MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – U.S. Senator Bill Nelson will brief Haitian-American leaders in Miami on Wednesday when he returns from a four day visit to their homeland.
In addition to meeting with Haitian President Michel Martelly, Nelson also made stops at the U.S. Coast Guard base, a health clinic, school, disaster response warehouse and emergency operations center – all supported by U.S. efforts to help the country rebuild from the 2010 earthquake.
Nelson said Tuesday that Haiti plans to hold overdue legislative and local elections before year’s end. The overdue vote came up in his discussions with Martelly on Monday.
“I pressed the president to do that,” said Nelson. “Likewise, he has indicated that, yes, by the end of the year they are going to hold elections.”
Haiti was supposed to hold legislative and local elections in November 2011, but political infighting among the government’s different branches has held up the vote.
An electoral council responsible for overseeing the elections wasn’t formed until April, and it still needs to approve a calendar for voting that will be largely financed by foreign governments.
The election is needed to fill one-third of Haiti’s 30-member Senate and dozens of local posts. In the absence of a vote, some 130 elected municipal officials have been replaced with presidential appointees.
Although it’s been nearly two years since Haiti held elections, there have been only sporadic protests calling for elections and intermittent pressure from foreign diplomats. Earlier this year, a former U.N. envoy in Haiti and the U.N. Security Council both called on the government to hold the vote this year, but the U.N. otherwise has been relatively quiet on the matter.
Nelson said he has visited schools and a cholera research facility run by the University of Florida.
He said he also met with Martelly’s critics in Parliament, including the presidents of Senate and the Chamber of Deputies and a dozen other senators.
“Of course, I couldn’t help but be reminded of how polarized the politics here (are), because not one of the opposition members of Parliament could say anything good about President Martelly,” Nelson said.
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