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Haiti Protests Turn Violent

Prepared by: Eben Kaplan
February 14, 2006

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With most of the votes counted after Haiti’s chaotic February 7 presidential election (Economist), former President René Préval has only 48 percent of the vote, forcing a runoff on March 19 (LAT). Angry protestors took to the streets of Port-au-Prince, storming a luxury hotel in search of election workers and forcing the interntional airport to close. UN peacekeepers fired into the air to control the crowds and one man was killed. Préval flew into the capitol from his home village to express concerns about the vote count and try to stem the violence (WashPost).

If the runoff stands, Préval, profiled here in the Los Angeles Times, is likely to win. He has a strong lead over his nearest competitor Leslie Manigat, who served briefly as president in 1988.

Whatever the outcome, Haiti’s new president will face many challenges. A recent report by the Control Arms campaign documents Haiti’s rampant gun violence (PDF), which has caused thousands of refugees to seek safe haven in the United States (PhilaInquirer). High unemployment, violent gangs, and an under-informed electorate can also be counted among the nation’s ills (BBC), which have been documented by photographers for TIME and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Miami Herald examines how Préval might embark on the rebuilding process. But overcoming Haiti’s tumultuous tradition of authoritarianism (PBS) is a tall order, while the UN peacekeeping force has failed to bring peace to the troubled nation. A 2005 Amnesty International report provides some context to the current situation, which Human Rights Watch says will only improve with sustained international involvement. Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the UN undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, tells cfr.org’s Mary Crane that in order for stability to come to Haiti, the UN must “be very clear that we will really stay the course.”

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