Strife-Torn Haiti Delays Presidential Elections

U.N. soldiers Wednesday took control of a section of the capital Port-au-Prince after four people were killed in clashes between U.N. peacekeepers and criminal gangs, the United Nations said.

Troops are conducting around-the-clock patrols of Cite Militaire, near the downtown area, in an effort to quell gang violence, said Lt. Col. Jorge Smicelato, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, Reuters reported.

The move followed an incident Tuesday in which gunmen opened fire on a U.N. patrol, and four people described as “bandits” were killed when the U.N. troops returned fire.

“Now the situation is calm. We registered absolutely no incidents. Our troops are there and will stay there,” said Smicelato, who is with the Brazilian contingent.

Cite Militaire has been the site of several killings and kidnappings in the past few months. Gangs have used the section of the city as a refuge when they were forced to flee other areas where Haitian police and U.N. troops have had more of a presence.

The ongoing incidents of violence and a general lack of security has forced the country to delay the last official voting date set by Haiti’s electoral council of Nov. 20.

Electoral council spokesman Stephan Lacroix said Wednesday that the council would like the presidential elections to be held Dec. 27, with a possible runoff Jan. 31, according to Reuters.

A Feb. 7 deadline for the inauguration of an elected president is set under the constitution.

The national elections would be the first in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, since 2000.

The previously elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was run out of office Feb. 29, 2004, by a bloody rebellion and international pressure.

“If we don’t have a new leader at the presidential palace by Feb. 7, 2006, this country will face a catastrophic situation,” said Guy Philippe, a leader of the rebels who helped oust Aristide and now a presidential candidate.

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