Haiti candidate to challenge election results
PORT-AU-PRINCE: 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 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-yearold protester near the U.S. 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 U.N. 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 President Rene Preval's Unity party, traded blows with U.N. 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-riddled shut down cities across impoverished Haiti at a moment when medical aid workers need to tackle a surging cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 2,000 lives.
Haiti's Radio Kiskeya said in an unconfirmed report that at least four demonstrators were killed - three in Les Cayes, about 120 miles (193 kilometers) west of Port-au-Prince in the country's southern peninsula, and one in the northern city of Cap-Haitien. -Ap