Haiti’s new president is promising change for the impoverished Caribbean nation still struggling to recover from last year’s devastating earthquake.
Thousands of supporters cheered as former pop star Michel Martelly delivered his inaugural address Saturday on the grounds of the collapsed presidential palace in the capital, Port-Au-Prince.
The 50-year-old performer known to Haitians as Sweet Micky pledged to build a better and stronger Haiti, to end injustice and restore order. And seeking to reassure foreign donors and potential investors, Martelly promised guarantees for investments and private property.
The new president was sworn in earlier Saturday. He takes over from Rene Preval, who took off the blue and red presidential sash at the swearing-in ceremony and put it on Martelly. This is the first democratic transfer of power from one party to another in Haiti’s turbulent history.
But in a sign of the infrastructure challenges Martelly has inherited, a power cut plunged the ceremony into darkness just moments before the oath of office.
Haiti was crippled by the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and made one million others homeless. Hundreds of thousands of people still live in tent camps, and millions continue to rely on non-governmental organizations to meet their basic needs. Martelly also faces the political challenge of working with a legislature controlled by the opposition party of Preval.
International donors have pledged billions of dollars in aid to help Haiti rebuild, waiting for the new government to take office before releasing it. But Martelly faces more challenges than just repairing the quake damage. Even before the quake struck, Haiti was the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, and was plagued by political violence and lawlessness, corruption and natural disasters.
Two former Haitian leaders, ousted ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and one-time dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, both live in the island nation, but did not attend the ceremony.