Nation & World

Haiti President Martelly marks 100 days in office

Tucked inside Guerda Anier’s purse is the creased invitation to President Michel Martelly’s inauguration. In the 100 days since, the tent city resident has spent much of her time sitting across from the collapsed National Palace waiting for Martelly to deliver on campaign pledges.

But the former musician who sold himself as a no-nonsense decisive leader has been unable to make good on most of his promises. He has not gotten his choice of prime minister approved in parliament and increasing tensions between Martelly and lawmakers have even his most ardent supporters wondering if any of the major policies he proposes will become law.

“I understand there is no government, but President Martelly stood right there,’’ said Anier, 43, pointing to a spot in front the Champ de Mars public plaza-turned-tent city near the palace, “and said ‘I have 30,000 houses but your president won’t give me the land to build them.’ Well, now he’s president. So where are the 30,000 houses? We’re still waiting.’’

Anier sold perfume and jewelry before the devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake forced her to seek shelter on the downtown public square. She also is the kind of person Martelly promised to serve when he campaigned for Haiti’s toughest job. The cheap rum, cigarettes and plastic water bags she sells barely cover school fees and uniforms for her four girls. And while the pieces of worn aluminum offer cover from the sun, they don’t protect from the rain.

“I am trying to give them hope,’’ she said of her children, including a 13-year-old boy orphaned after the quake. “But how am I supposed to give them hope when I don’t have any? Today, there is more discouragement than hope.’’

Martelly’s first months have been spent inaugurating a housing loan program and schools. He launched a fund to support his free education initiative and last week announced a housing plan to relocate more than 5,000 families from six camps. He appointed advisers to the panel charged with Haiti’s post-quake recovery, and has called for its renewal by parliament. He has also promoted reconstruction, tourism, governance and technology weeks.

But foreign diplomats say Haiti needs a government to turn the rhetoric into reality.

Free education and housing for the 600,000-plus in camps are just some of the promises Martelly, 50, made while campaigning. He assumed the Haitian presidency as global economic uncertainties threatened to reduce donor support and the legacy of the quake — increased poverty, decades of inept governance and slow reconstruction — led to budding frustrations at home.

“We need a government in a hurry,’’ said former President Bill Clinton, who co-chairs the panel charged with rebuilding the country. “The negative things that might have otherwise happened, have been so far severely limited because of the aggressive public posture that the president and his team have taken about getting more investments here...and doing things that look like little things, like these cleaning crews in the streets.’’

Still, infighting in Martelly’s camp, coupled with his antagonistic attitude toward parliament and penchant for foreign travel — he’s taken seven trips abroad amid the crisis — is creating uncertainty and concern. Also worrisome to lawmakers and foreign diplomats is the lack of transparency and policy over an education initiative he launched that tax phone calls and money from abroad.

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