PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Haiti hosted the fifth summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) this week in Port-au-Prince and the event proved to be a show of support for President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who have long noted that this Caribbean country is indeed headed in the right direction.
By week's end nearly 20 heads of state or government had come and gone without incident, after signing the summit's final declaration. At the closing ceremony, it became clear that the Martelly/Lamothe government was also assuming a leadership role in Caribbean affairs and was quickly inserting Haiti into the most important hemispheric discussions
The ACS is a multilateral organization that groups nations of the broader Caribbean Basin including Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico and most of Central America. Attending the ACS's Fifth Summit were President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico and Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, who extolled wide praise on the government of Haiti's ability to bring together such a wide group and for moving the country in a decidedly positive direction. Also in attendance as an observer was President Sebastian Pinera of Chile, among others.
During the event, Haiti showed off its new hotel infrastructure in Port-au-Prince, as hundreds of summit delegates and journalists covering the event were able to stay in comfortable first class accommodations. Until very recently, obtaining a hotel room in Port-au-Prince was difficult owing to the collapse of existing infrastructure during the 2010 earthquake and the lack of investment in new tourism infrastructure during the last three decades.
In hosting the summit, Haiti also showed that it is a safe destination. Indeed hosting so many heads of government is a major security challenge. Apart from the usual traffic jams generated by the movement of such important people, no major security concerns were evident around Port-au-Prince and the visiting presidents and prime ministers got in and out of town without problem.
The most positive outcome for Haiti was the leadership role it has assumed in Caribbean affairs. The ACS meeting – and the presence of so many heads of state -- is a huge boost for a country that has been absent in regional and broader hemispheric affairs for the better part of its history.
The success of the meeting, coupled with its chairmanship of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) -- the other major regional organization -- has provided Haiti with an extraordinary platform to showcase its achievements and to become a leading actor in Caribbean affairs.
Going into the last weekend of April, the Martelly/Lamothe government's slogan that Haiti is moving forward was slowly becoming a reality.