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Haiti: mass protests erupt over vote count
Nearly a week after Haitians went to the polls in the first election since the 2004 Washington-backed coup and subsequent US invasion, official results have yet to be announced, and the impoverished Caribbean country is spiraling into another intense political crisis.
More than 10,000 people poured into the streets of the capital of Port-au-Prince Sunday demanding that Rene Préval, the overwhelming winner of the election, be named president and denouncing the right-wing politicians controlling the vote counting for attempting to rig the results.
The protest saw large crowds march on the presidential palace from the city’s shantytowns as United Nations troops and Haitian police armed with automatic weapons took up positions to repress any potential upheavals. On Monday, as protesters erected barricades in a number of parts of the city, UN troops opened fire on demonstrators, reportedly killing one and wounding at least four.
The February 7 election represented a massive popular repudiation of the US-backed coup staged two years ago and the right-wing interim regime installed by US Marines and United Nations “peacekeepers.”
As of Monday, with ballots from 90 percent of the polls reportedly counted, the electoral council gave 48.7 percent of the votes to Préval, a former political ally of Jean Bertrand Aristide, the elected president who was ousted in the bloody coup of February 2004 and then forcibly removed from the country by US forces. Préval was the prime minister in Aristide’s first government in 1991, succeeding him as president in 1996, and then turning the presidential palace back to Aristide in 2001.