PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Protesters enraged by the results of Haiti's troubled presidential election set barricades and political offices ablaze, traded blows with U.N. peacekeepers and shut down the country's lone international airport Wednesday, creating the social upheaval many have feared since the Jan. 12 earthquake.
The fallout from the Nov. 28 election, riddled by fraud, is violently shutting down cities across the impoverished country with gunfire and barricades at a moment when medical aid workers need to tackle a surging cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 2,000 lives.
Haiti's Radio Metropole reported that at least one demonstrator was killed in Les Cayes, about 120 miles west of Port-au-Prince in the country's southern peninsula.
The protesters back popular carnival singer Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, who narrowly lost a spot in a runoff election to Jude Celestin, a political unknown viewed by supporters and detractors alike as a continuation of unpopular President Rene Preval's administration. The U.S. Embassy criticized the preliminary results Tuesday, saying Haitian, U.S. and other international monitors had predicted that Celestin was likely to be eliminated in the first round.
On Wednesday, demonstrators carried pink signs with pictures of Martelly. They decorated barricades with empty ballot boxes, used government campaign posters to start fires and challenged heavily armed foreign soldiers to near-theatrical confrontations.
Preliminary election results put Celestin ahead of Martelly by just 6,845 votes for second place, while former first lady and law professor Mirlande Manigat took first place. The top two candidates advance to the Jan. 16 second round.
Thousands were disenfranchised by confusion on the voter rolls, which were overstuffed with earthquake dead but lacked many living voters. There were reported incidents of ballot-stuffing, violence and intimidation confirmed by international observers.