PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The United States has no plans to halt aid to earthquake-ravaged Haiti in spite of a crisis over who will be the nation's next leader, but it does insist that the president's chosen successor be dropped from the race, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday.
Clinton arrived Sunday in the impoverished Caribbean nation for a brief visit. She met with President Rene Preval and earlier met with each of the three candidates jockeying to replace him.
Only two candidates can go on to the delayed second round, now scheduled for March 20. The United States is backing an Organization of American States recommendation that the candidate from Preval's party, government construction official Jude Celestin, should be left out in favor of populist rival Michel Martelly.
The top U.S. official at the United Nations, Susan Rice, said recently that "sustained support" from the United States required the OAS recommendations be implemented. Many Haitian officials, including leaders of Preval's Unity party and Martelly, interpreted that to mean the United States was threatening an embargo and cutting off aid.
Clinton flatly rebuffed that suggestion. "We're not talking about any of that," she said Sunday.
"We have a deep commitment to the Haitian people," she told reporters. "That goes to humanitarian aid, that goes to governance and democracy programs, that will be going to a cholera treatment center."
Asked whether there were any set of circumstances that would prompt Washington to cut off aid, Clinton said, "At this point, no."
Still, she insisted that the United States would press the recommendations by international monitors after a disorganized, fraud-ridden first-round presidential vote in November. They determined that Preval's preferred successor, Celestin, finished last and should drop out. Celestin has yet to do so.
Haiti is in a deepening and potentially destabilizing political crisis. The announcement of preliminary results from the disputed first round led to rioting in December. Final results are expected to be announced Wednesday.
Just five days after, on Feb. 7, comes the constitutional end of Preval's five-year term.