US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has made an attempt to smooth Haiti’s course toward a final vote after disputed first-round elections plunged the country into uncertainty.
Clinton, who visited the country on Sunday and met Haitian President Rene Preval and the three main candidates vying to succeed him, made clear the US would not cut aid to the impoverished nation, despite political tensions, because of its “deep commitment to the Haitian people.”
The top US diplomat told reporters that Washington backed the recommendations of international monitors from the Organization of American States (OAS), which has urged the governing party’s presidential candidate, Jude Celestin, to exit the race.
However, Clinton also appeared to leave the door open to other solutions, saying there have been “legitimate concerns raised by various figures in Haiti, not just President Preval, but others, about what is the best compromise.”
One of the ways to help Haiti through the ordeal, Clinton added, was by “making sure their political choices are respected.”
Celestin has been under mounting US-led pressure to step down because of fraud allegations from disputed polls in November last year.
Asked by a Haitian radio interview Sunday why she had met all three candidates, despite backing the OAS report, Clinton said she did not want to be “accused of not meeting with all three,” but insisted the US “supported the OAS recommendations and we would like to see them move forward.”
Clinton, who traveled to Haiti days after a catastrophic quake killed more than 220,000 people in January last year, also made a brief visit to a cholera clinic to highlight the outbreak that has killed 4,000 since mid-October last year.
At Toussaint Louverture International Airport upon arrival, Clinton said she had come with a “very simple message” of US support for the country.
“We want to see the reconstruction continued. We want to see the voices and votes of the Haitian people acknowledged,” she said, before meeting with UN representative Edmond Mulet at the start of the day-long tour.
Later on Sunday she told Haiti’s Radio Metropole that there “needs to be a government and there needs to be stability in that government ... for the international community, to really be able to partner, which is why we hope that there will be a resolution of the election soon.”
Haiti’s election commission has said it will announce definitive results from the first round tomorrow and has scheduled a long-delayed second round for March 20, with those results to be announced April 16.
The announcement of preliminary first round results last month set off days of unrest when Preval’s protege Celestin narrowly edged a popular singer out of the second round run-off.
According to preliminary results from the Nov. 28 poll, Celestin garnered 7,000 more votes than Michel Martelly, securing a place in the run-off against the frontrunner, former first lady Mirlande Manigat.
Within hours of the announcement, protests swept Haitian towns, leaving five dead and the country in crisis as opposition candidates accused Preval and the electoral commission of rigging the poll.