Haiti protests ease, US senator pressures govt
Port-au-Prince: Shops opened sporadically, the airport took in cargo flights and fewer flaming barricades blocked streets on Friday as Haiti's capital struggled to emerge from two days of riots over the disputed Presidential Election.
Officials worked behind the scenes to find a solution to the political crisis as an influential US senator called for US aid to be cut off to Haiti until a fair and democratic outcome to the election is found.
Demonstrators still clashed occasionally with UN peacekeepers and Haitian police, but overall conditions improved somewhat as the political factions awaited the results of a recount by the country's elections board.
Preliminary results showed that two candidates — former first lady and law professor Mirlande Manigat, and businessman Jude Celestin of the governing Unity party — were the top vote-getters in the November 28 election and would compete in a January runoff.
All the candidates, including the apparent winners, claim the election was marred by fraud.
The strongest objections, however, are coming from the third-place finisher, singer Michel Martelly, whose supporters flooded the streets in protest after preliminary results said he narrowly missed the runoff. Martelly said on Friday that he expected the new count of ballots by the Provisional Electoral Council, or CEP, to show he actually won the election.
"We are expecting the CEP to come back on their results and acknowledge the fraud, because it's the people's vote they are playing with and the people are very upset," Martelly said in a Friday interview. "We can only wait and hope at the same time and ask for them to wake up and do what's right for the country."
But even if the recount puts him in the runoff, the candidate, known on stage as "Sweet Mickey”, said he would not compete if Celestin is still in the race. He says Celestin, a member of President Rene Preval's party, only made it to the runoff because his supporters committed fraud.
Martelly has not been offered a spot in a runoff or any other compromise, campaign strategist Damian Merlo said late Friday.
Martelly also said his supporters were not responsible for the violent protests that have paralysed Haiti in recent days and blamed infiltrators from rival factions. Celestin, meanwhile, has called those who back him to take to the streets in non-violent demonstrations. Manigat has stayed silent.
US Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of a Senate subcommittee that oversees appropriations for Haiti, said on Friday said that the election results showed the Haitian government was trying to "subvert the will of the people”.
The Vermont Democrat said President Barack Obama's administration should withhold funding to Haiti's government and suspend US travel visas for senior Haitian officials and their family members.