16.11.2004: DOMINICAN POLITICS #8: FERNANDEZ, THE RIO GROUP AND HAITI

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 SANTO DOMINGO 006213

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA, WHA/CAR, WHA/EPSC, INL; NSC FOR SHANNON AND MADISON;LABOR FOR ILAB; USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD;TREASURY FOR OASIA-LCARTER; USDOC FOR 4322/ITA/MAC/WH/CARIBBEAN BASIN DIVISION USDOC FOR 3134/ITA/USFCS/RD/WH; DHS FOR CIS-CARLOS ITURREGUI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2014 TAGS: DR, ENRG, HA, PGOV, PREL

SUBJECT: DOMINICAN POLITICS #8: FERNANDEZ, THE RIO GROUP AND HAITI

REF: STATE 243180

Classified By: DCM Lisa Kubiske. Reason: 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary. When the Rio Group summit of November 4 got to the agenda item on Haiti, Dominican President Leonel Fernandez asked for hemispheric help in re-instilling democracy in that &narco-state,8 but he put a big front wrong in advocating the inclusion in the process of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide. Following a November 6 conversation with the Ambassador, Fernandez agreed that Aristide was distinct from Lavalas, and said he meant to say that groups with broad popular support needed to be included in the process. The Ambassador and several other ambassadors see President Fernandez November 16 to discuss Haiti further, per reftel.

2. (C) Dominicans are continually worried about the other half of Hispaniola, and with good reason -- perhaps a million Haitians reside in the Dominican Republic already, many of them undocumented. The February 2004 hostilities in Haiti did not cause any significant cross-border movements but the Dominican military temporarily reinforced the border and the Dominican Congress precipitately voiced its opposition to any eventual proposal to establish refugee camps on national territory.

3. (C) The official press release from the presidency offers an account of the Dominican positions at the meeting. (See para 4 below.) It includes two elements of concern two us: a calculated reference to Aristide and a quote from Hugo Chavez blaming &a large part of the disorder in that brother country8 on the United States. Chief of staff Danilo Medina said that the press release was not cleared elsewhere in the palace. See septel for discussion of the Dominican-Venezuelan questions.

4. (U) Following is our informal translation of the release, which played extensively in the Dominican press:

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(begin text)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The presidents of Latin America declared their determination to provide concrete help to Haiti in establishing a true democratic order where institutions function and all participants may be brought together for a dialogue on the future of the country.

Responding to a proposal by President Leonel Fernandez, the heads of state and government meeting at the XVIII Rio Group Summit agreed in the need for the re-establishment in Haiti of peaceful coexistence and institutional order, so that in the future a constitutional convention may be assembled.

President Fernandez, who offered an analysis of the historical roots of Haiti,s ingovernability, stated that in that Caribbean nation there exists a power vacuum and a great scarcity as a clandestine economy functions based on narcotics trafficking.

&Haiti, a theme of discussion of the Latin American leaders participating in this summit, is a narco-state subjugated to poverty and human degradation, such that we the countries of Latin America have the historical responsibility of going to its aid,8 he emphasized.

He said that within a democracy there should be participation of all sectors, and that in Haiti there is a political leader with great popular support, Jean Bertrand Aristide, who should be involved in the process for a democratic solution and establishment of stability and democracy.

The Dominican leader called on the Rio Group to make a profound analysis of the Haitian situation, given this immense undertaking, so that the presence of the MINUSTAH can be transformed in a clear and decisive manner to cooperate in building a true state of laws.

The Dominican president,s analysis of the Haitian crisis was seconded and approved by 11 of the presidents present, who in their remarks expressed support to the Dominican initiative seeking immediate support for Haiti.

President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez, who will visit the Dominican republic this Saturday, said, &We should go to the aid of Haiti, but a great deal of the fault for the disorder in that brother country lies with the United States.8

The president of Paraguay Nicanor Duarte said that countries meeting here should offer support for building a true democracy in haiti, with sovereignty and with respect for its cultural roots.

The president of Panama Martin Torrijos backed the position of the Dominican leader and said that he was ready to offer cooperation in elections, welcoming the position of President Fernandez.

At the same time, the Vice President of El Salvador, Ana Vilma de Escobar, spoke of the need to restore order and to organize a constitutional convention in which all participants can find consensus and will respect the rules of the game.

&We should carry out a crusade to recover multi-lateralism, so that we can work at establishing order in Haiti, and then work in favor of a civilized co-existence where conversations about the future can begin,8 commented the president of Bolivia, Carlos Mesa. When his turn came, the president of Guatemala, Eduardo Stein Braillas, affirmed that the efforts to assist the Caribbean nation should be carried out jointly with the United Nations, but added the self-criticism that the countries of Latin America did not take decisions concerning that nation when they faced the need to do so.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, November 4, 2004. Office of Information, Press, and Public Relations.

(end text)

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5. (C) The Aristide comment appeared to come out of nowhere. Fernandez had not previously discussed Aristide by name in conversations with us, or with our French and Canadian counterparts.

6. (C) Perhaps the greatest surprise for us was the palace´s presumption that there would be no downside. The next-day in-house press analysis by Fernandez´s strategy unit concluded that there was "no risk" associated with his comments and that Fernandez was "presenting himself as an element of international cooperation."

Fernandez Backtracks - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) On November 6, during a pull-aside at a social event, the Ambassador admonished Fernandez that his reference to Aristide was a serious mistake, one that had the potential of further inflaming a situation already dangerous for the Haitian people and for the international peacekeeping force. Fernandez replied that given popular support for Lavalas, it would have to be part of the situation. The Ambassador was direct: Aristide had led a violent gang involved in narcotics trafficking and had squandered any credibility he formerly may have had. "Nobody has given me any information about that," Fernandez replied. The Ambassador insisted that no supporter of human rights and democracy could in good conscience allow Aristide and his close supporters back into the situation in Haiti. Fernandez listened and eventually agreed to distinguish between Aristide and Lavalas. He asked for any information on Aristide that the United States might be able to share with him.

7. (C) On November 9 the Ambassador, DCM and EcoPol chief questioned presidential chief of staff Danilo Medina about the reference to Aristide. Medina suggested that the President hadn´t meant Aristide, but rather the Lavalas political movement; the Ambassador questioned that interpretation. Emboffs pointed out that Aristide had been named in the press release and questioned the inclusion in a Dominican press release of the anti-U.S. remark by Chavez. Medina professed not to have seen or cleared the release, which had been drafted by the press office. He said that in future, press texts would be routed through his office before release.

8. (C) The Ambassador meets with President Fernandez to discuss Haiti (using reftel talking points) on the evening of November 16, accompanied by the French, Canadian, British and Spanish ambassadors. We will report septel on the results of that discussion. HERTELL



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