Haiti

Assistant Secretary General reports on OAS Haiti Task Force

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Building capacity and strengthening institutions in Haiti should be a high-priority "cross-cutting exercise" in all projects and programs carried out by the Organization of American States (OAS) in that country, with the active support of the Haitian diaspora, OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert R. Ramdin said today. He was reporting to the Permanent Council on the activities of the OAS Haiti Task Force, which he chairs.

During the Permanent Council meeting, chaired by Venezuela's Ambassador Jorge Valero, the Assistant Secretary General also talked about a technical mission he led to Haiti last month, related to programs in human rights, trade and tourism, civil registry and democratic governance. He reported as well on the proposal for a mission to assess how the OAS could assist Haiti in the areas of multidimensional security.

Among the initiatives, Ambassador Ramdin told the member state representatives about a trade and investment forum to be held in Haiti later this year, which aims to respond to specific needs of the Haitian government and people. The forum is being planned by the OAS in collaboration with the Haitian government and the Inter-American Development Bank. Ramdin explained that Haitian President René Préval has reiterated his focus on promoting an agenda that "emphasizes socioeconomic development based on job creation, business development, economic growth and poverty reduction."

The Assistant Secretary General also provided details about a tourism program that is the joint effort of the OAS, Haiti's Tourism Ministry, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association (CHA). The program relates to the development of the craft sector, agriculture and education, and their linkages with tourism.

The Haitian administration "will have to demonstrate short-term concrete social and economic change, especially in terms of humanitarian assistance, basic needs and jobs," Ramdin said. Noting that Haiti had completed a full election cycle as required by the Constitution, the OAS Assistant Secretary General said the costly system in place will require further investment in training to become effective. He emphasized the need for continued efforts to foster economic and social development in Haiti. He also called for greater coordination of donor assistance to avoid duplication, and thanked the donor governments-especially those of the United States, Canada, France and Spain-for their financial assistance.

During the Permanent Council meeting, Venezuela's Alternate Representative to the OAS, Ambassador Nelson Pineda, made a presentation on the fight against terrorism and his government's efforts to extradite Luis Posada Carriles, whom Venezuela has accused of terrorist acts. Posada Carriles, who had been arrested in the United States on immigration charges, was recently released on bond, pending trial. Pineda reiterated his government's demand that the United States extradite Posada Carriles to stand trial in Venezuela.

In her response, U.S. Alternate Representative Margarita Riva-Geoghegan stressed the commitment of the United States to fight terrorism and talked about its support of OAS efforts in this regard. She rejected Venezuela's allegations, explaining that Posada Carriles is not being harbored by the United States but rather entered the country illegally and is facing criminal prosecution on immigration charges. Posada Carriles was released by a U.S. District Court judge, subject to strict conditions, and he is scheduled to reappear in court in May, she explained.