PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A newly inaugurated Michel Martelly promised to change the image of his disaster-prone nation Saturday while leading it into a new era of modernity – a country where education will be free and obligatory, he told Haitians, and change will not be compromised.
“Hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, we are going to change Haiti. We are going to remake this country,” Martelly said, speaking forcefully and in Creole from the transformed grounds of the broken National Palace. “We cannot continue with this humiliation of having to extend our hand for help all of the time.”
Martelly opened his speech by acknowledging former President Eartha Truillot and Rene Preval, who, along with the Provisional Electoral Council, were jeered by the festive crowds looking at the ceremony through the wrought-iron green gate. Speaking in Creole, French and English, Martelly, 50, emphasized strong leadership and continued with his campaign of promises, saying that his will be a presidency that will not tolerate people blocking change, and that he will not tolerate anything preventing investments, including land anarchy and instability.
Turning to the international community, he said in English, “Haiti is open for business.”
Sitting in the audience was former U.S. President Bill Clinton, co-chair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission.
Martelly’s inauguration has been met with mixed reviews. While his supporters are optimistic that he will change Haiti for the better, others are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
“I hope he can do it, but you never know who will change the country, really,” said Wilmene Desir, 25, who is unemployed.
Martelly had long ago crowned himself president of konpa music, a popular form of Haitian music that made him a star.