Lively election debate among Haiti expats living in Brooklyn

A UN police officer from Nepal patrols inside the Haitian vote tabulation center as electoral employees count ballots in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday.

They many not have voted in last Sunday's election, but thousands of Haitians living in Flatbush are anxiously waiting - and debating - the future of their home country.

In barbershops, restaurants and bakeries throughout the neighborhood, residents are reading the papers, listening to the radio and arguing over who can best lead the beleaguered island nation.

"That's the only thing we've been talking about for days," said Ricot Dupuy, station manager at Radio Soleil D'Haiti on Nostrand Ave. "Of course, this is the mother of all events, the biggest since the earthquake."

As polls closed in Port-au-Prince last Sunday, 4.5 million Haitians voted for either popular singer Michel (Sweet Micky) Martelly or former first lady Mirlande Manigat - and Haitians here in Brooklyn have eagerly discussed their options.

"On an average day, we take in 100 calls a day, between call-in shows and off-the-air," said Dupuy. "Since the election, we're talking about 1,000 calls a day, definitely 10-15 times more calls than we do normally."

At Rehoboth Haitian Restaurant at Cortelyou Road and Nostrand Ave. yesterday, a group of livery cab drivers argued about the candidates and the election over plates of mushed corn, beans and red snapper.

"The way the country is now, devastated, people sleeping on the streets, whoever wins has to do better," said driver Ducarmel Vilbon, 48.

"I'm not crazy for one guy or the other, but we're one Haiti, one nation, and if you lose, tell the other one 'congratulations' and help."

Baker Marie Voltaire, 35, said she's excited for the prospect of a female president, adding that Martelly's reputation as misogynistic and vulgar would make Haiti the laughingstock of the world, were he president.

"Sweet Micky is an entertainer but he's nasty and very bad," said Voltaire at the Chen Bakery on Nostrand and Tilden Aves. "Every Haitian, not just in New York but in the U.S., is talking about this; I argued with my sister in Dallas yesterday."

Manigat and Martelly finished atop a field of 19 candidates who vied for the presidential post in November. On March 31, Haiti's electoral commission will announce the winner of Sunday's runoff.

"All we can do is observe the election closely," said Patrick Goby, 43, owner of Goby's Barbershop. "We can't do anything but talk and wait for the results. There's a lot of work to do back home."


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