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Miami Herald: Célestin resists calls to pull out of election

February 2, 2011
In The News

By JACQUELINE CHARLES

Haitian presidential candidate Jude Célestin is resisting pressure from his political coalition to withdraw from the race and break an electoral impasse.

In a communiqué issued Wednesday, the coalition cited international pressure for the decision and said they remain convinced that Célestin won enough votes to advance into a second round of voting but that they decided not to provoke the international community.

``Along with all of the other intimidation, there is a sector of the international community that has been threatening to put an embargo on the backs of the people who are already suffering,'' the group said. ``They've threatened to cut off all assistance. INITE understands the game well. And what is happening today has happened before in the country.''

Joseph Lambert, head of the INITE (UNITY) coalition, told The Miami Herald that Célestin plans to continue in the race: ``We asked him to remove himself and he said, `I am not made that way. It is not part of my mental fabric.' ''

The Organization of American States suggests in a report that the runoff should be between first-place finisher Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, and singer Michel ``Sweet Micky'' Martelly, who finished third. The report cited massive election fraud. Preliminary election results had Manigat first and Célestin, the hand-picked candidate of President René Préval, second, with Martelly trailing by several thousand votes.

Célestin's lawyers contend that he should advance, arguing that the OAS report's methodology was flawed, Lambert said.

Préval has held several meetings with coalition members to persuade Célestin to withdraw but the candidate has not attended any, officials said.

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, last week warned Haiti it could lose international assistance if it doesn't accept OAS recommendations.

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who has pushed for a new election, criticized the U.S. and the OAS, saying the international community is ``being influenced by the elite forces and some people out of Miami'' to determine who makes the runoff.

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