US embassy cable - 03NASSAU766

BAHAMAS UNLIKELY TO PRESSURE ARISTIDE

Identifier: 03NASSAU766
Wikileaks: View 03NASSAU766 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Nassau
Created: 2003-04-17 14:36:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PGOV PREF HA BF Haiti
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NASSAU 000766 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/17/2013 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PREF, HA, BF, Haiti 
SUBJECT: BAHAMAS UNLIKELY TO PRESSURE ARISTIDE 
 
Classified By: DCM Robert M. Witajewski, Reasons 1.5(b) and (d) 
 
Summary 
 
1.  (C) After returning from the OAS/CARICOM meeting on Haiti 
in Miami, Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell dismissed the 
possibility of invoking the democracy provision of the OAS 
Charter in the case of Haiti.  He acknowledged problems with 
democracy in Haiti, but made it clear that the Bahamian 
government preferred continued engagement with President 
Aristide to any type of public confrontation.  He also 
announced a decision to provide $500,000 in economic 
assistance to Haiti, while admitting that it would not do 
much good if the political situation did not improve. 
Mitchell's main concern is doing whatever he can to slow down 
illegal immigration from Haiti - a key domestic political 
imperative - and he has been fruitlessly pursuing an 
immigration accord with the Government of Haiti for several 
months.  A high official at the Foreign Ministry, although he 
proclaimed himself "not competent" to comment on Haiti policy 
(or much of anything else), confirmed that Haiti believes it 
must stay engaged with the Aristide government to prevent a 
mass migration.  End Summary. 
 
Democracy in Crisis... 
 
2.  (U) Upon his return from Miami, Foreign Minister Mitchell 
discussed the situation there with the press.  He admitted 
that the CARICOM Foreign Ministers were "frustrated with the 
situation in Haiti, and said that Aristide had put the 
international community "in a difficult position" by not 
living up to his commitments.  He spoke frankly about Haiti's 
failure to: select an appropriate police commissioner, arrest 
an important fugitive involved in political violence, and 
plan for elections.  While he placed some of the blame for 
the lack of progress toward a political solution on the 
opposition, he acknowledged the government's greater share of 
blame and discussed the reasons why the opposition might feel 
threatened and unwilling to make concessions. 
 
... But Need to Give Aristide Another Chance 
 
3.  (U) However, Mitchell went on to say that he thought it 
was "likely that the deadline will be extended," and Aristide 
should be given yet another chance to meet his commitments. 
He pointed out that The Bahamas, in his opinion has no 
choice: "We cannot afford to disengage from Haiti because 
disengaging for us is not an option."  According to Mitchell, 
the issue of Haitian migrants and the potential for mass 
migration is the key issue for The Bahamas.  Such a mass 
migration must be prevented at all costs, and Mitchell made 
it clear that he believed the best way to do that was 
continued engagement with the Aristide government in an 
attempt to improve Haiti's political and economic situation. 
 
4.  (U) Mitchell was dismissive of the possibility of 
invoking the democracy provisions of the OAS Charter, saying 
that although "Some people argue that's the case in Haiti ... 
I think that is taking it a little bit too far."  He 
described the U.S. position on Haiti as "hard-minded", and 
called for continued dialogue.  Mitchell also announced a 
$500,000 economic assistance package for Haiti.  In 
announcing it, he acknowledged that the assistance would 
likely not do much good unless the political impasse were 
resolved.  Mitchell defended the package, however, by 
reiterating that the Government of the Bahamas must do 
whatever it can to improve the economic situation in Haiti 
because of the impact The Bahamas would likely feel if 
further economic and political crisis resulted in a mass 
migration.  He made it very clear that this is the paramount 
issue for The Bahamas. 
 
Who Is Competent Then? 
 
5.  (C) DCM and POL/ECON section chief raised the issue of 
Haiti with Ministry of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for 
Political Affairs Marco Rolle in an April 15 meeting 
requested by Rolle to go over the list of pending items 
between the Embassy and the MFA.  Rolle, despite being the 
number three official at the Ministry of Embassy (he is the 
Bahamian equivalent of Undersecretary Grossman) and having 
accompanied Mitchell to both Miami and the press conference, 
told us that he "was not competent" to talk about Haiti 
policy with us.  He couldn't even confirm any details about 
the aid package the Minister had announced in his presence. 
Nor could he comment on progress made toward an immigration 
accord with Haiti or the upcoming visit by Mitchell to Haiti 
in late March beyond confirming the dates (May 22-23).  The 
one specific response we received to a question was whether 
or not Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell planned to make any 
trips or telephone calls to Haitian counterparts prior to the 
April 30 OAS meeting in Washington.  The answer is: No. 
 
Consistently Not Competent 
 
6.  (C) Inability to provide specific responses to queries 
was a consistent theme of our conversation with Rolle.  Of 
the fifteen pending items on our agenda, he was unable to 
comment meaningfully on any single one of them, and could not 
point to MFA progress in resolving any of the issues which 
have been pending anywhere from 2-3 weeks (dip notes 
regarding a trade dispute, RBDF training and a proposal to 
form an anti-alien-smuggling task force) to 6 years (request 
for a bilateral work agreement).  Rolle, a career civil 
servant with no background in foreign affairs, has only been 
with the ministry for about seven months, so it can be 
understood that he might not be familiar with every issue, 
but we would think he could do better than 0 for 15.  The 
Bahamian civil service has honed sloth and delay disguised as 
deliberation and consensus-building to a fine art. 
Comment 
 
7.   (C) We believe the bottom line for The Bahamas on Haiti 
is their fear of mass migration and doing anything that might 
trigger an outflow.  Mitchell in particular has made 
conclusion of an immigration agreement his top foreign policy 
priority.  Our sources in the Immigration Department tell us 
the negotiations are not going well, stalled over Haitian 
insistence on an amnesty for the 30,000 - 100,000 Haitians 
already in The Bahamas (most illegally).  Such a concession 
would be suicide for Mitchell in the xenophobic Bahamian 
political landscape.  Pursuit of this agreement and any other 
means to slow down migration will continue to push any 
concerns for democracy and human rights into the backseat. 
While The Bahamas will remain engaged on Haiti, the Christie 
government will resist any effort to put real teeth into any 
diplomatic effort to pressure President Aristide, preferring 
(endless) conversation and dialogue to the alternative. 
 
BLANKENSHIP 

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