The first round of voting in the Haitian presidential election, which took place in an already troubled context, poses serious questions for Haiti and for Latin America as a whole. Haiti is struggling to rebuild itself after the devastating earthquake in January, which killed a quarter of a million people and injured 300,000 more. Secondly, there is widespread unrest over the fact that Nepalese troops serving with the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) have been identified as the source of a virulent strain of cholera. This was spread by the contaminated Artibonite river, which runs past one of their camps. The country's first outbreak for over a century has killed about 2,000 people so far, but the official figure does not include those who have died in remote areas. As for the election itself, the international monitors have criticised the poor organisation, intimidation, and fraud. Haitian citizens complained that votes were cast in the name of people who were dead and of incomplete and inaccurate electoral registers. Even the leading candidate, the ruling Unity party's Jude Célestin was not on the roll; the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) cast a proxy vote for him. Post-election violence that led city-dwellers to flee to rural camps, where the risk of cholera was very high, has caused at least one death.
The candidates' own reactions do not help. The second and third-placed candidates, Mirlande Manigat, the wife of a former president, and Michel Martelly, a former kompa jazz musician, soon disagreed with each other and then both rejected the idea of a recount promised by the CEP. Ms Manigat withdrew her charge of fraud, and Mr. Martelly declared himself the real winner. In any case a recount alone is unlikely to restore confidence, and none of the candidates has said whether or not they will accept the recount results. The main regional grouping, the Organization of American States (OAS), has been slow to react and the involvement of its expert panel in the recount has only lengthened that process. An honourable Latin American exception is Cuba, whence no less a person than Fidel Castro immediately issued a statement calling for calm and mentioning that Cuba sent 300 doctors and nurses as soon as cholera broke out. The tardiness on the part of the OAS stands in sharp contrast to the conduct of the African Union (A.U.) and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which have moved quickly over electoral problems in Côte d'Ivoire; the A.U. has appointed its own mediator as well. Latin American states can enhance their global standing, which their resistance to neoliberalism has strengthened, by helping their needier neighbours.