michel-martelly_press_conference__web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

Haiti’s president Michel Joseph Martelly swept through South Florida Saturday, making a stop at the Haitian Diaspora Appreciation Day In Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, where he spoke to the Haitian-American community on education and trade.

“Haiti is open and ready to do business,” Martelly said during a press conference. “It has been for a long time.”

Haiti’s trade with South Florida totaled $1.1 billion in 2010 of which some $600 million was in imports from this region, according to Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C Holness.

“China’s trade with South Florida was $5 billion and we export to them $400 million. That’s a huge trade surplus. So where should we be exporting our money in order to get it back? Haiti. Because what is happening now is that we get back more than we send in,” Holness said.

Miami City Commissioner Richard P. Dunn II said “there is a mutual benefit” in trade, “especially with a country of color.”

Dunn described the opportunity for trade as “refreshing,” adding, “We need to become more involved. It’s a win-win for both economies.”
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado hosted Martelly at the rally, which took place at Emmanuel Sanon Soccer Park, 6301 NE Second Ave., where Martelly, who addressed the gathering in Creole, was presented with the city of Miami plaque.

“For Haiti to advance, it has to focus on educating its people,” Martelly said.

Dunn agreed, adding that education was “the way to Haiti’s success. Education can also be the key to Haiti’s population becoming more entrepreneurial, and that speaks to the trade opportunities.”

Helene Micheaux, 39, said she left her village in Haiti in 1989 and has since lived in Little Haiti.

 “I work two or three jobs at a time to help my family there. It has especially been rough after the earthquake. If my people there have an opportunity to do better, with jobs, job training and school, this could erase the poverty,” she said. “If he can make things work and we can rebuild our own country, then not only will we have work but a new pride.”

Trevor Patrick, 47, also of Little Haiti, agreed that education will help but added, “I am not sure that it will happen fast enough.”

“For one, Martelly may meet resistance. Not everyone in Haiti wants to see its poor do better for themselves. And when it comes, how will it come? The children have time but adults need help now. I will wait to hear about his plan,” Patrick said.

Angela Ricardo said there are several ways for Martelly to create jobs.

Ricardo said that she too has family in Haiti, near the capital Port-au-Prince, and that she fears for their safety.

“If people could work, then I feel crime would go down. They need food, housing, jobs … if Martelly is truly for the people, he cannot choose which ones. The poor must be recognized as part of the population. He says that he will prioritize our interest. I pray he is able to do so.”

Cynthia Roby can be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net

Photo: Michel Joseph Martelly