(AP) An impasse that led Haiti to suspend elections indefinitely could undermine efforts to reduce poverty and shore up democracy unless a solution is found soon, according to the chief of the U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti.
Sandra Honore, the top United Nations envoy to Haiti, told The Associated Press that it’s important for the suspended electoral cycle to be resolved as quickly as possible “given the tense moments that the country is living right now.” For 12 years, the world body has kept a mission in Haiti designed to focus on security and stability.
“I would hope that reason will prevail and that the best possible solution will be arrived at to prevent the country from regressing,” she told AP in a Tuesday interview at the headquarters of the U.N. mission.
A presidential and legislative runoff was called off less than 48 hours before the Jan. 24 vote was set to begin amid a surge of violent protests and deep suspicion that a first round was rigged in favor of the ruling party’s presidential candidate.
Outgoing President Michel Martelly is scheduled to step down Feb. 7, threatening to leave a political vacuum.
For days, Haiti’s political leaders and others with influence have been working to find a solution to the crisis.
Martelly has asked the Organization of American States to send a mission to help Haitians reach agreement, and he has also asked several sectors to pick members for a new Provisional Electoral Council, which oversees the country’s election process. On Wednesday, however, the Economic Forum asked Provisional Electoral Council President Pierre-Louis Opont to step down.
Hours later, the OAS approved Martelly’s request with Nicaragua and Venezuela both expressing concerns. They noted that Haiti’s ongoing political crisis was being discussed by their leaders and 30 others at the Latin American and Caribbean States summit in Quito, Ecuador and they didn’t want to duplicate efforts or go against their respective government’s decisions on the crisis.
But with the clock ticking on the end of Martelly’s five-year term on Feb. 7 and no agreement on how the country will be governed in his absence, Haiti’s Permanent Representative to the OAS Bocchit Edmond said, “we have no time to spare.”
“This is not an invitation to meddle in our affairs,” Edmond said during an OAS hearing in Washington on Haiti’s disputed electoral process. “It has been rather an appeal to solidarity, for assistance in asking you to observe Haitians finding a Haitian solution.”
Evalliere Beauplan said he doesn’t see the need for the OAS and senators were currently reviewing several proposals. “Everybody agrees that President Martelly has to go on Feb. 7 and we are working on a formula to replace him. The Senate is working, the Church is working, the private sector is working. I don’t see a reason why he needs to invite the OAS. They have no place in this right now.”
“The international community needs to take a step back, and give us a chance today to find a solution among ourselves. Every time the international community involves itself in our affairs, it handicaps the country,” he said.
The violent opposition protests that flared in the capital last week have died down. Some pro-government demonstrations have taken place outside Port-au-Prince. In northern Haiti, government supporters demanding elections, blocked the entrance to a border market, a university and the Caracol Industrial Park with strategically placed street blockades. Some 6,000 workers were unable to make it to work inside the park, costing tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue to the Haitian economy, a park official said.
Honore called on political actors to publicly repudiate violence in Haiti, the hemisphere’s poorest country and one of the most unequal in the world.
“In order to attract investment, in order to be able to create more jobs, which the country desperately needs, these acts of violence and acts of intimidation only serve to deter” progress in Haiti, she said.
The U.N. mission, largely made up of a foreign force of troops and police, has been in Haiti since the chaos following a 2004 rebellion that ousted then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The mission is deeply unpopular with many Haitians. Scientific papers have suggested there is ample evidence to show that U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal inadvertently brought cholera to Haiti after human waste was dumped in the country’s biggest river, some 10 months after a January 2010 earthquake devastated much of Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. The epidemic has killed some 9,000 people.
Miami Herald Staff Writer Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report.