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US Warns Haitians Against Election-related Violence

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Demonstrators run from tear gas fired by police trying to disperse an anti-government protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 24, 2016. Haiti was to hold a presidential and legislative runoff election on Sunday but it was put on hold indefinitely.

Demonstrators run from tear gas fired by police trying to disperse an anti-government protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 24, 2016. Haiti was to hold a presidential and legislative runoff election on Sunday but it was put on hold indefinitely.

As unrest in Haiti continues over a presidential runoff vote, the United States says it expects anyone responsible for election violence and intimidation in Haiti to be held accountable under the law.

"Electoral intimidation, destruction of property, and violence are unacceptable and run counter to Haiti's democratic principles and laws," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Sunday. "The United States, along with the international community in Haiti, urges the government of Haiti... to reject violence and take all steps necessary to pave the way for a peaceful election for a new president and remaining parliamentary seats."

Officials Friday unexpectedly canceled Sunday's presidential runoff because of what they called security concerns. A new date has not been set.

Under Haiti's constitution, a new president must be in office on February 7, when current president Michel Martelly's term ends.

Opposition candidate Jude Celestin has promised to boycott the runoff, alleging that the first round of voting in October was rigged in favor of the ruling party candidate, Jovenel Moise.

The government denies all allegations of election fraud. Demonstrations on both sides have turned violent with rock throwing, street barricades, and fires.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. It is still struggling to put together a lasting, stable democracy 30 years after the overthrow of the Duvalier dictatorship.

Without political certainty and stability, Haiti has a difficult time attracting badly-needed foreign investment.

Haiti is also still trying to recover from a 2010 earthquake that left parts of the capital in ruins.

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