Pop star reborn as statesman vows renewal in Haiti

Thu Apr 7, 2011 6:22pm EDT
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By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - President-elect Michel Martelly wants to transform Haiti from development basket case to Caribbean success story, a makeover as ambitious as the provocative pop star's own reincarnation as head of state.

"With my talents as a communicator, I wish to be able to inspire this population to guide it on the right path," the shaven-headed Martelly told Reuters in an interview, dedicating himself to changing Haiti's image as a failed country.

Even as Internet videos still circulate showing the entertainer clowning on stage in skimpy costumes, "Sweet Micky," now repackaged in a sober suit and tie, outlined his ambitious plans.

The 50-year-old political outsider won a landslide victory over former first lady Mirlande Manigat in a March 20 run-off, according to preliminary results out on Monday. He tapped into Haitians' yearnings for a better future for their impoverished, earthquake-battered nation.

Martelly said that from day one of his presidency, expected to begin in May, he would work to bury Haiti's "bad image" as a disaster-prone, aid-dependent nation, struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake last year.

"They have always sold our misery, our misfortunes, our cholera, the images of the earthquake, while Haiti in my eyes is a rich country, which has not been exploited yet," he said.

"We plan from the first days of our term to sell a new image of Haiti," Martelly added. After a disputes process, his election win should be declared definitive later this month.

During an energetic campaign, Martelly, a popular star of Haiti's catchy Konpa carnival music whose on-stage antics have included baring his backside, skillfully used his "bad boy" outsider image to project a forceful message of change. He promised to break with decades of corruption and misrule.   Continued...

<p>Haiti's president-elect Michel Martelly speaks during a private interview with Reuters in Port-au-Prince April 6, 2011. REUTERS/Swoan Parker</p>