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Marco Rubio steps into Haiti elections fray -- again

via @Jacquiecharles

Sen. Marco Rubio is once more speaking out about Haiti's elections.

The Florida Republican has teamed up with Georgia Republican Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson to ask U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to step it up on Haiti's on-again, off-again final presidential round.  

"We urge the Department of State to use every tool at its disposal to ensure that Haitian authorities conduct elections by the agreed upon deadline," the letter said.

That would be Sunday under a Feb. 5 political accord outlining the steps for Haiti's interim leaders to transfer power to an elected president. The date, however, is impossible to meet. That means, while not yet official, the country's scheduled April 24 runoffs to elect a president and complete parliament, will be postponed for a third time.

Léopold Berlanger, the newly appointed head of Haiti's revamped elections body, said as much in his in his first news conference earlier this month.

"We cannot talk about the electoral calendar in the state that we're in," Berlanger said, referring to the chorus of doubts over the credibility of the final results of the Oct. 25 presidential first round pitting government-backed candidate Jovenel Moïse against opposition candidate Jude Célestin.

With Célestin having called for a boycott of the January runoff until sweeping changes were made to the process, and human rights, religious and opposition leaders demanding a verification of the results before the final round can take place, Berlanger said the election body has to figure out what’s ailing the process -- and how to fix it.

Haiti's opposition and local observer groups say the election was marred by widespread fraud, from ballot tampering to multiple voting. But Moïse, who held a $1,000 a-head-fundraiser in North Miami on Sunday before flying to Washington the next day to ramp up support for process to resume, disagrees.

So far, he's found a listening ear in the senators, and perhaps even Kerry, who last week echoed his ambassadors calls for Haiti to stop delaying the vote.

 “The Haitian players, the so-called leaders, need to understand there’s a clear limit to the patience, the willingness of the international community to condone this process of delay," Kerry said. The people of Haiti deserve an elected government...They deserve it now.”

To Rubio, Perdue and Isakson, the candidates in Haiti's crowded presidential race are nothing but sore losers who are using allegations of electoral fraud to get a second stab at winning. There were 54 candidates by the way.

"Our experience with Haiti lead us to believe that the postponement had less to do with the electoral process than it did with the losing candidates manufacturing a crisis in order to achieve a 'do-over' with the hope of a different result," the senators write. "This would set a terrible precedent for Haiti if allowed to succeed."

The senators go on to tell Kerry that "it is imperative that the administration play an energetic role to support those who are working for [stability and prosperity in Haiti] and to confront those who seek to sabotage democracy and the rule of law for their own self-interest."

Earlier this month, 60 Haitian American organizations and leaders endorsed a letter to Kerry telling him that verification was necessary in order to hold a second round.

"Haiti’s leading electoral observation bodies," the letter said, "consider a full and independent investigation into voting fraud to be an indispensable condition for re-establishing confidence in the electoral process."

Despite the United States' objections, interim Haitian President Jocelerme Privert is moving ahead with the verification. On Thursday, he will be at the United Nations in New York for the signing of the historic Paris agreement on climate change at the United Nations, where he also will be discussing the pending postponed elections. This will be Privert's first official visit to the United States since he was elected by a joint session of parliament on Feb. 14 to lead Haiti's second caretaker government in 12 years

--JACQUELINE CHARLES

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