Cablegate: Bahamas Unlikely to Pressure Aristide
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
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/17/2013
TAGS: PREL PGOV PREF HA BF
SUBJECT: BAHAMAS UNLIKELY TO PRESSURE ARISTIDE
Classified By: DCM Robert M. Witajewski, Reasons 1.5(b) and (d)
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.
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.