Haiti’s new president vows to rebuild
He urges unity at inauguration
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A pop star known for his bad boy antics on stage, Michel “Sweet Micky’’ Martelly, became this earthquake-devastated country’s new president yesterday and urged Haitians to set aside their divisions and raise the country from rubble.
The 50-year-old was all business as he was inaugurated before thousands of well-wishers on the lawn of the collapsed National Palace.
He told his compatriots to respect laws, pay their taxes, and pitch in to ensure that Haiti moves forward after a massive earthquake last year flattened the capital and outer areas, killing more than 300,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands more living in tents.
Martelly spoke as if he wanted to distinguish himself from outgoing President Rene Preval, who was seen as aloof and meek.
“Hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, we’re going to change Haiti,’’ Martelly told the crowd in a mix of Creole and French. “We want to reestablish order and discipline in the country.’’
As if to dramatize the challenges facing this desperately poor country, a power outage interrupted the inauguration.
The inauguration marked the first time in Haitian history that a president had transferred power to a member of the opposition.
An emphatic and self-confident Martelly laid out his top priorities for rebuilding the country, a plan that focused on education, tax collection, security, and foreign investment. To “change the face of Haiti,’’ he said everybody had to do their part.
Martelly told his audience not to throw rocks in protest or build homes on precarious ravines. When he told his audience to pay taxes to improve services, the message seemed aimed at the business class sitting in the shade of the stands.
Louis Gary Lissade, a lawyer and former justice minister, said the new president wanted “no more monkey business.’’
“He told the business class to be straight,’’ Lissade said. “He talked about this civic duty: You must pay taxes.’’
Martelly reiterated a pledge to rebuild the crumbling capital of Port-au-Prince, revive an economically depressed countryside, and bolster security. Universal education for children, he said, would not only be free but also mandatory. The country has so far struggled to recover from the last year’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake and depends heavily on foreign aid.
“This is how Haiti is going to get out of its misery,’’ Martelly said. “Haiti was asleep — now it’s going to stand up.’’