Martelly Under Siege

Martelly Under Siege

Months after his inauguration, Haitian President Michel Martelly is facing growing citizen discontent.

Published July 29, 2011

Facing crises in cholera, reconstruction and poverty, President Michel Martelly took on a Herculean task when he was inaugurated as Haiti’s newest leader in May.


But now it looks like his seeming lack of progress, throughout his short tenure, has elicited the ire of those trying to survive in dire circumstances.


This fact was illuminated on Sunday, during his visit to Haiti’s second largest city, Cap Haitien, when protesters threw rocks and bottles at his entourage. Since then, over a dozen people have been arrested in connection with the incident, according to the city’s deputy mayor Fritz Joseph.


The scene was a sharp departure from how Martelly would have been welcomed only months before.


The charismatic former singer was able to ride the wave of his popularity into office, but now as head of state the political newcomer is starting to witness the unfamiliar and growing citizen discontent due to his seemingly inability to get much done.


Being a political outsider may have gotten him elected, but it’s a detriment now since, without the pull, he’s been unable to rally consistent support in the legislature (there are only three members of his party “Repons Peyizan,” or “Countrymen’s Reponse,” in both houses). His original prime minister pick was rejected by lawmakers, and not having a body in the nation’s No. 2 position has handicapped the new leader when it comes to making good on his campaign promises on job creation and more. It also signals instability to foreign groups looking to invest in the nation.


It’s been over a year and a half since the earthquake devastated the Caribbean country, already one of the poorest in the world. Today there is still a significant portion of the population still living in dangerous temporary camps. In recent weeks officials have caught flack for evicting people from the camps without providing any other housing alternative. Unemployment remains high (over 40 percent) and 80 percent of people live below the poverty line.


"Martelly faces an immediate crisis in the growing frustrations of the victims in the camps and those with near identical unmet basic needs, who remain in the urban slums," stated a report from the International Crisis Group, the Associated Press reports.


Though he’s had a rough start, the leader is still attempting to make headway on some of his campaign vows, recently pushing relocation programs and starting another program to use phone call fees to send kids to school.


But the dissatisfaction throughout the nation only threatens to spread as months go by with no signs of major progress on the housing and employment front.

(Photo: AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Written by Hortense M. Barber


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