News / Americas

    Haiti Opposition Alliance Declining to Meet With OAS Mission

    FILE - Presidential candidate Jude Celestin gives a news conference on Nov. 6, 2015, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
    FILE - Presidential candidate Jude Celestin gives a news conference on Nov. 6, 2015, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
    Associated Press

    A Haitian opposition alliance is declining to meet with a regional mission that traveled to this troubled Caribbean nation to help ease a political crisis that has postponed elections indefinitely.

    Samuel Madistin, spokesman for the "Group of Eight'' that includes second-place presidential candidate Jude Celestin, asserted Monday that the Organization of American States' mission was "not welcome'' and was "unable to play any role as a mediator.''

    "The OAS doesn't help Haiti come out of crisis. They create more crisis,'' Madistin said, pointing to its role in 2010 elections that saw Celestin get eliminated from a runoff after his reported second-place finish was challenged by foreign observers complaining of irregularities.

    The OAS mission is headed by Ronald Sanders, an Antiguan diplomat who is chairman of the Washington-based body's permanent council. Members arrived Sunday at the request of President Michel Martelly, who is required to leave office by Feb. 7 under the Haiti's constitution.

    In a statement issued Tuesday, Sanders said the OAS group would "speak to as many groups as possible'' in what he described as a fact-finding mission that would not "interfere, meddle or mediate'' in Haitian affairs. So far, they've met with officials including Martelly, the leaders of Haiti's bicameral legislature, and members of various political parties in the Senate.

    Sanders described the talks as constructive, "particularly because they are pointing toward a solution to the present difficulty.''

    Haiti is a member of the OAS.

    Senate President Jocelerme Privert, an opposition lawmaker, has said officials are trying to craft a workable solution after reviewing a number of plans for the way forward, including one proposed by the Group of Eight.

    Officials say there appears to be a measure of consensus emerging for a plan that would see Martelly stepping down as scheduled Feb. 7, an interim government taking over and a runoff vote held within a few months so an elected leader can take office.

    Kenneth Merter, the U.S. State Department's special coordinator for Haiti, told The Associated Press that he believes the vast majority of Haitians want to see the suspended electoral process settled.

    Merten said he hopes Haitian negotiators can soon find a "good solution that gives everybody something of what they want but that moves Haiti forward.''

    Washington does not have a desired outcome, he insisted. The U.S. wants Haitians to democratically decide on their next leader and "not to have a small group of people deciding the country's fate,'' Merten said.

    Recent violent protests stoked by the opposition and counter-protests organized by Martelly's party have ramped up tensions.

    Haiti had been scheduled to hold a presidential and legislative runoff Jan. 24. But the now-splintered provisional electoral council canceled it for a second time amid the protests and suspicion that the first round was marred by widespread fraud favoring Martelly's chosen candidate, Jovenel Moise.

    Second-place finisher Celestin rejected the first-round results as a "farce'' and announced a boycott of the runoff.

    While there have been a number of opposition boycotts in recent decades, historians say this was the first time in Haiti's young democracy that a presidential candidate boycotted a runoff after qualifying for it.

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