Haiti’s President-elect Michel Martelly visited Miami on Monday, bringing a call to Haitians in the city and in the wider Diaspora to make a contribution to free primary education in the earthquake shattered nation.
Martelly told reporters he plans to set up a fund to finance free primary education and he would provide $50 million annually to the fund.
His call to Haitians abroad is for them to give a dollar for every $100 they remit to Haiti.
“You will contribute one dollar directly into the education fund to pay for schooling, transport and one meal per day for more than 500,000 children aged 6-12 that currently do not have access to school,” Martelly said.
Haiti Libre, reporting on the visit, said nearly four million Haitians live abroad, nearly half of them in North America. They send some $1.8 billion to Haiti annually, accounting for nearly 25 percent of he country’s gross domestic product.
Martelly said he agreed with a suggestion from telephone operators in Haiti for 50 cents) to be collected out of the charge for each minute call from the U.S. and the money put into his proposed education fund.
“This would bring in an additional $36 million a year, which would pay for an additional 360,000 children,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported from Port-au-Prince said that Martelly, a popular singer known by the stage name “Sweet Micky,” was officially declared the next president of Haiti.
Martelly won the presidency with 67.6 percent of the vote, defeating former first lady Mirlande Manigat in a run-off vote. The formal announcement came from Haiti’s electoral commission spokesman Pierre Thibault April 20.
The announcement ends a long, drawn-out election that began Nov. 28 and was marred by fraud and other irregularities, several days of rioting and numerous delays.
After election officials released preliminary results on April 6 showing that Martelly, 50, defeated his opponent with nearly 68 percent of the vote, Manigat said she wouldn’t contest the results.
Since then, Martelly has spoken about the need for reconciliation in this bitterly divided nation as he’s sought to put together a transition team. On the campaign trail, he called for free education for all children, a renovation of the agricultural sector, and the restoration of the disbanded army.
Martelly, who will be inaugurated on May 14, will face enormous challenges. These include leading a multibillion-dollar reconstruction effort following last year’s magnitude-7 earthquake that claimed an estimated 300,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of Haitians.
During his trip to the U.S., which included the stop-over in Miami, Martelly met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as part of a three-day visit to Washington. He said he spoke with Clinton about his three priorities: education, finding homes for people living in tents, and restarting Haiti’s agricultural sector.
Martelly, at a news conference, admitted he had huge challenges ahead of him. He called reconstruction efforts “despairingly slow.” He also stressed the need to tackle the cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 4,700 lives since October. He warned that the coming hurricane season could spread the disease countrywide.
Clinton said she welcomed Martelly as president.
“Now he has a chance to lead, and we are behind him,” said Clinton, Martelly at her side. “He is committed to results. He wants to deliver for the Haitian people. And we are committed to helping him do so.”
Haiti’s difficult recovery from the earthquake and years of instability and poverty was underscored April 20 when 53 members of the Congress wrote to Clinton urging her to work with the Haitian government to provide rapid support for the displaced people lacking adequate shelter, water, sanitation and security.
Thirty-eight percent of resettlement camps still lack regular water supplies, the letter said, adding that the percentage had improved little since August. Nearly a third of camps don’t have toilets. Where toilets are provided, each one is shared by an average of nearly 300 people.
“The shelter installations in which displaced Haitians live are progressively deteriorating,” the members of Congress wrote.
The lawmakers urged Clinton “to work with Haitian authorities and our international partners to ensure
a speedy, short-term response.”
AP also reported that the certification of legislative election results from last month’s runoff election will be delayed after U.S. and U.N. diplomats raised questions over the victories of more than a dozen candidates, Haitian officials said Monday.
U.S. diplomats said last week they wanted a public explanation for how Haiti’s election commission declared victories for 17 Chamber of Deputies candidates and one Senate candidate after they ended up with far more votes than they had when preliminary returns were announced April 4.
Gaillot Dorsinvil, the president of Haiti’s election commission, said in a statement that the panel would hold off on publishing the results for 19 legislative races in the March 20 runoff “for the sake of transparency and in the best interests of the nation.”
Dorsinvil didn’t say if the Provisional Electoral Council, known as the CEP, planned to recount those races or disclose any details about the 19th race, which was one more than diplomats had questioned.
The new results gave the political party of outgoing President Rene Preval 46 of the 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and an absolute majority in the Senate with 17 of 30 seats. That kind of presence in Parliament would give Preval’s Unity party greater control over key government decisions, including who is approved as the next prime minister, Haiti’s No. 2 official.