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Caricom upset at abuses in Libya

BERT WILKINSON Special to the AmNews | 10/26/2011, 5:11 p.m.

Caribbean trade bloc governments have railed against the alleged execution of minorities and citizens of Black African countries during the push to dislodge and kill Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi in the past week, calling it dangerous and discriminatory and expressing concern about the hundreds of reported cases of human rights abuses.

A statement issued as the week began by the bloc chairman, St. Kitts Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, said, "The community calls for an immediate cessation to such inhumane and discriminatory actions that result in injury and death to civilians."

The Caricom leaders said they have noted reports that former members of the Libyan government and other minority groups are being singled out for rights abuses, and they called such actions "discriminatory." The bloc said Libya is now in "a critical and decisive transitional phase" and urged combatants on all sides to "lay down their arms in peace."

"The death of Colonel Muammar Abu al-Gaddafi marks the end of a painful and tumultuous chapter for the people of Libya, who have endured a protracted conflict in that country over the past eight months," the statement said, as the leaders urged Libya's National Transitional Council to promote reconciliation and nation-building while speeding up the process to democratic governance.

Several Caribbean countries, including many of the small Eastern Caribbean island nations and mainland Guyana, have been courting close diplomatic and other relations with Libya in the past decade. Some have received generous cash grants from Gadaffi, despite backroom urges against such moves by the U.S. State Department over the years.

Libya had been planning to open an investment bank in the Eastern subregion with startup funding worth $100 million and make bilateral donations of about $10 million directly to the string of small states. Grenada, which this week celebrates the 28th anniversary of the American invasion of the island, was expecting debt write-offs worth $6 million.

"Certainly, all of that seems to be on hold right now until we can establish what is going on. I have no doubt that persons within the Libyan administration have their hearts and minds full, and this certainly wouldn't be a priority for them at this time," St. Lucian Foreign Minister Rufus Bousquet said in February as the unrest in Libya was just beginning.