UN, ambassador group pledges support for Haiti leader

AP News
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Posted: Jan 13, 2015 7:55 PM
UN, ambassador group pledges support for Haiti leader

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A group of ambassadors and the U.N. special representative in Haiti said Tuesday that President Michel Martelly has their support through a period of political flux that many observers worry could set the troubled country back.

In a statement, the group expressed frustration that an extraordinary session of Haiti's Parliament was not convened in recent days to authorize an electoral law needed to organize long-delayed legislative elections.

The signers, who included the ambassadors from the United States, European Union, Canada and Brazil, said Martelly enjoys their backing to ensure the "continuity of the state." The constitutionally mandated end of the legislature was Monday, and the president could now sign a decree allowing Haiti to hold legislative elections later this year.

The U.S. Embassy has stressed that Washington will continue to work with Martelly "and whatever legitimate Haitian government institutions remain" to safeguard gains made since a devastating 2010 earthquake. It expressed "grave concern" the political impasse has continued despite "wide-ranging concessions" by Martelly, including sacrificing his prime minister last month.

Political gridlock and partisan wrangling are nothing new in Haiti, and the stalemate between Martelly and opposition lawmakers has delayed legislative elections for years.

Martelly's staunchest political opponents accuse him of corruption and aspiring to rule by decree. He has accused them of blocking legislation that would help Haiti and trying to stir up instability that could discourage foreign investment.

On Sunday, after days of talks, Martelly announced an accord with leaders of several opposition parties, but not all his opponents, on moving toward elections and a consensus government. Among other things, they agreed that no representatives of the government or any political parties could be part of Haiti's next electoral council, which has responsibility for organizing votes.

In the face of that deal, a group of opposition activists vowed Tuesday to ratchet up disruptive street protests they hope can force Martelly's from office before his term ends next year. Anti-government protests with tire burning and rock throwing have grown increasingly common in recent months, causing disruptions in downtown Port-au-Prince.

"Martelly will not be able to hold onto power. He is not going to be able to remain. We're not going to stop until he leaves," Andre Michel, an opposition figure who is one of the few lawyers in Haiti who takes on legal cases critical of Martelly's government, told reporters.

The president and his spokesman made no comment, cancelling a news conference for international journalists in Haiti for the fifth anniversary of the 2010 earthquake.

But at a Monday memorial for those killed by the 2010 quake, Martelly thanked the opposition leaders who signed the accord and called for an end to protests that frequently devolve into violence.

"The country already has enough problems," he said.

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David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd