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April 20-22, 2001: Organization of American States Comes to Agreement on Free-Trade Area

With the exception of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, 34 heads of state attending the Organization of American States (OAS) summit, pledge to direct their “Ministers to ensure that negotiations of the FTAA [Free Trade Area of Americas] Agreement are concluded no later than January 2005 and to seek its entry into force as soon as possible thereafter, but in any case, no later than December 2005.” [Haitian Times, 4/18/2001; Andean Community, 4/22/2001; Haiti Weekly News, 5/2/2001] According to an unnamed senior offical at the US State Department, the declaration also lays the groundwork for creating a legal pretext for blocking aid to countries. [US Congress, 7/15/2003 pdf file; London Review of Books, 4/15/2004] The section of the declaration discussing the OAS’s commitment to democracy reads: “… any unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order in a state of the Hemisphere constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to the participation of that state’s government in the Summit of the Americas process….To enhance our ability to respond to these threats, we instruct our Foreign Ministers to prepare, in the framework of the next General Assembly of the OAS, an Inter-American Democratic Charter to reinforce OAS instruments for the active defense of representative democracy.” [Andean Community, 4/22/2001; Haiti Progres, 4/25/2001] During the summit, before the final declaration is made, Haiti is singled out as the region’s problem democracy. “Democracy in certain countries is still fragile,” Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien says, “We are particularly concerned about the case of Haiti. We note the problems which continue to limit the democratic, political, economic, and social development of this country.” [Haiti Progres, 4/25/2001] Press reports note the ant-Aristide atmosphere. The BBC reports, “Correspondents say the presence of Mr. Aristide at the summit has been an embarrassment to some of the leaders, who agreed that only democratic countries would be included in the Free Trade Zone of the Americas.” [BBC, 4/22/2001] The New York Post similarly recounts, “Diplomats said the expressions of concern about Haiti were to make sure that Aristide can’t use his presence at the summit… to claim he has international support.” [New York Post, 4/23/2001] And according to Reuters, “the Summit decided to comment on Haiti because leaders did not want Aristide to return home in triumph.” [New York Post, 4/23/2001; Haiti Progres, 4/25/2001]

Entity Tags: Jean Chretien, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Hugo Chavez Frias, Organization of American States (OAS)

Timeline Tags: Haiti Coup, US International Relations

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