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Campaign-Posters

Almost two months after the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced the preliminary results of the Haiti’s November elections, the CEP is planning on announcing the final results today.  The biggest question is who will be included in the March 20th run-off.  A couple of factors have muddied this situation considerably, so here’s a quick breakdown:

The preliminary results were released on November 8th, and were broken down like this:

1. Mirlande Manigat – 31.37% (336,878 votes)

Manigat

2. Jude Celestin – 22.48% (241,462 votes)

Jude Celestin
(Photo by Ben Depp)

3. Michel Joseph Martelly – 21.84% (234,617 votes)

Michel-Martelly

These results were received with an incredible amount of anger, as reports of fraud committed by Celestin’s camp forced tens of thousands of Martelly supporters onto the street to fight Celestin’s inclusion in the run-off, and Martelly’s subsequent exclusion.  In addition, there were reports that President Preval had pressured the CEP to change the results so that Celestin overtook Martelly.

As a result, President Preval requested that the Organization of American States (OAS) do a review of the results, and submit it to him and the CEP in an effort to quell the anger that had resulted after the announcement.  While the review was never made public, the AP got a copy of it (link to article here), and here is the breakdown as the OAS saw it:

1. Mirlande Manigat – 31.6% (323,048 votes [13,830 votes found invalid])

Manigat

2. Michel Joseph Martelly – 22.2% (227,467 votes [7,150 votes found invalid])

Michel-Martelly

3. Jude Celestin – 21.9% (224,242 votes [17,220 votes found invalid])

Jude Celestin
(Photo by Ben Depp)

The results were delivered to President Preval and the CEP, who then came out and said that these were simply a suggestion, and that they did not have to be followed.  The United States Government, as well as a number of other major international bodies, then came out saying the that the CEP needs to go with the OAS recommendations, or else… “We urge the Provisional Electoral Council to review and implement the OAS report’s recommendations,” U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said in a statement on January 20th, “Sustained support from the international community, including the United States, requires a credible process that represents the will of the Haitian people, as expressed by their votes.”  Secretary of State Hilary Clinton later clarified that the United States would NOT be pulling funding if the run-off did not include the OAS recommendation.

The CEP then came out and said that they can’t do anything, according to the Haitian Constitution, without a formal appeal by the candidate.  On the same day that Susan Rice made her statement, Martelly’s lawyers walked into the CEP, and formally submitted an appeal claiming that their candidate should be included in the run-off.  A couple weeks prior to that, Jude Celestin’s lawyers walked into the CEP and submitted an appeal of their own.  Their claim?  That Celestin won 52% of the vote and that there shouldn’t be a run-off at all.  No joke.

Celestin-Posters

To muddy the waters even more, rumors have been flying since last week that Celestin had decided to drop out of the race, a relatively surprising decision considering how logical it was, therefor making it incredibly unlikely.  It was the best case scenario: Celestin drops out, which means his people wouldn’t protest when the final results did not fall in his favor, and Martelly’s people wouldn’t take to the streets because Celestin could no longer take his place in the run-off.

The Haitian Press Corp huddled around a small, circa-1980s restaurant by the port and waited for what was supposed to be a press conference to announce his withdraw, but it never happened.  Then that weekend Hillary Clinton visited Haiti and met with Manigat, Martelly AND Celestin, effectively proving that the rumor was false.  Celestin’s campaign subsequently released a Youtube video which included a picture of Clinton and Celestin shaking hands covered by 14 minutes of Kompa music and titled: “Secretary Clinton Falls in Love at First Sight with Jude Celestin” (link here)

So that’s where we are left.  It’s not sure yet if there will be a press conference or not, but we’ll let you know what they say no matter what.  It’s sure to be an interesting couple of days, and most organizations are preparing to go on lock-down, with the UN recommending that their staff have “adequate resources (food, water, and gas, medications) for one week at least.”  Most organizations have instituted travel restrictions in the city after 3pm, and some banks are closing at 2pm just to be safe.  We will be safe, we always are, and we’ll keep you updated as soon as we hear news.

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Protester-Running

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.

Woman-with-Umbrella

Burning-Car

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!”

Protester-Throwing-Rock

Huge-Crowd-on-Delmas

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.”

Approaching-UN-Troop-Line

UN-Troops-with-Shields

Angry-Protester

UN-Troop-Line

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.”

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Burning-Tires

Tens of thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Port-au-Prince Wednesday, leaving the city crippled after the results of the November 28th presidential elections were announce late Tuesday night.  The protesters, many of which were supporters of Michel Martelly who was left out of the country’s January 16th second-round run-off, erected roadblocks at practically every major intersection in the city.  By using burning tires and cars, as well as rocks and rubble, the streets quickly became completely impassable for anything other than a motorcycle.

Burned-Car-Roadblock

Casket-in-the-road

Ben and I traveled around the city with the help of an awesome moto-taxi driver who seemed to know every single person at every single road-block.  At one point a group of protesters surrounded us holding rocks and demanding we give them gas from the motorcycle so they could light a barricade on fire.  He looked around and found someone he knew who quickly explained to the people that we could pass, and we drove away safely before they got the chance to use their rocks.  Bottom line, he’s a keeper.

We maneuvered through protests and barricades, as Haitians ran through the streets holding Michel Martelly posters, and in the mean time destroying Jude Celestin and Mirlande Manigat posters along the way.  Businesses had boarded up their windows and doors, and the entire city was practically closed down, but the streets were packed with people chanting, “We don’t need Celestin!  Down with Preval!  We want Martelly!” in Kreyol.

Protesters-Running

Old-man-martelly-protester-champ-mars

Man-with-Anti-celestin-poster

And while many of the protesters marching the streets were peaceful, some resulted in violence and destruction.  At the Port-au-Prince campaign headquarters for Jude Celestin, protesters broke in and looted the building before lighting it on fire.  Local firemen (which I didn’t even know existed) sprayed down the smoldering remains of the HQ, which was filled with piles of burning Celestin campaign posters.

Unfortunately, it’s acts like this that detract from the real message, which is that these people feel that their democratic process has failed them yet again.  Like I said yesterday, it appears that the real results of the election actually included Martelly in the top two candidates who would move on to a run-off, winning over Celestin by over 10%.  They have the right to fight for that, but they should not do it at the expense of those whose personal property is now being destroyed because of it.

Firefighter-spraying-Posters

Fireman

Firefighter-Spraying-room

We traveled further downtown to the presidential palace, which had a peaceful march of a couple thousand Haitians.  “Celestin bought his votes, he bought this election,” explained one of the protesters as he passed by the palace, “But we don’t need money, we need a president that can lead our country.”  We doubled back towards the Delmas region, which holds one of the main arteries of the city.  Our moto-taxi driver expertly maneuvered around rubble that had been thrown into the street, and we came across one of the offices of the Provisional Electoral Commission (or the CEP).  Remember, these are the guys who ran the elections, and are also the ones that many hold responsible for having reported fraudulent results.

UN troops were standing guard at the CEP office building when suddenly rocks and bottles came raining down on their heads.  The protesters, who had been peacefully held back until this point, started to approach the line of troops, and the UN engaged.  Using flash grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets, the UN troops pushed back an increasingly violent crowd that was slowly creeping towards the CEP.  The rocks came from all directions, and the UN troops were outnumbered.  They jumped into their tanks and drove full speed towards the protesters, temporarily scattering them before they would quickly reconvened.

UN-Troop-Ready-to-Fire

UN-Troop-Throwing-Flash-Grenade

UN-Troops-with-Two-guns

Protesters-Running-From-UN

Tear gas filled the air and we left the area, heading up the hill towards the CEP office in Petionville.  There we found another protest that, while much smaller, proved to be much worse.  About a dozen protesters were throwing rocks at UN troops there, but the UN response could only be characterized as irresponsible.  Rubber bullets flew past the protesters and into crowds of people surrounding the area.  A tear gas canister also missed its target and landed in the middle of a nearby tent camp, causing it’s residents to flee from the toxic fumes.

And then, just 10 feet away from Ben, a flash grenade exploded right underneath one of the protester’s feet.  He hobbled away from the intersection and looked down at his foot, which was now riddled with shrapnel and bleeding profusely, and then collapsed on the sidewalk.  He started to moan as fellow protesters assessed his wounds.  His foot was badly injured, and the first layer of skin on his legs had been burned off.  We helped him up, and then carried him to a clinic nearby where we left him slumped on a chair as he waited for medical attention.

Protesters-Throwing-Rocks

Protester-Injured

The question now is whether the protests will continue with this intensity.  President Rene Preval spoke on the radio this afternoon asking for protesters to stop the violence and accept the results.  Michel Martelly came out with a statement of his own saying that the people have the right to fight for their vote, but also asking that the violence end.

The city will remain on lock-down until this dies down, but that could take days, if not weeks.  American Airlines has canceled its flights for today (Wednesday) and tomorrow, and the US embassy has warned American citizens to avoid the streets.  There are less gunshots tonight than last night, which is a good sign, but only time will tell if that means that order is being restored, or if the people are just resting for yet another day of chaos in Port-au-Prince.

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Richard-Dumel-Side

Recording-Audio-CU

The streets of Port-au-Prince are filled with violent protests tonight after the Provisional Electoral Committee (CEP) released the results of an election that has been fraught with allegations of widespread fraud and irregularities.  In a press conference at a concert hall in Petionville, CEP Spokesman, Richard Dumel, read the results as throngs of local reporters held their phones and voice recorders to speakers hanging from the ceiling.  There were 19 candidates for president, but only the top three received enough votes to be notable.  Here is the breakdown:

Mirlande Manigat – 31.37%

Manigat

Jude Celestin – 22.48%

Jude Celestin
(Photo by Ben Depp)

Michel Joseph Martelly – 21.84%

Michel-Martelly

The top two candidates, Manigat and Celestin, will now go on to a run-off that will take place on January 16th.  The reason why there are countless gunshots outside our complex, burning barricades in the streets, and loud explosions filling the night is because Michel Martelly will now be left out of the second round.  A heavy favorite amongst the people in Port-au-Prince, Martelly’s followers are now flooding the streets and protesting results that they claim are fraudulent.  Jude Celestin, who is backed by current President Rene Preval, has been accused of election fraud throughout the country, which makes this announcement that much harder to swallow for the Haitian people.  At one road-block that Ben came up to, they asked him for gasoline so they could light a truck on fire that the protesters had pulled into the street.  He said ‘no’, and they then threw rocks at him.  We passed the same road-block 10 minutes later, and they had, in fact, lit the truck on fire.

Vote-Tallies

We then quickly drove towards our houses (we live almost next-door to each other), but as we were driving we passed by the market which had a large group of people congregated around it.  Amongst the protesters was a man who works with the CEP that I had met while getting my credentials.  I approached him and asked him how he was doing.  He explained that he was scared, and that he needed to get out of the market area.  “I have CEP on my back,” he explained, “these guys are going to kill me.”  He looked around nervously as he scarfed down some street food.  “They’re going to burn down the city,” he whispered, “this is not good.”

He explained that the people are unhappy with the results, and that they should be…as they were incorrect. “President Preval put pressure on us,” he explained, “we were forced to include Celestin in the second round.”  I was shocked, this man was clearly scared for his life, yet he was divulging this huge bomb of information that the President of Haiti forced one candidate out of the run-off, and inserted his own hand-picked candidate into his place.  “We kicked Martelly out of the race, and now the people are going to destroy the city,” he said.  I prodded further, asking him what the correct percentages were.  “Manigat had 39%, Martelly had 27%,” he said, “and Celestin had 15%.”  If these are, in fact, the correct results, then Michel Martelly has been cast aside from the second round of an election that he fairly won a chance to participate in.

The man had been abandoned by his colleagues at the CEP who had “escaped to the hills”, and he pleaded with us to give him a ride to his home in lower Delmas, which is not a good part of town (especially considering what was happening).  Things were quickly escalating, and the people around us were starting to give the man dirty looks and yelling angerly at him.  We told him to jump on the back of the motorcycle, “We need to get out of here, NOW,” Ben exclaimed as he started the bike.  We took the man down the street to an empty street corner and let him off, going any further would have been dangerous as ahead of us in the road was a newly started fire.  As we pulled away the man stood in the middle of the road, searching for somewhere to go, or someone to bring him to safety.  He had been abandoned by his co-workers, and now had to defend himself amongst his own people, all because of a decision the CEP was forced to make.

We went straight home, passing a barricade that a group of men were putting up at the entrance to our neighborhood.  Ben, graciously, allowed me to drive his motorcycle home, as the streets were no longer safe to walk on.  “If you’re going to go, go now,” he hastily said, “and don’t stop.”  Ben is a really level-headed guy, so when he says that it’s not safe you know it’s not safe.  I accelerated down the road towards my complex as a group of men were congregating in an alley ahead of me, and made it safety home as the sound of gunshots filled the air.

The following days are expected to be filled with more protests and, I’m assuming, an appeal by Martelly.  According to the man from the CEP, these results are final, and they will now just move on to the run-off, but I was also told that the final results would not be released until just before Christmas, and that these were just preliminary.  Either way the people here feel slighted, and are upset that yet another election has resulted in the same fraud that has permeated their government for decades.

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