In Haiti, Political Impasse Compounds Uncertainty

  • U.N. police make their way through the streets on Thursday in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au Prince. Supporters of Michel Martelly, Sweet Mickey" took to the streets of Haiti's capital for a third day to contest election results. Haitian election officials announced late Tuesday that two candidates — government protege Jude Celestin and former first lady Mirlande Manigat — would advance to a ...
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    U.N. police make their way through the streets on Thursday in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au Prince. Supporters of Michel Martelly, Sweet Mickey" took to the streets of Haiti's capital for a third day to contest election results. Haitian election officials announced late Tuesday that two candidates — government protege Jude Celestin and former first lady Mirlande Manigat — would advance to a runoff.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Michel "Sweet Mickey" Martelly greets his supporters at his home in Petionville.  A popular singer in Haiti, Martelly failed to qualify for the runoff, placing third after Manigat and Celestin.
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    Michel "Sweet Mickey" Martelly greets his supporters at his home in Petionville. A popular singer in Haiti, Martelly failed to qualify for the runoff, placing third after Manigat and Celestin.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Protestors block the road in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. Thousands of protesters demonstrated across Haiti on Wednesday over what they claim are rigged results of the Nov. 28 presidential election.
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    Protestors block the road in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. Thousands of protesters demonstrated across Haiti on Wednesday over what they claim are rigged results of the Nov. 28 presidential election.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Supporters of Michel Martelly run from tear gas being fired by UN soldiers.
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    Supporters of Michel Martelly run from tear gas being fired by UN soldiers.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Supporters of Michel Martelly run from tear gas fired by U.N. soldiers.
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    Supporters of Michel Martelly run from tear gas fired by U.N. soldiers.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • A boy looks down a ravaged street in Port-au-Prince.
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    A boy looks down a ravaged street in Port-au-Prince.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Martelly supporters take to the streets, walking past a smashed billboard of Manigat.
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    Martelly supporters take to the streets, walking past a smashed billboard of Manigat.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Martelly supporters confront Brazilian U.N. soldiers in Port-au Prince.
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    Martelly supporters confront Brazilian U.N. soldiers in Port-au Prince.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • The results were announced Tuesday evening after hours of delays and were questioned both in Haiti and abroad. The post-election unrest means more upheaval in a poor country suffering a cholera epidemic and still recovering from the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people.
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    The results were announced Tuesday evening after hours of delays and were questioned both in Haiti and abroad. The post-election unrest means more upheaval in a poor country suffering a cholera epidemic and still recovering from the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Martelly supporters run from tear gas fired from an election office in Port-au Prince on Wednesday. On Tuesday night, demonstrators set up flaming barricades near a restaurant in Petionville, a suburb of the capital where the tallies were announced, and threw rocks at passersby.
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    Martelly supporters run from tear gas fired from an election office in Port-au Prince on Wednesday. On Tuesday night, demonstrators set up flaming barricades near a restaurant in Petionville, a suburb of the capital where the tallies were announced, and threw rocks at passersby.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Black smoke from burning barricades was in the air Wednesday in areas where Martelly's support is strongest, including Petionville and Delmas. Thousands were on the streets chanting, "Micky," and singing political songs.
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    Black smoke from burning barricades was in the air Wednesday in areas where Martelly's support is strongest, including Petionville and Delmas. Thousands were on the streets chanting, "Micky," and singing political songs.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Protesters block the streets in Petionville on Wednesday. Martelly supporters claim that the Nov. 28 ballot was rigged to push the unpopular Celestin into the runoff election.
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    Protesters block the streets in Petionville on Wednesday. Martelly supporters claim that the Nov. 28 ballot was rigged to push the unpopular Celestin into the runoff election.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • The election results are preliminary, "so the candidates have 72 hours to protest the results; we are expecting that Martelly will do that," noted NPR's Jason Beaubien.
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    The election results are preliminary, "so the candidates have 72 hours to protest the results; we are expecting that Martelly will do that," noted NPR's Jason Beaubien.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • The appeals period runs through Friday, with final results expected to be announced around Dec. 20. The runoff is scheduled for Jan. 16.
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    The appeals period runs through Friday, with final results expected to be announced around Dec. 20. The runoff is scheduled for Jan. 16.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Supporters carry a giant poster of Martelly in a massive demonstration. Officials acknowledged that the election was imperfect, with hundreds of thousands of earthquake dead still registered and many living voters waiting for ID cards.
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    Supporters carry a giant poster of Martelly in a massive demonstration. Officials acknowledged that the election was imperfect, with hundreds of thousands of earthquake dead still registered and many living voters waiting for ID cards.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • U.N. peacekeepers and the joint Organization of American States-Caribbean Community observer mission say the election problems do not invalidate the vote. Here, protesters help an injured man who was hit in the head with a rock.
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    U.N. peacekeepers and the joint Organization of American States-Caribbean Community observer mission say the election problems do not invalidate the vote. Here, protesters help an injured man who was hit in the head with a rock.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • A Haitian man takes a photo of the destruction with his cell phone. Protests began as soon as the election news was announced.
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    A Haitian man takes a photo of the destruction with his cell phone. Protests began as soon as the election news was announced.
    David Gilkey/NPR

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The earthquake-ravaged nation of Haiti was rocked this week by political protests, as riots paralyzed the capital, Port-au-Prince, and forced election officials to announce a recount of the controversial presidential polls.

Tens of thousands of supporters of presidential candidate Michel Martelly streamed through the streets of the capital. The riots started minutes after the electoral commission announced Tuesday that Martelly had been eliminated from the second round of the election by a few thousand votes.

Young men barricaded the streets with dumpsters, earthquake debris and burning tires. The protests went on for two days straight.

"If we don't get Martelly, I'm the rock that will crush you," said Grace-Adieu Pierre, a Martelly supporter. "We are going to tear this country down."

Many of the demonstrations were peaceful, but in others, Martelly supporters clashed with U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police. Cars, trucks and ambulances were unable to move through the streets.

Candidate Criticized

On Nov. 28, while the polls were still open, Martelly and 11 of the other presidential candidates called for the election to be annulled. They said there was "massive fraud" at the polls and accused the ruling INITE party of rigging the balloting to favor its own candidate, Jude Celestin.

In a taped statement on national television, Celestin said the voting was fair and blasted the Martelly supporters in the streets as irresponsible.

"Without any consideration for those who are living day to day or who are affected by cholera or who can't send their kids to school, these protests make everyone poorer," Celestin said.

Celestin called on his own supporters to mobilize across the country.

Martelly didn't have to call on his followers to mobilize. On Thursday, hundreds of them, cheering wildly, showed up outside his house in the leafy Port-au-Prince suburb of Peguy Ville. Martelly came out briefly to wave and bump knuckles with a few of them.

Camp residents stand in line at a water distribution site at the old military airport in Haiti i i

Camp residents stand in line at a water distribution site at the old military airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Friday. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR
Camp residents stand in line at a water distribution site at the old military airport in Haiti

Camp residents stand in line at a water distribution site at the old military airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Friday.

David Gilkey/NPR

Government Blamed

Martelly is a popular Haitian musician known also as Sweet Micky. He had a reputation for being a wild man on stage, at times stripping naked or wearing a diaper. But his political campaign is polished and professionally orchestrated. As Martelly's security detail shuffled him back into his house, one of his political advisers, Daniel Supplice, lingered outside.

Supplice says the unrest in the streets is an organic uprising among Haitians who believe their votes were stolen.

"It's a general situation. It's not only in Port-au-Prince," he said. "All over, in other cities, they have troubles.

"It's much more than a question of election. People are attacking public places. There's a total situation where people believe the government, the actual government, isn't doing the right thing."

The Martelly campaign had 72 hours to submit its legal challenge. Supplice conceded that logistically this was going to be difficult because, aside from the Electoral Council that was protected by U.N. troops, government offices have been unable to open since Tuesday.

Cholera Challenge

Almost all businesses remained shut Friday.

A man looks over a room of cholera victims in Port au Prince, Haiti i i

A man looks over a room of cholera victims in Port au Prince, Haiti, Dec. 10 David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR
A man looks over a room of cholera victims in Port au Prince, Haiti

A man looks over a room of cholera victims in Port au Prince, Haiti, Dec. 10

David Gilkey/NPR

Aid agencies say the civil unrest was disastrous in light of the cholera epidemic. With the streets blocked, people couldn't even get to health clinics.

Sarah Ashraf, the coordinator of Save the Children's cholera programs in the country, says one huge problem is that water trucks were unable to make deliveries.

Ashraf says the cholera treatment units were running out of water, body bags and other supplies. Several ambulances that take away corpses were attacked Thursday.

"So the ambulances that do go to the CTUs to pick up dead bodies, they cannot cross the roads, the blockades to get there," Ashraf said. "So if there are deaths, the bodies are going to be kept at the CTUs, which is not OK."

Water trucks started moving through Port-au-Prince again Friday, but people were so desperate for water that they hijacked one tanker from the aid group Concern Worldwide.

The political protests appear to be subsiding. The bigger issue is that the presidential election remains unresolved. Martelly and his supporters vow that they are not going to give up until Sweet Micky is sworn into office.

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