Election Unrest Is Latest Of Haiti's Woes
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.
Haiti is facing its worst political crisis since the fall of Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Protests over disputed presidential election results shut down the Haitian capital for most of this past week. More demonstrations could start again tomorrow.
Yesterday, Haitians mobbed shops and supermarkets that had been closed for days to stock up on food and other supplies.
NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Port-au-Prince. Jason, first the political impasse -where does it stand at the moment?
JASON BEAUBIEN: The political impasse just continues to get worse and worse. Yesterday, we had two of the leading presidential candidates, Mirlande Manigat, who actually came out first in the polls from the November 28th election, and Michel Martelly, both saying they are rejecting a recount of the vote, saying they are refusing to participate in a process that they say has been riddled with massive fraud.
They say that the same officials are now going to be overseeing the recount and they don't want to have anything to do with it, which just throws this out into sort of limbo. And now it becomes completely unclear how they're going to move forward with this process of trying to pick the next president.
HANSEN: Have any resolutions been proposed?
BEAUBIEN: Several resolutions have been proposed but the recount was one of them. The recount was proposed as, okay, we will recount the vote, we'll have another look at it and then we can move forward from there. It also is quite possible that Michel Martelly could move into the second spot.
Basically, everyone is trying to get into the runoff, which is going to be in January. And the idea was, well, maybe Martelly did have enough votes. If that happens, all of his supporters who'd been mobbing the streets, who completely shut down Port-au-Prince almost all of last week, that they would be satisfied; Martelly would move into the second round. But now he's saying he's not accepting this recount.
So we're stuck with the numbers that the election officials already released, which produced these riots, produced deaths and has left this country, as I say, in limbo.
HANSEN: Haiti has really faced some Herculean tasks. The recovery from the earthquake is still going on, the cholera outbreak already hospitalized nearly 50,000 people. With this political crisis, what effect is it having on the efforts to treat the cholera and rebuild from the earthquake?
BEAUBIEN: It's really affecting them. Basically, no one could move through the streets for much of last week, including medical personnel, including people who are hauling water into the camps. These camps, some of them have 50,000 people in these tent encampments and the water just gets trucked in in trucks. And those trucks were not able to move through the streets. Some of the trucks got hijacked when they finally did get out on the streets because people were so desperate to get access to water.
And health professionals have been telling me that they are very concerned that this could add to the spread of cholera, because also, the toilets, the latrines aren't getting emptied. And already these things are stretched to the limits. In one camp with 50,000 people, you've only got 200 latrines. So these things could add to the actual spread of cholera. And people are very concerned about that.
But that said, you know, I'm outside a church this morning. It's Sunday morning, people are putting on their Sunday best from these incredibly dirty camps where, you know, there's dust and tires have been burning in the streets all week. People somehow are finding white dresses and coming to church.
So people are going on with their lives. But at the same time, Haiti is now not only dealing with the earthquake, not only dealing with cholera, it's dealing with a political crisis and possibly more civil unrest, as it tries to figure out who is going to be its next leader.
HANSEN: NPR's Jason Beaubien in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Jason, thank you.
BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.
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