Thousands of Haitians participate in largely peaceful protests over long-delayed legislative elections with calls for President Michel Martelly to resign. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Haitians came out in the thousands Sunday (December 28) to express their frustration over the country's "crisis," in the words of the protesters, with many calling on President Michel Martelly to resign. The protests were largely peaceful and no major injuries were reported. Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is still recovering from a 2010 earthquake that leveled much of the capital, Port-au-Prince. In recent weeks, demonstrators in several cities have accused the government of corruption. Also at issue is three years of delays for a round of legislative elections. As an explanation, Martelly has cited "political stability" as a concern. The weeks of protests has already resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who quit after Martelly accepted the recommendations of a presidential commission appointed to defuse the crisis. Martelly attempted to cobble together a new government on Christmas Day when he announced via twitter the nomination of Evans Paul as new prime minister. Paul, 59, was a member of the commission and rose to prominence in the 1990s as an ally of controversial two-time former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, himself a fiery former liberation theology priest. The move has not been embraced by the leftist opposition in Haiti. The protests took place throughout Port-Au-Prince neighborhoods including La Saline and Bel-Air, among others. Many protesters rallied around the cause of ejecting Martelly from office. "Today we must find a way to get rid of Martelly as the head of this country and therefore we are not interested in negotiating with Martelly. We take this occasion to tell whoever claims to represent us that we are not interested in any position or job. The only thing we want from Martelly is for him to resign," said Rony Timothee, spokesperson for the grassroots Patriotic Force for the Respect of the Constitution (FOPARK) movement, which has ties to Fanmi Lavalas. The protesters attempted to take their cause to the grounds of the National Palace but were met by Haitian police. (The building itself was leveled during the 2010 earthquake.) If the elections are not held before Jan. 12, the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, parliament will shut down, leaving the country without a functioning government until presidential elections in late 2015.