PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Demonstrators wielding machetes and handguns gathered early Thursday morning in Port-au-Prince amid increased tensions surrounding Haiti's recent presidential elections.
Gunfire echoed throughout the night in the nation’s capital, and on early Thursday morning a charred and mutilated body of a man was found on a busy street in Petionville, considered one of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods.
Residents of the area said the victim was burned by a group of armed men, a gruesome incident that has added to a climate of fear and intimidation that has consumed the Haitian capital in the wake of the Oct. 25 first round of voting in presidential elections.
"The people here really can't sleep in peace," said Pierre Snay, a 36-year-old resident of Port-au-Prince. "There's fear of gangs coming into peoples' homes, causing problems and even raping women."
The attack on the man, whose identity was not immediately available, came just hours after thousands of demonstrators on Wednesday took to the streets in protest of President Michel Martelly and in response to opposition parties’ allegation of the president’s involvement in the highly contested elections.
International observers, led by the Organization of American States, which monitors elections across Latin America, acknowledged some voting irregularities, but has largely sanctioned the first round of voting.
But eight presidential candidates have called for an investigation into the voting that put Jovenel Moise, who is backed by President Martelly, in the lead with 32 percent of the vote. Initially, 54 candidates were vying for the presidency.
A runoff election is scheduled for Dec. 27 between Moise and Jude Celestin, which is expected to be the final round of voting that will determine the next president of the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.
Celestin is challenging the results of the Oct. 25 voting, which showed him securing 25 percent of the vote.
Assad Volcy, spokesman for the opposition Pitit Dessalines party, hit out at what he called an "electoral coup d'etat," as supporters of opposition parties rallied through Port-au-Prince.
"We do not trust the electoral courts and the CEP," Volcy said, referring to the provisional electoral council. "Our only recourse is the streets."
The demonstration was attended by Maryse Narcisse, a candidate who came in fourth in the voting and is legally challenging the results.
"I'm here to accompany the Haitian people, who demand respect for their vote," Narcisse said.
With wire services