A popular singer vowed to legally challenge election results that narrowly ousted him from Haiti’s presidential race, while his supporters barricaded streets and set fires in violence that threatened the fragile stability that followed a devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.
Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly urged his backers on Wednesday to nonviolently protest results from Nov. 28 presidential elections that demonstrators say were rigged. His campaign manager later said they would formally challenge the tallies released late on Tuesday to Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council.
His supporters carried pink signs with the smiling face and bald head of Martelly, built street barricades, challenged heavily armored foreign soldiers and used government campaign posters to start fires.
“We want Martelly. The whole world wants Martelly,” said James Becimus, a 32-year-old protester near the US Embassy. “Today we set fires, tomorrow we bring weapons.”
Other protesters said they would continue to mobilize, but do so nonviolently.
“Demonstrating without violence is the right of the people,” Martelly said. “I will be with you until the bald-head victory.”
Outside the electoral council headquarters in the suburb of Petionville, young men wearing their shirts as masks threw rocks at UN troops. The soldiers — Indians and Pakistanis working as a single unit — responded with exploding canisters of tear gas that washed over a nearby earthquake-refugee camp, sending mothers running from their tarps with their crying, coughing children in tow.
Protesters set fire to the headquarters of outgoing Haitian President Rene Preval’s Unity party, traded blows with UN peacekeepers and shut down the country’s lone international airport.
Preval had earlier urged the candidates to call off the protests.
He acknowledged there had been fraud in the election, but said it was typical of elections around the world.
“This is not how the country is supposed to work,” he told demonstrators in a live radio speech. “People are suffering because of all this damage.”
The fallout from the fraud shut down cities while aid workers need to tackle a cholera epidemic.