[News] CARICOM (Cuba and Venezuela) Blocked...as US takes control of airport

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 18 10:25:53 EST 2010

CARICOM BLOCKED...as US takes control of airport
Rickey Singh Barbados

Sunday, January 17th 2010



IN DIRE NEED: A woman reacts in a street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 
yesterday. Relief groups and officials are focused on moving aid 
flowing into Haiti to survivors of the powerful 7.0 earthquake that 
hit the country on Tuesday. -Photo: AP

THE CARIBBEAN Community's emergency aid mission to Haiti, comprising 
Heads of Government and leading technical officials, failed to secure 
permission Friday to land at that devastated country's airport, now 
under the control of the United States.

Consequently, the Caricom 'assessment mission', that was to determine 
priority humanitarian needs resulting from the mind-boggling 
earthquake disaster of Haiti last Tuesday, had to travel back from 
Jamaica to their respective home destinations..

On Friday afternoon the US State Department confirmed signing two 
"Memoranda of Understanding' with the Government of Haiti that made 
"official that the United Stateas is in charge of all inbound and 
outbound flights and aid off-loading..."

Further, according to the agreements signed, US medical personnel 
"now have the authority to operate on Haitian citizens and otherwise 
render medical assistance without having to wait for licences from 
Haiti's government..."

Prior to the US taking control of Haiti's airport, a batch of some 30 
Cuban doctors had left Havana, following Wednesday's earthquake, to 
join more than 300 of their colleagues who have been working there 
for more than a year.

Last evening the frustration suffered by the Caricom mission to get 
landing permission was expected to be raised in a scheduled meeting 
at Jamaica's Norman Manley International Airport with US Secretary of 
State, Hilary Clinton.

Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding who was making arrangements 
for the meeting with Clinton, following her visit earlier in the day 
to witness the devastation of the capital Port-au-Prince, said he 
could not comment on details to be discussed.

He, however, told this correspondent: "I appreciate the chaos and 
confusion at Haiti's airport, where there is just one operational 
runway. But Haiti is a member of Caricom and we simply have to be 
facilitated and the truth is, there is hardly a functioning 
government in Haiti..."

Asked whether the difficulties encountered by the Caricom mission may 
be related to reports that US authorities were not anxious to 
facilitate landing of aircraft from Cuba and Venezuela, Prime 
Minister Golding said he could "only hope that there is no truth to 
such immature thinking in the face of the horrific scale of Haiti's tragedy..."

Golding, who has lead portfolio responsibility among Caricom leaders 
for external economic relations, had a personal first-hand assessment 
when he flew to Haiti on Thusday.

A contingent of some 150 members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF 
has since established a camp with medical facilities in the vicinity 
of Haiti's airport.

Ahead of last evening scheduled meeting with Secretary of State 
Clinton, Prime Minister Golding had discussed on Friday in Kingstom 
some of the problems to be overcome at a meeting he held in Kingston 
on Friday with the Prime Ministers of Barbados and Dominica and 
including the Community's Secretary General..

Among urgent matters to be discussed with Secretary Clinton was to be 
possible use of the Norman Manley Airport as a primary hub, given its 
short distance from Haiti (45 minutes), for all emergency missions.

The Community's Secretary General (Edwin Carrington) explained that 
proper use of the Norman Manley Airport would be consistent with a 
decision last week for Jamaica to serve as the Sub-regional 
Operational Focal Point (SOFP) responses to the Haitian humanitarian crisis.

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