I am writing in response to Jacqueline Charles’ May 14th article, “Wreath, new government mark Martelly’s first year at helm in Haiti.” While the piece provides an accurate overview of contemporary Haitian governance, it fails to mention a few key insights regarding the implications of these events.
First, the March 14th confirmation of Laurent Lamothe as Haiti’s new prime minister is a small, but nonetheless laudable victory for democracy on the troubled island nation. After the lengthy void left by former Prime Minister Garry Conille’s abrupt resignation, Lamothe’s approval demonstrates that Haiti’s one-year-old government is indeed functional, but that functionality alone is not enough.
The article also refers to the construction of the new public plaza, Champ de Mars, as an achievement of Martelly’s government. However, when the CIA World Factbook considers only 53% of the Haitian population to be literate, and reports that 80% live in poverty, an ebullient celebration hardly seems warranted. In the past year, the Martelly administration’s efforts at educational aid and programs to further the long-overdue 2010 earthquake relief have come garnished with a rash of corruption scandals, evoking doubts about their actual effectiveness. Coupled with the growing security threat posed by paramilitary units promising to resort to action unless the military is reestablished, the Martelly government’s reported lack of transparency could very well frustrate the preservation of what little democracy currently exists in Haiti.
Unless Martelly makes major gains in advancing education and Haiti’s economic condition, the country’s democratic system will remain in jeopardy. The challenge now facing President Martelly and his newly appointed prime minister is how best to ensure that the government acts as effectively and efficiently as possible. While this will likely require painful reforms, it is something both Martelly and Lamothe should consider committing themselves to in order to safeguard whatever vestiges of democracy are known to survive in Haiti.
Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs