US government revokes more visas for Haitians

The U.S. State Department has revoked visas for a number of Haitian citizens, an American diplomat in the Caribbean country announced Thursday.

Jon Piechowski, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, declined to disclose the identities of the Haitians or to say if some or all were public officials, citing privacy rules for individual visa decisions. He also gave no specific number.

He would say only that the travel documents were lifted earlier this week because the holders "were no longer qualified to have those visas."

In January, the U.S. revoked the visas of about two dozen Haitian officials to step up international pressure that led Haiti's previous government to drop its favored candidate from a presidential runoff election.

There was widespread speculation on Haitian radio Thursday afternoon that Washington targeted Haitian electoral officials in the latest case because they refused to reverse the results in a handful of legislative races challenged by the U.S. and others for alleged election fraud.

Richardson Dumel, a spokesman for Haiti's electoral commission, declined to comment.

Under pressure from the international community, election officials last week reversed the results in 15 challenged legislative races but left four unchanged.

The U.S. Embassy said three of those seats were awarded to the political party of President Rene Preval, who handed over power Saturday, but should have gone to candidates of other parties.

Preval's Unity party has an absolute majority in the Senate and Unity members seem to be allying themselves with lesser known parties in a bid to expand their presence in the new government.

Musician Michel Martelly was sworn in as president before thousands Saturday. He said Wednesday that he would submit his pick for prime minister to parliament before the weekend.

A government official identified the nominee as Daniel-Gerard Rouzier, an auto dealership owner and president of a power company.

Rouzier could face a tough time being approved by parliament because Martelly's Peasant Response party has no senators and only three deputies.