Presidents Michel Martelly (L) and Barack Obama
By Joseph Guyler Delva
WASHINGTON, USA -- US president Barack Obama on Thursday praised the strong leadership of Haitian president Michel Martelly, which he said, along with the mobilization of international support, has helped kick off progress in the Caribbean nation of Haiti which was devastated by a terrible earthquake about four years ago.
Speaking at the White House where he welcomed Martelly on Thursday, Obama reminded about the devastation that took place in Haiti and the challenge of recovery efforts, but highlighted progress and good news in the rebuilding process.
"The good news is that because of not just the mobilization of international support, which the US helped to lead, but also because of strong leadership from the Haitian people themselves and President Martelly, we’ve begun to see progress," Obama, sitting with Martelly, told reporters from the Oval office.
"The economy is growing; security is improving; infrastructure is getting rebuilt rubble has been removed; health facilities are beginning to open up; schools are starting to get back into place, and businesses are starting to return to Haiti," said Obama.
During what was the first official meeting between the leaders of the two first free and independent nations in the western hemisphere, Obama recognized that the recovery process has been slow and difficult and that a lot more work remained to be done.
The American leader assured Martelly and the Haitian people that the American people are committed to standing by them in their efforts to bring about change in their country.
"We want to make sure that all the children of Haiti can look forward to lives of opportunity and prosperity and security," said Obama, praising ongoing efforts to hold legislative and local elections this year.
"I’m very encouraged by the fact that Haiti has now made progress on an election law that could ensure elections this year and help to resolve some of the political roadblocks that stalled some progress in the country," Obama stated. "And I appreciate the president’s efforts on that front," he added.
The US president said he was looking forward to hearing where the US could help in other reforms he said president Martelly cared about -- "such areas as human rights, prison reform, the judiciary, dealing with issues of corruption that are inhibitors to progress in any country, including ours."
"And we will continue to stand by Haitian democracy, Haitian leadership, and the Haitian people in this slow and steady progress that needs to take place," explained Obama, saying how proud the US was of its relationship with Haiti.
"And we look forward to deepening it in the years to come," he concluded.
For his part, Martelly thanked Obama for hosting him and for giving him the opportunity to discuss issues such as security in Haiti and in the region, the ability of both countries to fight together narco-trafficking and to talk about his commitment to building a strong democratic state.
"I’d like to first thank the people of the United States, the government, and you, Mr President, for always standing by the Haitian people," said Martelly, acknowledging the presence of the First Lady, Michelle Obama, in Haiti after the earthquake and also thanking her for her support.
Martelly was also scheduled to honour several other invitations during his visit in Washington, including an appearance before the US Congress and an event at the Smithsonian Museum.