Thursday, December 09, 2010

More violent protests in Haiti, this time over politics

A new round of violent protests have erupted in Haiti, not about the earthquake or cholera but over the latest election. The people are crying fraud over last weeks election and are burning tires and blocking roads in protest. The ruling party declared that they came in second place while most international observers believe they came in third. The next step is a runoff election between the top two places that will take place early next year.

From this Time Magazine article, writer Jessica Desvarieux describes the unrest and how the election caused it.

The longstanding credibility issues of Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) continued on Tuesday, when it announced preliminary election results that gave second place — and a place on a runoff ballot on January 16 — to President Rene Preval's hand-picked candidate, Jude Celestin. International observer groups maintain that Celestin had, in fact, finished third behind opposition candidate Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly. After an election marred by widespread reports of fraud, many Haitians took to the streets to make it clear whom they were believing, and it wasn't the CEP.

The resulting wrath, especially among Martelly supporters, led to gunfire and left the streets of Port-au-Prince choked by' roadblocks and burning tires on Wednesday, while the headquarters of the ruling INITE (Unity) Party was set on fire. Preval, widely criticized for his aloof response to January's massive earthquake that killed 230,000 people, called for calm; but the unrest shut down the capital's airport. With more than a million Haitians still homeless after the quake, and with a cholera epidemic so far claiming 2,100 more lives, the nation is in no mood to tolerate what many suspect is government-engineered fraud. "All the money Celestin spent on his campaign, he could have [bought us new homes]," says protester Dadil Jean-Pierre, 21. "INITE has been in power for too long, and they haven't done anything for us with their power."

According to the CEP, opposition candidate Mirlande Manigat, a 70-year-old constitutional law professor and former First Lady, finished first with 31% of the vote, followed by engineer Celestin, 48, with 22.5% and Martelly, 49, with 21.8%. That razor-thin margin, representing fewer than 7,000 votes, has provoked widespread skepticism, since independent organizations such as the European Union-financed National Election Observation Council (CNO), which placed more than 5,500 monitors at 15% of Haiti's polling stations, estimated that Martelly won closer to 25% and Celestin about 20%.

Jean Francois Vezina, a police spokesman for the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), acknowledges that protests are erupting all over the country and are growing in scale. But he says most demonstrators have been relatively benign. "The protests are not really violent," Vezina told TIME. "Some protesters throw stones or block the roads with cars or burning tires. But the security situation can change rapidly here." There were unconfirmed reports of two protest-related deaths in the southwestern city of Les Cayes, where government buildings had been attacked and set ablaze. Businesses and schools in Port-au-Prince, meanwhile, remained closed.

Read more:,8599,2036059,00.html#ixzz17csyjPIJ

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