President Michel Martelly (left) with US President Barack Obama
By Joseph Guyler Delva
Haitian president Michel Martelly will be received at the White House in Washington on Thursday by President Barack Obama, as US-Haiti relations are expected to improve further in 2014, to the point that the Obama administration is now considering funding directly Haitian government's projects for the first time in many years.
It will be the first formal meeting between the leaders of the two oldest free and independent nations in the western hemisphere, since their inaugurations.
Haiti proclaimed its independence from French rule on January 1, 1804, to become the first black independent republic of the world and was second to the US (July 4, 1776) in the western hemisphere.
In 2014, the bilateral cooperation between Washington and the Haitian government will undergo a change of pattern that will give more room to the Haitian government to play its legitimate leadership role in the planning and the implementation of joint projects.
The US aid has, so far, been transited through NGOs, mostly from the US, which do not report to or act necessarily in accordance with the Haitian government's priorities and own planning.
One motive often raised by Washington to justify the choice of not providing funds directly to the government for the implementation of projects, was a lack of transparency, accountability and capacity, among other things.
A top US Department of State official, Thomas C. Adams, acknowledged last year that the current Haitian leadership "has made more efforts to fight corruption than any of its predecessors."
A record number of nearly 100 people, including government functionaries, have been jailed or indicted over corruption charges under the administration of President Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.
The Caribbean country with a long tradition of corrupt practices has gained 12 spots in two years in the Transparency International corruption perception index, reaching 163rd place in 2013 from the175th spot in 2011.
State Department and USAID officials also recognized, during a Government Accountability Office (GAO) hearing at the House committee on foreign affairs last year, steps taken by the Haitian government to ensure transparency by setting up an online facility connecting different ministries and allowing public access to financial data and other crucial information.
The special coordinator for Haiti at the State Department, Thomas Adams, also mentioned that a lot remained to be done in Haiti before it can reach the level of transparency necessary to facilitate major direct US funding to the Haitian government.
Actually, a more direct cooperation, with a number of Haitian government ministries in that regard, has already started, in the framework of this rapprochement.
The rapprochement is so obvious between officials of both administrations that Haitian opposition parties and other government opponents and critics have repeatedly accused Washington of throwing a blind support behind the Martelly administration they have rightfully or wrongfully accused of wrongdoing.
The first target for such criticism is the US ambassador to Haiti Pamela A. White who has, on several occasions, come under fire over allegations she would have led the US to give in to the (ill) wishes of President Martelly, which has obviously not been the case.
Groups close to former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide recently marched toward the US Embassy to voice opposition to such alleged support for the Martelly administration.
A group of opposition lawmakers have also wrote several months ago to US president Barack Obama to denounce "suspicious ties" between Ambassador White and Haitian authorities they consider too close.
But the main problem for these groups seems to remain the fact that Ambassador White has a more respectful attitude toward President Martelly and government authorities, compared to a number of other ambassadors from foreign powers who have often and openly tried to dictate and impose their will on the Haitian government and the Haitian people.
A long series of coups d’état masterminded and remote-controlled from foreign capitals, including Washington, remain an undeniable fact of Haitian contemporary history.
However, government opponents see the fact that the Obama administration, through Ambassador White, has rejected repeated calls for support by opposition groups in their effort to overthrow Martelly, as collusion between the governments of both countries.
However, Ambassador White might end up being one of the most appreciated and memorable US ambassadors to have been accredited to Haiti, because of her genuine will to work respectfully with Haitian relevant actors and to make sure US assistance lands effectively in the sectors and communities that need it the most.
"We've seen many US Ambassadors here, but it is for the first time I've seen one who shows so much sincerity,” said Marlène Auguste, a 47-year-old sociology teacher in the capital Port-au-Prince.
"When she speaks about things Haiti needs to be helped with, you feel that she means what she says and you don't feel the usual hypocrisy of the diplomat," explained Auguste, saying that she has seen or heard Mrs White on many occasions on TV and Radio, "And that is such a good thing that Haiti could have a US ambassador of this type," she concluded.