July 6, 2002

Haiti becomes the most impoverished state

                 GEORGETOWN, Haiti (AP) -- Haiti was admitted as the 15th member of the
                 Caribbean Community, becoming the most populous and poverty-stricken
                 state in the trading bloc, as it wrapped up a summit that was marred early on
                 by violence.

                 Haiti's acceptance was aimed at bolstering opportunities for regional manufacturers,
                 but some critics have questioned how much trade can be done with country where
                 residents have an average income of just $400 a year.

                 Members like the Bahamas and Barbados have an average annual income near
                 $10,000. The community's 14 other member states have a population of 6.5 million.

                 "I have been saying all along that people should understand that Haiti has 8 million
                 people and their buying power would be enormous both now and in the future. We
                 should take advantage of this," Secretary-General Edwin Carrington told The
                 Associated Press this week.

                 Prime Minister P.J. Patterson of Jamaica had pushed for Haiti's provisional
                 membership in 1997, reassuring leaders who the consequences of welcoming the
                 Caribbean's most politically and economically troubled nation.

                 St. Lucian Foreign Minister Julian Hunte, the community's point man on Haiti, said
                 Friday that Haiti's membership was long overdue but cautioned the country that
                 suffered nearly 200 years of dictatorship has a long way to go since democracy
                 and the rule of law have never been entrenched.

                 President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government would need help dealing with
                 precarious national security and in collecting thousands of illegal weapons in the
                 hands of government and opposition partisans, he said.

                 Friday night the leaders said Guyana's President Jagdeo Bharrat will visit Haiti later
                 this year to welcome it to the bloc and explain the benefits of membership.

                 As the three-day summit was opening Wednesday, violence broke out in
                 Georgetown during a confrontation between police and opposition protesters.
                 Police fired on a group that broke away from a march involving thousands and
                 forced open a gate to enter the yard of the president's office.

                 Two died and at least 12 were treated for gunshot wounds, hospital officials said.

                 Friday night the summit condemned the violence, saying, "The heads of
                 government reiterated their condemnation of any attempt to use extraconstitutional
                 a nd illegal means aimed at removing democratically elected governments from

                 Earlier Friday, 13 presidents and prime ministers at the summit asked the region's
                 development bank to raise $100 million to help finance a new regional supreme
                 court to replace Britain's Privy Council. The court is expected to open next year.

                 The Privy Council has long been the court of last resort for several former British
                 Caribbean islands. But some Caribbean governments have complained that the
                 council has tried to cripple their efforts to enforce the death penalty, which is illegal
                 in Britain.

                 Also Friday, Trinidad and Tobago received the community's backing to bid to be
                 the permanent headquarters of the Free Trade Area of the Americas over Panama,
                 where the temporary head office is presently.

                 The support means that Trinidad would have at least 14 votes at the Organization of
                 American States, since member Montserrat is a British colony with no vote in the

                 Trinidad's Prime Minister Patrick Manning said he is confident of getting the 18
                 votes needed in the 34-nation bloc.

                  Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.