Haiti Protest Turns Deadly Amid Anger Over Election

(Calgaryherald)

Haiti virtually shut down Wednesday as citizens took to the streets by the thousands to protest, sometimes violently, the preliminary results of last month's elections.

At least four people were killed during clashes that left businesses, schools and the airport closed while United Nations and humanitarian aid workers were ordered to stay inside.

The capital's main streets, normally choked with traffic, were blocked with burning tires and debris, rocks and concrete blocks. The skies over the city were blackened with the acrid smoke of burning rubber.

Michel Martelly, a popular singer, was pegged as one of two presidential candidates, along with former first lady, Mirlande Manigat, to go to a run-off vote next month.

Instead, Jude Celestin, the hand-picked candidate of the now despised President Rene Preval, beat out Martelly by just 6,800 votes -- less than one percentage point.

The announcement, made late Tuesday, brought the expected outrage from the population after an election marked by reports of ballot-box stuffing and destruction, and confusion over voter lists.

"The people categorically reject Jude Celestin," said Jean Willigens Lamy as he walked through a gust of black smoke.

"He's an incompetent fox who has never spoken to us."

Some in the crowd tore down Celestin campaign posters, burning an oversized image in a main intersection.

Much of the blame for the anger lies with Preval, who is hesitant to speak in public and said little even when he campaigned for the presidency in 2006.

"The country is on fire and he doesn't say anything," said one man watching the crowds flow by on Rue Delmas.