(CNN) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned early Monday from a one-day visit to Haiti with major concerns about the Caribbean nation’s presidential elections.
Still, she said that any political differences would not affect U.S. support for Haiti, an already impoverished country devastated by an earthquake last year and a deadly cholera outbreak in recent months.
“We are not talking about any of that,” Clinton told reporters. “We have a deep commitment to the Haitian people. And that (applies) to humanitarian aid, it goes to governance and democracy programs.”
During the cholera outbreak, more than 200,000 people have been sickened and 4,030 have died as of January 24, according to the latest report posted by the public health ministry.
Clinton said Sunday she planned to keep up pressure on the Port-au-Prince government, headed by President Rene Preval, to honor recommendations from the Organization of American States related to who is on the ballot for its pivotal upcoming presidential runoff.
Shortly after the November 28 presidential elections, Haiti’s electoral council announced that former first lady Mirlande Manigat had won but lacked a majority of votes for an outright victory.
Initial results put her in a runoff with Jude Celestin, a protege of the president. The third-place candidate, popular musician Michel Martelly, claimed he had won more votes than Celestin and a review of results by an Organization of American States team supported that contention. That review suggested that Martelly earned a spot in the runoff.
“The international community has been very clear,” said Clinton, alluding to the U.S. support for allowing Martelly on the runoff ballot.
She met with all three potential candidates — Manigat, Celestin and Martelly — during her trip, as well as with President Rene Preval, whose term is scheduled to expire.
“As I understand the situation, there is a constitutional requirement for the date of February 7,” Clinton said in an interview with Radio Caraibes FM. “How that is interpreted and what the president and the people of Haiti decide is up to them, but it is important that the election go forward so there can be a new president.”
On Sunday, Clinton acknowledged “many complications” and “legitimate concerns,” including a tight timeline. But she added that the United States was in sync with the prevailing view of diplomats from North and South America, as well as the United Nations and European Union.
It’s unclear whether Preval’s ruling Inite (Unity) party plans to withdraw its support of Celestin in light of the election review.
Discontent with Preval and his government manifested itself on the streets of Haiti after the preliminary results were announced. Haitians charged vote fraud and burned cars, tires and Celestin’s campaign headquarters in Port-au-Prince.
The electoral council said it will announce the final results of the first round on Wednesday.
The runoff is scheduled for March 20, and final results will not be known until April 16.
CNN’s Moni Basu contributed to this report
Clinton misses the entire point.
She – like so many others – assumes that Manigat was the leading candidate in the November 28 elections.
This is simply not true. The real top three was Ceant-Baker-Martelly.
This is why all of the presidential candidate dropped out at 11 AM on election day and formed the Group of 12 to protest the criminal actions by Preval and his CEP. Preval picked Manigat as his candidate because she has absolutely no support among the Haitian population.
The original plan saw Manigat win, while Celestin lost – proving the election was really valid. Of course, Preval had given Manigat a Golden Handshake, an armoured SUV, home improvenets and a 20 year retroactive pension for her husband, Leslie. (No other past president has received anything) . Preval promised Manigat the full support of his INITE party in the run-off in return for the agreement Preval could name her Prime Minister and cabinet.
Then things became confused when Celestin made a concerted run and the CEP did favors for him.
However, the fact remains that Celestin, Manigat and Martelly were no the leaders of the vote.
The real winners were Ceant, Baker and Martelly.
Clinton says she wants the will of the Haitian people honored and then insists that a fraudulent result be forced upon the Haitian people.