Port-au-Prince is still on lock-down after thousands of protesters took to the streets for a second day contesting the results of Haiti’s November 28th elections. “If they don’t make Martelly president by the end of today,” one protester explained while following a group marching through the streets of Petionville, “then we will burn the city down.” The number of crowds had decreased significantly compared to Wednesday and many of the protests were much calmer, but road-blocks on many of the main roads have been fortified to the point of being almost completely impassable. At one road block on Delmas our moto-taxi driver was forced to pay a group of way-too-drunk-for-10am Haitians 50 goudes before we were allowed to pass.
The sky was filled with rain clouds, which sent showers cooling the tension in the city periodically throughout the day. The storm proved to be the perfect way to keep the number of protesters down, because if there’s anything that Haitians hate more than feeling that their votes have been stolen, it’s rain. The weird thing was that we haven’t had a rain shower here during the day in months, so it was almost as if the skies had realized that the city needed a little break, and decided to try to keep people off the streets, even for just a couple hours.
But after the storm let up the protests continued, and a general sense of frustration was felt amongst the people. “We are fighting for Martelly,” explained 27 year-old Dabouzae Lexima while he participated in a protest outside the CEP in Petionville, “He understands the people, he understands our problems.” But when pressed about why Martelly is the right choice for the country, and why they are fighting for him, his answer was simple: “Because he is not Celestin! Preval and Celestin are the same, and we don’t want the same problems we had before.”
This man’s frustrations seemed to reflect a growing sense of anger not necessarily because Martelly was left out of the second-round run-off, but because there is the possibility of Preval’s pick being their next leader. “Preval is the devil!” explained another protester, “We call the presidential palace the Devil’s house. He has done nothing for us.”
And while many of the protesters chant pro-Martelly chants and carry around his posters, the huge turnout in the streets also reflects the anger people have about the general situation they face everyday in Haiti. For instance, protesters are still taking any chance they can get to pelt UN tanks and troops with rocks and bottles. “MINUSTAH (UN forces) gave us cholera, they are trying to kill us,” explained Dabouzae, “Why are they here? We should kill them!”
This afternoon the Provisional Electoral Council (or the CEP) announced that they would be reviewing the results of the elections with the top three candidates, and that that review may lead to a recount. According the Miami Herald, the Inite party (which is lead by Celestin) will be contesting the results of the election on Friday, even though he came in second place and is slated to be included in the second-round run-off. This is the guy who everyone is marching against, and who everyone has charged with widespread election fraud, and he has the guts to say that he was cheated.
What I fear most is that they could be trying to use this recount as a way to prove to the people that the results they reported were correct. If, at the end of the recount, Martelly is not included in the run-off then these protests and riots will be taken to another level, and the city may actually be burned to ground. After it was announced that there would be a recount, protesters flocked to the CEP office in Petionville and demanded to be let inside. “We want to burn the CEP down,” said one protester, “and then we want to give Martelly the presidency. Not for 5 years, but for 10.”
The protest stayed relatively peaceful, and only once was there an exchange of rocks from the Haitians, and tear gas from the UN troops. We headed home and called it a day as the sun was setting and it would soon be unsafe(r) to be driving around the city. Jillian and I sat at home and ate a delicious meal that she prepared for us, and we debated when the next time we would be able to go to the grocery stores would be, as they have been closed since the protests began. We’re hoping sooner rather than later, as Olie has run out of food (priorities people!), but we fear that this could last weeks instead of just days.
At the end of the night I went to our land-lady’s house to grab her internet modem as our internet bill was not paid because of the commotion happening in the city. We got to talking about the election, and she explained that she hadn’t gotten the chance to vote because she was in Miami that day. But when I asked her what candidate she would have voted for she quickly responded, “None of them!”
“These people are protesting for Martelly,” she explained, “but he has no credentials to be president, why should I pick him?” We talked about how she was, for the first time in her life, considering leaving Haiti, which is a big statement for a Haitian. “I’m tired,” she exclaimed as she let out a deep breath, “I’m tired of all of this, I’m tired of having to worry all the time, I’m tired of everything being so unorganized.” She admitted that, in the end, she would likely never leave the country that she loves, even if it has it’s problems.
As I left I asked her if she thought any of the candidates would make the situation in Haiti any better, if they could make the country right. “It won’t be better, it will just be a different,” she said with a sigh, “Haiti has been like this since 1986, and to be honest, I don’t see it changing anytime soon.”