Fuel Running Short As Embargo Takes Hold; OAS Team To Hold New Talks
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Haitians jammed a dwindling number of gas stations left with fuel, feeling the squeeze of an international embargo aimed at restoring ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.
Representatives of the Organization of American States, which imposed the sanctions after the Sept. 30 coup, are to arrive in Haiti early next week for a new round of talks.
A prominent senator to take part in the talks blasted the United States and other OAS members Thursday and predicted ″rough″ negotiations.
While most goods, such as food and other household supplies, appeared abundant in markets Thursday, lines several blocks long of buses, taxis and cars stretched away from the few gasoline stations open for business in the capital.
Helmeted and armed police supervised sales. They could be seen leading some drivers away after heated arguments. Since the coup, the cost of kerosene, which most Haitians use for cooking, has tripled, from $2 to $6 a gallon.
Jean-Jacques Honorat, named prime minister by a military-endorsed provisional government after the coup, told reporters Thursday he believed new shipments of oil were on the way.
He declined to give any specifics about the shipments, saying Haiti might be forced to use ″unorthodox″ channels.
″An embargo imposed on Haiti means that we’re wide open to contraband... and all kind of racketeering″ by Haitian and foreign smugglers,″ he said.
″The international community and especially the United States, for reasons I don’t understand, are waging war on this country, economic war on this country,″ he said.
The United States, in line with the OAS decision, announced a strict trade embargo and a freeze of Haitian foreign assets. Most of Haiti’s trade is with the United States.
Venezuela and Mexico, traditional sources of oil for Haiti, stopped all fuel shipments to Haiti after the coup. The international community condemned the takeover and has refused to recognize the new provisional government, named by the legislature literally at army gunpoint.
A four-man OAS delegation, headed by former Colombian Foreign Minister Augusto Ramirez Ocampo, was expected to arrive Monday or Tuesday for negotiations, Honorat said.
A member of Haiti’s negotiating team, Sen. Guy Beauduy, said he expected the talks to be rough.
″Their position is tough, and our position is clear, and tough, too,″ he told The Associated Press.
He called the U.S. sanctions ″a low blow″ but said it would not weaken the resolve of Haitian authorities. ″We are not going to let that impress us,″ he said.
Haiti’s army has vowed not to let Aristide return, accusing him of planning to create a private militia to subjugate the traditional armed forces. Many traditional Haitian politicians accuse Aristide, who was swept into office with two-thirds of the vote in elections Dec. 16, of overstepping his powers.
Honorat reiterated his charge that the embargo could trigger civil unrest in the volatile country, the poorest in the hemisphere. About 60 percent of the 6 million inhabitants live below internationally-recognized limits for poverty.