Haiti President Michel Martelly will lead the Caribbean Community (Caricom) as its chairman for the next six months. It is the first time Haiti held the top spot since the state joined the organization in 2002. Haiti is the shortest-tenured of the 15 full-member states in Caricom, which rotates the top spot between the heads of state. With Martelly at the helm, Caricom will work to counteract serious economic problems that plague the region in the group’s 40th year.
Martelly was elected to lead Haiti with more than two-thirds of the vote. He has tasked himself with bringing the country back from the devastating earthquake of 2010, and fighting political mismanagement. Central to his strategy has been the improvement of Haiti’s international image, an initiative that will benefit from his position with Caricom.
“I think it’s time for Haiti to be represented in the international world again,” Martelly told the Caribbean Journal last month. “We had a Haiti who was shy, a Haiti who was afraid of being on the international scene. Today, Haiti is everywhere — I’m making this happen.”
Since his election, Haiti’s economic policies have been more appealing to foreign investors who might aid in the nation’s recovery, a strategy that may carry over to Caricom. On Tuesday, Martelly stated his intentions as chairman, and welcomed his fellow political leaders to Haiti in February to discuss plans.
“We must be willing to work with our development partners to create a common platform for the benefit of our member states and their citizens,” Martelly said. “Within this movement, I am aware that Haiti must now accelerate its insertion. This is one of the commitments that I signed during the presidency of Haiti, and I want to impulse throughout my term as president of the republic.”
For several years, Haiti had not been active in Caricom, and was all but suspended from 2004 to 2006. Former Jamaican Prime Minister Percival “P.J.” Patterson acted as a special representative for Haiti until Martelly was elected president.
“We didn’t have an actual representative — we were represented by the former prime minister of another country within Caricom,” Martelly said. “It’s me who stopped it. That was one step forward — Haiti is represented by Haiti.”
Haiti’s ambassador to Caricom is John Patrick Alexis. Of the 15 member states in Caricom, Haiti is by far the largest in population, having more citizens than the rest of the countries combined.