered that during the 1950s and 1960s,” Brutus said, “Haiti was the second tourist destination in the region after Cuba.”
But for the region as a whole, regional transportation and trade, as well as crime and security, are expected to top the agenda. Holder will discuss the latter, which had become a vexing problem for many island economies, as they experience unprecedented hikes in violent crime.
Other issues expected to be raised include immigration. Both the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos have been besieged by illegal Haitian migration.
“From the perspective of the Turks and Caicos, it’s really more about our capacity to absorb some Haitian nationals,” said Premier Rufus Ewing, whose British-dependent territory is among the bloc’s five associate members.
“They represent a significant portion of our workforce, our most ready and economic source of labor,” Ewing said. “But we want to address our immigration policies, controlling illegal immigration and the recruitment of skilled laborers.”
Albert Ramdin, OAS assistant secretary general whose native Suriname is also a member of Caricom, said Martelly’s chairmanship represents an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between Haiti and other Caricom members.
Martelly has asked Caricom to adopt French as an official language. A report on the costs of adding French and Dutch, spoken in Suriname, will be presented.
Haiti, Ramdin said, should seize the opportunity to not just “synthesize, but convince Caricom leaders of what role Haiti can play in the Caribbean.”
While Caricom leaders have long paid homage to Haiti’s slave revolt, which resulted in Haiti becoming the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere, many observers have questioned the extent of leaders’ commitment to the country.
“I accept that Caricom as a relatively poor region, cannot provide the financial assistance that developed countries can but it should have done, and be doing, much more in terms of scholarships, diplomatic support in international organizations,” said Reginald Dumas, a former Trinidad and Tobago ambassador who served as U.N. special advisor to Haiti.
For Daly Valet, editor of Haiti’s Le Matin newspaper, it’s a matter of finding a mutually beneficial relationship.
“We need Caricom and Caricom needs us more. I don’t really think our Caribbean neighbors get that,” he said. “The sun will rise again in, and for Haiti.”