December 21, 2014 / 3:53 PM / in 3 years

Health minister named as Haiti's new interim prime minister

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haitian Health Minister Florence Duperval Guillaume was named interim prime minister on Sunday to replace Laurent Lamothe, who resigned a week ago following several weeks of protests.

The announcement is part of an effort to resolve a mounting political crisis over long-delayed elections. Under Haiti’s constitution, Guillaume can hold the interim position for up to 30 days before a permanent choice is nominated for approval by parliament.

Lamothe was forced to resign after President Michel Martelly accepted the recommendations of a special commission appointed to defuse the crisis, including calling for the prime minister to go.

It also came after international warnings from the United States and the United Nations that the impoverished Caribbean nation was on the brink of political chaos again.

Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, is still recovering from an earthquake five years ago that leveled much of the capital, Port-au-Prince. In recent weeks, demonstrators in several cities have accused the government of corruption.

If elections are not held before Jan. 12, the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, parliament will shut down, leaving the country without a functioning government until presidential elections in late 2015.

A career health worker whose official title is minister of public health and population, she is seen as close to Haiti’s First Lady Sophia Martelly, and has overseen efforts to rebuild the country’s fragile medical services, including by starting new hospitals and handling a cholera epidemic and long-running HIV-AIDS treatment.

Named health minister in 2011, she is widely respected by international aid agencies. She previously was deputy chief of management science for Health in Haiti, an organization working with government and private groups across a wide range of medical problems.

She told a Harvard Kennedy School forum last year that her biggest challenge is reaching the 40 percent of Haitians not covered by basic health care, according to the official Harvard Gazette.

Martelly still has to find a permanent replacement for prime minister, who must be approved by parliament before it expires. Former Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert, former Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and current Finance Minister Marie-Carmelle Jean-Marie‎ are mentioned as possible candidates.

Reporting by Amelie Baron; Writing by David Adams; Editing by Diane Craft and Lisa Von Ahn

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