ECONOMIC storms have battered the Caribbean of late, blowing away the tourists and remittances on which most islands depend. Most of the region has barely seen any growth since 2009. Several governments have been washed away by the slump: in the past six months unhappy voters have kicked out the ruling parties in Jamaica and the Bahamas. But the sun still shines in the Dominican Republic, where growth has continued at over 5% a year. On May 20th Dominicans duly rewarded the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). But only just: Danilo Medina, its presidential candidate, won 51% of the vote, amid allegations of fraud.
Mr Medina faced a weak opponent in Hipólito Mejía of the Dominican Revolution Party, who campaigned under the enigmatic slogan “Here’s Daddy”. Mr Mejía mishandled a banking crisis when he was president between 2000 and 2004. He cried fraud this week. Observers from the Organisation of American States certified the election result but confirmed reports of vote-buying. Participación Ciudadana, a local NGO, says that both main parties offered between 500 and 2,500 pesos ($13 to $65) to buy people’s voting cards. No one knows the scale of the fraud, but the electoral authorities received 400,000 applications for duplicate cards in the weeks before the poll. The government’s vote-buying appeared greatly to exceed that of the opposition, claims Francisco Álvarez of Participación Ciudadana.
But Laurent Lamothe, a close friend and former business associate of President Michel Martelly, also is a political novice who officially took over the second toughest job in Haiti on Wednesday as he and his 21-member Cabinet were sworn-in.
“I have the ambition of working and being the prime minister that takes care of the people’s needs,’’ Lamothe, 39, told The Miami Herald. “In Haiti … you have to focus on tomorrow, and make sure tomorrow is better than today.”
And that work begins immediately said Lamothe, announcing a massive street clean-up, road improvements and increased security measures. The makeover will be combined with several new reforms he plans to send parliament, he added.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Michel Martelly was the king of Haitian music, a high-energy charmer who became president of a broken nation by promising sweeping changes in employment, education, energy, environment and the rule of law.
“Haiti is open for business,” Martelly declared as he took the oath of office on the grounds of a collapsed presidential palace, a tent city behind the iron fence serving as a visible reminder of the devastating January 2010 earthquake.
A year after his May 14 inauguration, many of the tents are gone and the plaza of independence heroes is slowly beginning to look the way it did before the quake. But efforts to rebrand Haiti from a charity to investment destination have been eclipsed by self-made internal crises, controversy and corruption scandals. Further threatening stability and security is a rogue force of decommissioned military officers and prospective soldiers who are pushing for revival of the country’s disbanded army.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haitian lawmakers have approved President Michel Martelly’s choice for a new prime minister, ending a two-month impasse that had hampered the country’s efforts to rebuild from the devastating 2010 earthquake.
The Chamber of Deputies voted 62-3 with two abstentions shortly before midnight Thursday to confirm Laurent Lamothe, who will serve as Haiti’s head of government and lead earthquake reconstruction efforts. Lamothe was a special adviser to Martelly before being named foreign affairs minister and has been co-chairman of an economic advisory panel with former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
The President arrived at Haiti’s Toussaint Louverture International Airport Monday morning before 8 o’clock, joined by his wife, Sophia.
Martelly gave a press conference at the airport’s Diplomatic Room to address the local media in the country following his arrival, renewing his call for Parliament to ratify Laurent Lamothe as the country’s new Prime Minister.
Lamothe has been confirmed by the Senate.
By Joshua Paul, MD
In the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake of January 2010, scores of NGOs, charities and disaster experts flocked to the country in a valiant effort to conquer the chaos. Former United States President Bill Clinton was one of the first famous names to join the surge. Also on the scene have been Wyclef Jean, Sean Penn, Oprah Winfrey and many others.
By some accounts, there are more than 3,000 NGOs operating in Haiti today. This can be seen throughout the countryside as small foci of non-profit developments, orphanages, water wells and primary schools. The tragedy is that there is minimal collaboration among these organizations. This lack of cooperation leads to redundancy, reinvention of the wheel and, in some cases, total waste.
A diplomatic row between Haiti and Jamaica, 161 kilometres away from each other in the Caribbean Sea, could be brewing after Haiti closed its embassy here two weeks ago and withdrew its diplomatic agents.
In a December 2011 letter from Haiti’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs advising its Jamaican counterpart of the March 30 pull out, the Frenchspeaking nation cited “non-reciprocity” as one of two reasons for its decision.
It was referring to the fact that while it has operated an embassy in Jamaica for over 30 years, Jamaica has never established a corresponding mission in Haiti and only operates an honorary consulate, the functions of which are not as broad as an embassy’s. In interviews with the Jamaica Observer, the Jamaican authorities sought to downplay that fact.
At a farewell reception for Haitian Chargé d’Affaires Max Alcé, hosted by the dean of the diplomatic corps in St Andrew last Tuesday night, state minister of foreign affairs Arnaldo Brown told the Sunday Observer he knew nothing of the non-reciprocity claim.
Follow the money, says the old adage of investigative journalism. A crusading Dominican journalist did just that with dozens of financial documents from some Dominican construction firms and uncovered shocking results.
Over the course of 2011, Michel Joseph Martelly, as a candidate, president-elect, and president of Haiti, received close to $2.6 million in over a dozen payments from a Dominican Senator named Félix Bautista, according to an explosive Mar. 31 television report by star Dominican journalist Nuria Piera.
The alleged bribes were likely connected to securing three post-earthquake multi-million public works contracts dubi usly won by Bautista-controlled Dominican construction companies, according to Nuria’s report and to Haitian government documents obtained by “Haïti Liberté.”
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (defend.ht) – Proving that he meets eligibility requirements to be the Prime Minister appears challenging for Laurent Lamothe who submitted 58 documents at the request of 14 by the Haitian Senate to support his ratification.
According to Senator Steven Benoit (Ouest/Alternative), this is the first time a candidate for the prime ministry has submitted such a quantity of supporting documents, 58, when only 14 are needed. Senator Benoit says even with the 58 submissions, items critical to obtaining ratification are still outstanding.
The Constitution of Haiti requires that a Prime Minister be a Haitian citizen and had never renounced their nationality, or have accepted nationality in another country. The Head of Government also would have to had resided in Haiti for at least five (5) consecutive years.
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