Sworn in as president, Martelly vows to 'change Haiti'
AFP, May 14, 2011
PORT-AU-PRINCE Newly sworn-in President Michel Martelly vowed Saturday to "change Haiti," promising to restore order and confidence in a country struggling to emerge from one of the most destructive earthquakes of modern times. "This is a new Haiti, open for business now," Martelly declared, standing before the ruins of the country's presidential palace as thousands outside its wrought iron gates cheered him on.
The following articles report on the inauguration of Michel Martelly to the Haitian presidency on May 14, 2011. CBC Radio News' Connie Watson reported on the ceremony, stating that Martelly signifies a "break from Haiti's past" but shamelessly neglecting his reported invitation to Jean Claude Duvalier to attend the ceremony, that the head of Martelly's transition team is the 60 year old Daniel Supplice, a former minister of Duvalier in the dying days of his tyrannical regime, and that Martelly has announced his wish to restore the Duvalierist Haitian army that was abolished in 1995. This follows Ms. Watson's reporting in March that Martelly was elected "overwhelmingly" by the Haitian people into the presidential office. In the second round runoff, he received the votes of 17% of registered voters. Large numbers of Haitians were unable to register.
Speaking in French and Creole, he pledged to restore security for investors, end political instability, and foster development "so we can emerge from our misery." "We are going to change Haiti," he promised.
As a reminder of the monumental task ahead of Martelly, the toppled white dome of the presidential palace could be seen peeping over the grandstand from which he addressed foreign and Haitian dignitaries, and the many poor, young Haitians who elected him March 20.
Much of the capital was levelled in a 7.0 magnitude quake in January 2010 that killed more than 225,000 people and left one in seven Haitians homeless, a devastating disaster for a country was already the poorest in the Americas. "The march to victory will be long and painful," Martelly acknowledged.
The bald, onetime carnival singer took the oath of office hours earlier, capping an astonishing rise to power for a man with a popular following but no previous political experience. Moments before he was sworn in, a power outage plunged into darkness the temporary parliament building where the ceremony was held. Lit up by the flash of news cameras as he raised his right hand, Martelly intoned: "I swear before God and the nation to faithfully obey the constitution and the laws of the republic." Outgoing president Rene Preval then removed the blue and red presidential sash, which was passed to Martelly in the first democratic transfer of power from one president to a political opponent in the country's turbulent history.
In a speech punctuated by applause and cheers, Martelly made clear that a top priority will be to restore confidence in government and he served notice to the country's police and judicial authorities: "No more injustice."
"We are going to re-establish the authority of the state," he said. "Authority and justice must shine on the entire country."
Thousands of cheering supporters massed outside the palace, welcoming Martelly with signs that said "Vive Tet Kale," or "Long Live Baldy" in Creole. Pressed against the fence, Marie-Edith Saintil, made a plea to the new president. "We are unemployed, we are hungry, we are faced with all sorts of problems, we are waiting for you to do what is good for us," she said.
Joseph Williams added: "We are waiting for the change the president has promised. He must be different from other presidents and give a place and standing to the young."
Martelly, a political novice who gained fame as a raucous performer known as "Sweet Micky," has his work cut out for him. Sixteen months after the earthquake, the pace of reconstruction is painfully slow for hundreds of thousands of traumatized survivors who lost everything and are forced to subsist in squalid tent cities around the still-ruined capital. Half of its 10 million people live off less than $2 a day. But Martelly's inauguration fills a leadership vacuum at the top and was expected to encourage foreign governments to release aid that has been sidelined by a fractious election process marred by fraud and outbreaks of violence.
One important guest was former US president Bill Clinton, the UN envoy who co-chairs the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission -- set up after the earthquake to hold the purse strings of some $10 billion in pledged aid.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and a dozen heads of state attended the ceremony, including President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Conspicuously absent were ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the shantytown priest who usurped him and became the country's first democratically elected president. Officials said they were not invited to the ceremony.
Their return from exile earlier this year reopened old wounds, and brought a new level of uncertainty to the political situation. Martelly will require enormous political talents to survive the often treacherous currents of Haitian politics.
He has just three members of his own fledgling Repons Peyizan party to work with in parliament as he looks to forge deals with Unity, Preval's ruling party which firmed its grip on power in the legislative elections. First-round election results led to deadly riots in December after Martelly was said to have finished third and out of the race. An outcry led by the United States ushered in a team of international monitors who found massive fraud in favor of the ruling party candidate.
Preval's handpicked protege Jude Celestin was eliminated from the race in February and Martelly was reinstated to compete in a long-delayed run-off against former first lady Mirlande Manigat.
Pop star-turned-president takes power in struggling Haiti
By Trenton Daniel, The Associated Press, Sat, 14 May, 2011
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Charismatic pop star-turned-president Michel Martelly took over Haiti on Saturday, promising to rebuild its earthquake-devastated capital, develop the long-neglected countryside and build a modern army. The 50-year-old performer known to Haitians as "Sweet Micky" was swept to power in a March 20 presidential run-off by Haitians tired of past leaders who failed to provide even basic services, such as decent roads, water and electricity in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.
Martelly was sworn in during a power outage in front of dozens of dignitaries including former U.S. president Bill Clinton, the UN's special envoy to Haiti, and Edmond Mulet, head of the UN mission that has maintained order in Haiti since 2004. Also present was Desi Bouterse, the president of Suriname who is on trial for the 1982 executions of 15 political opponents.
Former Haiti president Rene Preval took off the presidential sash and put it on Martelly as they shook hands and embraced, but did not say anything to each other. Martelly's wife, Sophia, then came on stage and adjusted the sash as their four children joined them. Martelly did not speak as he left parliament for the National Palace, where was to deliver a speech.
Outside the gated parliament, more than 1,000 Martelly supporters gathered. "Today is a party for us, for the masses, because the country is destroyed," said Esaue Rene, a 28-year-old mechanic who has high hopes for Martelly. "I would like him to bring jobs so that people aren't sitting around in public plazas because they don't have anything else to do."
Martelly appealed to young voters like Rene because he is the antithesis of Preval, who is seen as aloof and uninspiring. Martelly is effusive and charming. He once joked that he'd dance naked atop the National Palace if he were elected president.
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement congratulating Martelly. "The people of Haiti have shown patience and resolve in expressing their will and demonstrating their commitment to democracy and the electoral process," Harper said.
"This transition marks an important step on the road to recovery from the January 2010 earthquake and a milestone towards long-term stability and development." Harper said he was looking forward to working with Martelly as he rises to meet the challenges ahead of him.
The challenges Martelly faces in fulfilling his ambitious promises were clear Saturday. He was sworn in front of the country's collapsed National Palace and a shantytown filled with thousands of people displaced by last year's magnitude-7.0 earthquake that killed an estimated 230,000 people. During his campaign, he promised to build houses in the capital; bring economic development to the countryside; provide universal education for children; develop agriculture; and replace the discredited armed forces with a modern army capable of responding to natural disasters. The previous discredited army was disbanded by ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1995.
Political observers say speeding up the multibillion-dollar reconstruction effort is paramount. That means Martelly's administration must make progress building houses for the more than 600,000 people still living in settlements; stem a cholera epidemic that threatens to spread during the rainy and hurricane seasons; and strengthen the judiciary. And a parliament controlled by political opponents from Preval's party could make passing bills difficult.
He must he do all this quickly. "His administration will have to show progress fairly quickly in order to provide confidence to the population," said Mark Schneider, senior vice-president of the International Crisis Group in Washington, D.C.
Martelly will lead a country still divided over the presidential election itself. He was initially excluded from the runoff in favour of a candidate backed by Preval, only to be restored after the international community challenged the results. One sign of the division: Martelly's opponents have recently alleged that he holds dual Haitian-U.S. citizenship, which would disqualify him for the presidency. He denies the allegation.
In what some view as a reconciliation effort, Martelly invited to the inauguration both Aristide and Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, the former dictator who made a surprise return to Haiti in January. Neither of them attended the ceremony.
Since Duvalier came back, the ex-despot has been charged with embezzlement and human rights abuses, and advocacy groups have criticized Martelly for inviting him. "Martelly's facing the need to knit together a polarized country," Schneider said. "Haiti just went through an election which was riven by discord, disagreement, and unhappiness. And given the makeup of the parliament, he has the major task of forging a national government."
In the weeks since Haitian authorities declared him the winner, Martelly has toured the countryside to learn more about reconstruction projects, announced ways to finance free education, and formed a transition team, led by Duvalier's former social affairs minister, Daniel Supplice.
Martelly was well-known as an entertainer. But what kind of leader he makes, many in Haiti aren't sure. "He's unpredictable," said Patrick Elie, a defence minister under Aristide and an adviser to Preval. "He's got teeth that can both smile and bite. He's shown that."
With files from The Canadian Press