U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will attend a conference for the leaders of the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) regional bloc this week in Haiti. Haitian President Michel Martelly, the chairman of the group, has made Haiti’s participation in regional and international affairs a priority, despite years of diminished involvement. It has been just over a decade since Haiti earned full member status, with the majority of the group’s members having been involved since the 1970s. Martelly is the first Haitian head of state to lead Caricom, but not all Haitians seem open to participating.
“I personally don’t see the benefits of Haiti being in Caricom,” Haitian restaurateur Marguerite Rigaud told the Miami Herald. “There is a big hypocrisy there. We in Haiti are 10 million people and we are an important market for them. But no matter where we go, we are badly received; we need to have a visa.”
Among Caricom member states, only the Bahamas has an embassy in Haiti. However, each nation will be represented at the meeting, with at least nine heads of state present. Martelly will be hard-pressed to open up trade and travel with the other member states, who have restricted the movement of Haitian citizens throughout the region.
“In assuming the chairmanship of Caricom, the Haitian government wants to show its willingness to integrate,” said Duly Brutus, Haiti’s ambassador to Caricom and to the Organization of American States, according to the Miami Herald.
The lack of Caricom support for Haiti has led to problems for other members, including rampant illegal immigration, as Haitians look for work internationally. Immigration, along with regional security, trade and transit, will top the agenda for the meeting.
“I accept that Caricom, as a relatively poor region, cannot provide the financial assistance that developed countries can, but it should have done, and be doing, much more in terms of scholarships, diplomatic support in international organizations,” former Trinidad and Tobago ambassador and U.N. special advisor to Haiti Reginald Dumas told the Herald.