Manigat seeks to stop influx of criminals to Haiti

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Haiti's former first lady and presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat on Friday decried the United States' deportation of criminals, saying it would lead to a rash of crimes in her Caribbean nation.

Washington had ordered a stop to the expulsions after last year's devastating quake in Haiti, but resumed them last month when it returned 27 Haitians with criminal records in the United States back to their homeland.

Manigat, the 70-year-old frontrunner in the disputed first round of voting in Haiti, faces singer Michel Martelly in a run-off for the presidential elections on March 20.

She told AFP on the sidelines of a conference in Montreal, "Haiti is poorly equipped to welcome these young criminals whom the US prison system failed to rehabilitate, and it will lead to an increase in Haiti's crime rate."

The quake and a cholera epidemic has left what was already one of the world's poorest countries in desperate need of international aid.

"We have a prison overpopulation problem too," Manigat added.

Last month, the Organization of American States asked Washington to suspend the deportations after one convicted criminal recently returned to Haiti died in prison after showing symptoms of cholera.