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Cablegate: Bahamian Perspective On Caricom and Haiti

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 03 NASSAU 000733


E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/06/2014


Classified By: Charge Robert M. Witajewski for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

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1. (C) Charge hosted a lunch for the Bahamian Foreign
Minister Fred Mitchell, and Foreign Ministry Permanent
Secretary, Ms. Patricia Rodgers on March 29. A/DCM and
Consular Section Head also participated. The discussion
covered a number of topics: The dynamics of
recently-completed Caricom heads of government
inter-sessional meeting, Caricom-U.S. relations, status of
Bahamian ratification of the bilateral Comprehensive Maritime
Agreement (CMA), the status of ex-Haitian President Jean
Bertrand Aristide, and Caricom,s request of UN investigation
of the events related to Aristide,s resignation and
departure from Haiti.
End of Summary

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2. (C) The Charge began the discussion by asking Foreign
Minister Mitchell "How did the meeting go in St. Kitts?"
Mitchell responded that Caricom,s statement reflected the
aggregate view of Caricom members, however he continued, the
Bahamas maintains its own views on these matters. Mitchell
revealed a bit of internal Caricom dynamics in his response.
According to FM Mitchell, there was a definite "north-south"
division within Caricom on Haiti. In contrast to the more
categorical positions taken by Grenada, Guyana, Surinam, and
Trinidad and Tobago, he claimed, the "northern Caribbean
countries" who have more concrete interests took more
"considered" positions regarding Haiti because of their
geographic proximity. The northern Caribbean countries, he
continued, are obliged to deal with the realities and are
also cognizant of the importance of their relations with the
United States and thus are more careful in balancing their
interests with Caricom and the U.S. The southern Caribbean
members are more detached from the practical issues and are
guided by political agendas, according to the Bahamian
Foreign Minister.

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3. (C) Continuing on the Haiti theme, Foreign Minister
Mitchell expressed the view that the United States
overreacted to Jamaica,s offer to let ex-President Aristide
reside in the country and to Caricom,s declarations. He
appeared to be arguing that Caricom was entitled to express
its views and not necessarily be held accountable for them.
Mitchell also claimed that despite Caricom,s verbal shots at
the United States over recent events in Haiti, there would be
little net impact on overall U.S.-Caricom relations...as long
as the United States didn't "overreact."

4. (C) Expressing irritation at Caricom,s cumbersome
decision-making style, Mitchell complained that too much time
was wasted by the ceremonial opening and closing of the
sessions as each successive host felt compelled to spend time
and money on needless pomp and circumstance. He also
expressed annoyance at the prolixity of his colleagues,
noting that had not each government head not insisted on
"getting their own paragraph" into the final declaration,
they might have both accomplished more and not have been
forced to hold their closing press conference at 2 a.m. in
the morning.

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5. (C) Regarding the naming of Caricom,s "special
envoy" to address the Haiti issue, Mitchell indicated that
Caricom had been unable to reach consensus on who this person
should be by the end of the inter-sessional and that this
would be subject to continued intra-Caricom negotiations. He
said that personally hoped that it would be an individual who
both had prior diplomatic experience and someone closer to
The Bahamas, position on Haiti than that of some eastern
Caribbean states. He discounted the prospect of anyone from
The Bahamas being selected for this role.

6. (C) Asked to clarify Caircom,s call for an
investigation into the circumstances of Aristide,s
resignation, Mitchell sought to downplay its significance.
He said that he personally envisioned the "investigation" as
equivalent to resolution of a "routine credentials challenge"
to a government such as occurs at the UNGA or another
committee. If the LaTortue government is seen to be
exercising effective control in the country then, thought
Mitchell, it ought to be seated in Haiti,s chair at the UN
without controversy, Mitchell claimed. He explicitly sought
to minimize the scope, the impact, and the significance of
the Caricom-requested investigation -- but without indicating
whether his views reflected a broader Caricom view, those of
the Bahamian Cabinet, or his own personal view of an exit
strategy out of Caricom's dilemma.

7. (C) Questioned about recognition of the LaTortue
government, FM Mitchell reiterated his previous statements
that most Caricom members, as does The Bahamas, follow the
"Estrada Doctrine" when it comes to recognition and rather
than making value or moral judgments about a government, will
recognize whomever exercises effective control in Haiti as
that country's legitimate government. He assured the Charge
that The Bahamas would not break with its long-held policy of
dealing with any government in control in Haiti, pointing out
that bilateral relations between The Bahamas and Haiti had
never been suspended during the transition from Aristide to
LaTortue Foreign Minister Mitchell complained that the press
has exaggerated the recognition controversy and that matters
were not as bad as they appeared to be. He noted that
Haitian Prime Minister LaTortue had called him personally and
assured him that press reports on Haiti refusing to permit
the return of the Bahamian Ambassador to Haiti were totally
untrue. Mitchell also cited repeated phone conversations
between LaTortue and Jamaica's Prime Minister P.J. Patterson,
who apparently had a close working relationship in the past,
as evidence that Caricom and the new Haitian government could
work together. He said that he expected the Haitian
Ambassador to return to The Bahamas in the near future as

Ex-President Jean Aristide in Jamaica
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8. (C) The Foreign Minister insisted that the United
States should not be concerned with, or opposed to,
Aristide,s presence in the Caribbean. He argued that a
perceived "Banishing Policy" has racial and historical
overtones in the Caribbean that reminds inhabitants of the
region of slavery and past abuse. The Charge inquired on
what would happen if Aristide were to meddle with Haitian
internal affairs and give his supporters the impression that
he is still a player in the future of Haiti. Foreign
Minister Mitchell was emphatic that Jamaica will not allow
Aristide to play such an intrusive role and would "deal" with
Aristide if such a situation were to arise.

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9. (C) Queried about the status of ratification of the
comprehensive maritime agreement (CMA) that has now been
negotiated over the last 18 months, FM Mitchell reported that
due to the document,s significance and complexity it had
been decided to prepare a formal briefing to the entire
Cabinet. Optimistically, Mitchell thought that this could
completed in two cabinet sessions over a two-week period.
Questioned about the need for such a time-consuming review of
what is essentially a codification and rationalization of
existing agreements, Mitchell again wistfully muse about how
the Bahamian cabinet decision-making process might be
improved. He related that he had learned as a result of his
Caricom attendance that in other Commonwealth countries,
debate and intervention on issues in the cabinet is
restricted to their ministers whose portfolios are directly
impacted by the issue, or ministers that assert fundamental
issues of principle. In contrast, Mitchell intimated, in the
Christie Cabinet of the Bahamas operates much less
efficiently since any minister can intervene and express a
view on any issue before the government.

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10. (C) Queried about his preferences for a date for the
next session of the Joint Task Force on Illegal Drug
Interdiction (JTF), Mitchell expressed agreement for an early
summer meeting in late May/early June. He agreed with
Charge,s suggestion that the JTF would best be held
following ratification of the CMA and successful
implementation of a major anti-drug round-up that is being
planned for the near future so that participants could review
both past successes since the last JTF meeting and consider
specific goals to be accomplished for the coming year.

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11. (C) Foreign Minister Mitchell was his usual
business-like self during lunch as he pursued his agenda of
downplaying the consequences of a division between Caricom
and the United States on Haiti. Underlying many of
Mitchell's arguments was the premise that Caricom/The Bahamas
as small countries take (and are entitled to take) principled
stands while the United States necessarily engages in real

12. (C) Despite a life-long career as a politician in a
country were politics is personalized to the extreme, neither
kissing babies nor making small talk comes naturally to Fred
Mitchell. He prefers to deal with agendas expeditiously and
then engage in philosophical discussions or reviews of
international relations drawing on his seminars at Harvard,s
Kennedy School. Holding two time-consuming portfolio,s
(managing the civil service and foreign policy) is also
taking its toll on Mitchell,s private time. Mitchell told
Charge a year ago that he hoped to write a twelve-chapter
(one chapter for each month of the year) book combining
policy, history, and personal ideology to be published on his
fifty-first birthday. Ruefully, he admitted that he hasn,t
progress beyond chapter four.

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