Haiti opposition alliance declining to meet with OAS mission

A Haitian opposition alliance is declining to meet with a regional mission that traveled to this troubled Caribbean nation to help mediate a solution to 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 here" and was "unable to play any role as a mediator."

"The OAS doesn't help Haiti come out of crisis. They create more crisis," insisted Madistin, 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 in Haiti on Sunday at the request of President Michel Martelly, who is required to leave office by Feb. 7 under the country's charter.

Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Senate President Jocelerme Privert said he was in a meeting with OAS officials. The opposition lawmaker has said officials are crafting 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 on Feb. 7, an interim government taking over and a runoff vote held within a few months.

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

Merten said he's hopeful that 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 the Haitian people to democratically decide who their next leader is, Merten said, and "not to have a small group of people deciding the country's fate."

Recent violent protests stoked by the opposition and counter-protests organized by the ruling party have ramped up tensions. It's not uncommon in Haiti for politicians and political activists to hire protesters to take the streets or for troublemakers to do their dirty work for them.

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

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

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


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