U.S., Caribbean disagree on aid, banking By Jonathan Wright
Guyana Chronicle
February 8, 2002

`Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis so I ask you to forgive us if we screamed a lot this morning' - Guyana's Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

NASSAU, (Reuters) - Amid heated exchanges, the United States and its Caribbean neighbours disagreed yesterday on aid for Haiti and whether four Caribbean nations should stay on a money laundering black list.

At a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Caribbean foreign ministers in the Bahamian capital Nassau, the Caribbean argued it was time for the United States to let international institutions make loans to Haiti.

But Powell stuck to the U.S. position that until Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide solved a political crisis, it might be unwise to resume assistance to his government.

``We spoke our minds very clearly,'' said Guyanese Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally, the chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) committee of foreign ministers.

``Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis so I ask you (Powell) to forgive us if we screamed a lot this morning,'' he told a joint news conference with Powell.

Powell responded to Insanally's comments by saying: ``We did not scream. We had solid civilised discussions.''

Nearly $500 million of international aid has been withheld from Haiti because critics abroad and at home say the way the results of the 2000 elections were calculated gave Aristide's Lavalas party more Senate seats than it was due.

A senior U.S. official said the dispute was mainly about some $200 million in funds from the Inter-American Development Bank and that even if the United States voted to release the money, the bank has problems with Haitian arrears.

Insanally defended Aristide, saying: ``The actions taken by President Aristide are in the right direction and the release of the funds would assist in rebuilding democracy in Haiti. Not doing this could lead to a deterioration in the situation.''

``U.S. assistance is needed particularly for the independent international financial institutions if we are to see some progress,'' the Guyanese Foreign Minister added.

Powell countered that until the political crisis in Haiti was resolved, the United States would have reservations about ``releasing our holds'' or providing advice to international financial institutions to provide assistance.

In a radio interview earlier, Powell said the Haitian government had not done enough on the domestic political front and that Aristide had to be held accountable.

``We believe we have to hold President Aristide and the Haitian government to fairly high standards of performance before we can simply allow the flow of funds into the country.''

Another contentious issue is whether four Caribbean nations -- Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent -- should stay on a money laundering black list.

Since the September 11 attacks, the United States has tried to persuade all the Caribbean nations to bring their banking regulations up to international standards designed to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Insanally urged the United States not to target Caribbean countries on the money laundering issue.

``The Caribbean countries are doing their utmost to satisfy these (money laundering) requirements, and we think it would be unfair to discriminate against them and to follow a pattern of naming and shaming which tarnishes the image of these countries,'' he added.