Haiti candidates add cholera to list of problems

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Some politicians are using it to inflame opposition to the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, a foreign force of troops and police that has been the dominant security force in Haiti since 2004. U.N. peacekeepers are in charge of security for the elections.

Several global health experts suspect that a contingent of Nepalese peacekeepers brought the disease when they arrived in early October, shortly before the first cases were reported nearby. A number of candidates, including Martely, share that view.

Protests broke out in the second-largest city, Cap-Haitien, on Monday and spread to several other cities. Demonstrators burned cars and stoned U.N. bases to demand the soldiers leave the country.

The Organization of American States and the U.N. say they are confident that the elections will go off as planned, and that the cholera outbreak should not force a delay.

“If we don’t have elections, we will have a political vacuum of power that would probably even worsen the situation in the country,” U.N. peacekeeping mission spokesman Vincenzo Pugliese said.

Martely is not so sure.

“If the health ministry thinks that we are helping the expansion of the cholera (by campaigning), they need to tell us,” he said.

His wife, Sophia, went further, calling the cost of the election “outrageous.” “It could have been spent on the people in the tents, or cholera,” she said. But as long as the vote stays on the calendar, she said, he would have no choice but to continue.

Cholera only adds to the complications of the election, which started under the shadow of boycott threats.

Exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party was disqualified before even presenting a presidential candidate. Other opposition groups accused President Rene Preval of rigging the vote.

Nineteen contenders survived a midsummer round of disqualifications, including the popular bid of Haitian-American rapper Wyclef Jean.

There is no clear front-runner, with polls contradictory and unreliable. Among those on the ballot are two ousted former prime ministers, a garment factory owner and the wife of a former president who served briefly under a junta that ousted him in coup d’etat.

Jude Celestin, head of Haiti’s state-run construction company, leads by at least one measure: the number of high-priced billboards and posters slapped on walls in Port-au-Prince, along with the backing of Preval’s increasingly unpopular Unity party.

Martely also is making a strong bid.

The longtime “president of kompa” has ruled the jazzy, Latin, African and R&B-infused genre in recent decades with sensuous love songs, anti-authoritarian wisecracks and a routine that consisted in large part of pulling his pants down on stage.

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