Haiti Inauguration

May 14, 2011 by staff 

Haiti InaugurationHaiti Inauguration, Haiti officially receives a pop star for a charismatic president today as Michel Martelly takes over with many promises to keep. Won by appealing to young voters tired of leaders who do not provide basic services.

Martelly Haiti promised to rebuild quake-devastated capital, develop the field, long-neglected and build a modern army. But Martelly faces challenges in meeting its ambitious promises are clear. He was to be sworn in front of the Palacio Nacional in the country collapsed and a neighborhood full of thousands of people displaced by the magnitude of last year, 7.0 degrees.

Saturday is an historic day for Haiti. For the first time in U.S. history, presidential power was handed over peacefully. Michel Martelly will succeed President Rene Preval, a former musician turned politician. Martelly also be the first Haitian head of state chosen from the catastrophic earthquake last year. Robert Siegel speaks with Jacqueline Charles, Caribbean correspondent for The Miami Herald.

Haiti won its independence over two centuries. But in all that time, no democratically elected president, has voluntarily handed over power to another democratically elected president from the opposition. Tomorrow, that changes. President Rene Preval became president of Haiti band Martelly retired musician-turned-politician Michel.

And now I join the capital of Haiti is Jacqueline Charles, The Miami Herald. She will be on hand for the presidential inauguration on Saturday.

Jacqueline, welcome back to the program.

Ms. JACQUELINE CHARLES (Caribbean Correspondent, The Miami Herald): Thanks for having me.

Siegel: And first, there is a sense in Port-au-Prince; the story is in the making? Or, given the devastation that remains from last year’s earthquake are still feeling silenced?

Ms. KENT: I?? Think that feelings are more subdued than that. This is a historic moment for Haiti, but I do not think the average person on the street really realize this. They have just suffered so much after this earthquake it tomorrow represents change, and represents the opportunity of hope.

Siegel: It has been reported that eight presidents who live in Haiti have been invited to the celebration tomorrow. And that has proven to be an invitation for controversy when it comes to former president Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. How do you manage that?

Mrs. CHARLES: Yes, it is. Is controversial. What we have is human rights activists and victims have basically called the invitation scandalous. There are various rumors that are being carried on today as to whether or not this invitation is rescinded. We do not know if that is the case or whether or not Jean-Claude Duvalier is displayed.

And I can tell the judge says he is under house arrest, but he is very much a social butterfly in this country, while their fate hangs by a thread.

Siegel: But is ostensibly under house arrest in Haiti?

Ms. KENT: When I talked to the coroner told me in no uncertain terms that Jean-Claude is under house arrest and had no restrictions on when one could travel. I can tell you two nights ago; I was eating at a restaurant. Formed after 10 hours, after this curfew, and Jean-Claude had two places away from me.

Siegel: I see.

Ms. CARLOS: So, Jean-Claude is out, and he is ignoring the arrest, but it is being investigated by the Haitian National Police.

Siegel: Well, let’s talk about the outgoing president, Rene Preval. What is the legacy we leave behind when the band’s hands tomorrow?

Ms. KENT: I?? Think there are two things about Rene Preval. First, did it his way. The first time I was president, who was given the power of his mentor, Jean-Bertrand Aristide – and I remember five years ago, he returned to the political arena to run for president, someone told me, Jacqueline, who just want it (unintelligible) in the history books to say he did it his way this time. And I can definitely say without a shadow of Aristide.

On the other hand, perhaps the only Haitian president in 207 years of history to complete the double of his term, handing over power. And now a feat in third place, which is to hand over power to an opposition member. That is enormous in a country that had almost three dozen coups, foreign intervention. So, yes, Rene Preval, for many people, the country did not progress as hoped. But the guy has had bad luck.

Have had four major storms back to back in 30 days. Has the hemisphere’s worst natural disaster. And before this disaster, the country was basically in a phase of expansion. But he went and found the nation to the brink of armed gangs. And then someone told me, Jacqueline, nobody asks to save the country, only to slow down, because Haiti at that time was in a downward spiral.

Siegel: Well, let me ask you about the man who tomorrow will be president. And that’s Michel Martelly, a former singer. Some of us first met when he attacked our mobile phones with the kind of hip-hop message in Creole, urging us to vote for the number eight.

What do you do as president? What is your first order of business?

Ms. KENT: Well, it interesting. Michel Martelly, on the eve of its inauguration, is beginning to find out what it means to be president of this country. I just move their headquarters, and there are about 200 people, volunteers who have been sweeping the streets since April and are now demanding some kind of return, the reward for them.

I think what we are finding is that he is entering into this office where there is much hope. But there are a lot of challenges. He had made many promises during the electoral campaign: free education, employment, you know, land reform, 2,000 houses a week. And so to those who voted for him, who will be looking to him to offer, and the next 100 days will be very critical of his presidency.

Siegel: That’s Jacqueline Charles, Caribbean correspondent for The Miami Herald. She joined us from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she will be covering tomorrow’s presidential inauguration.

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