OAS chief says it will not get involve in Haiti crisis

07/02/2008 7:18 PM

07/02/2008 7:20 PM

The head of the Organization of American States says it has no plans to intervene in Haiti's internal affairs, despite growing fears that the Caribbean nation may be headed toward deeper instability if it doesn't appoint a new prime minister soon

îîWe are not in any way going to meddle in that decision,'' said JosÎ Miguel Insulza. îîWe hope that they do it soon. We hope that they don't miss this opportunity. President [RenÎ] PrÎval has presented excellent candidates, but we can only hope. We cannot do anything about it.''

With Haiti entering its third month without a prime minister or functioning government, concerns are increasing that the poverty stricken nation may not be able to return to stability to address pressing issues such as the rise of food prices that sparked deadly riots in April and led to the dismissal of Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis.

Insulza and OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin are both attending a gathering of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) regional bloc in Antigua. Along with other domestic and regional issues, Caribbean leaders are worried about the ongoing political crisis in Haiti.

Noticeably absent from the annual gathering is PrÎval, who has been unable to get parliament to approve his two previous choices for prime minister. On Tuesday, Haiti's lower Chamber of Deputies finally formed a commission to review the eligibility of his latest nominee, Michßleû Pierre-Louis.

A longtime grass-roots advocate for Haiti's poor and youths, Pierre-Louis, 61, was nominated by PrÎval after the Chamber of Deputies rejected his second choice … friend and security expert Robert Manuel.

Insulza said Pierre-Louis is îîa very strong, forceful woman who would make an excellent prime minister, but the decision is strickly given to Haiti.''

He said the OAS cannot involve itself in the process.

îîIn this case, the Haitian Constitution is very clear. The President proposes, the Congress accepts,'' he said. îîAny form of intervention is something of the past.''

But it's unclear whether parliament will accept Pierre-Louis. Though highly respected in international circles for her work, she has become the focus of a vicious attack campaign with opponents raising questions about her personal life. Her supporters, have fought back in recent days, launching an Internet petition drive to defend her.

The pressure is building, however, for Haiti to solve its internal political problems.

The United Nation's Stabilization Mission in Haiti is up for renewal in October, and Haiti watchers worry that the country's domestic issues will influence the vote on whether the United Nations should remain.

Meanwhile, prices for basic food items have increased by almost 80‚percent between August 2007 and March 2008, according to the United Nations.

îîThe rise in prices of basic food commodities on the international market is likely to further deepen the internal crisis and the desperation of the population,'' Joel Boutroue, the permanent coordinator of the United Nations System in Haiti, recently wrote in a letter to international donors on Haiti's behalf.

îîThe poorest are now obliged to decide between purchasing food and paying for basic services, such as education and health,'' he added. îîThe onset of the hurricane season, political instability and the start of the new school year in September will increase the vulnerability of most Haitians.''

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