NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Haiti is building homes, creating jobs and putting kids in school three years after a catastrophic earthquake devastated the country, according to its president, who addressed South Florida's Haitian-American community Monday.
President Michel Martelly sought to encourage potential investors that Haiti was making progress in building homes for residents displaced by the catastrophic 2010 earthquake. He also said the country is increasing educational opportunities for children, updating infrastructure and creating jobs.
Haitian-Americans can't vote but they can invest in business and tourism projects in the Caribbean country.
Martelly touted achievements that he said included putting more than 1.2 million children in school, new hotels, and the Caracol industrial park, which is at the center of U.S. recovery efforts. He said accomplishments also include a rebranding effort to promote the country to foreign tourists and reducing the number of days it takes to start a business in Haiti.
He admitted, though, that change comes slowly in his country that has long been troubled by political instability, natural disasters, extreme deforestation and poverty.
"I believe that being able to put together a government that cares, just that is a huge difference," Martelly said. "When you put a million kids in school and you take a plane today to Haiti, you cannot see the results. You will see the results in 30 years, when you see a different type of Haitian, when you see Haitians that believe in their country, when you see Haitians that are well-educated and who are entrepreneurs, creative and understand the need not to cut a tree and have the basics."
While Martelly addressed Haitian-American community leaders and business owners at a North Miami Beach library, demonstrators gathered at the United Nations base in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, to ask the U.N. to take responsibility for bringing cholera into the country after the earthquake.
Many people attribute cholera's introduction in October 2010 to a unit of U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, where the intestinal disease is endemic.
Martelly said he would like the U.N. to take responsibility, though he was more interested in increasing funding to fight cholera than assigning blame.
Magaly Prezeau, CEO and president of a social service agency, and other community leaders who met with Martelly said his administration's efforts have been transparent and inclusive of Haitians living abroad, including a pledge for a constitutional amendment that would allow them to vote in the country's elections.
Martelly also was right to focus on Haiti's tourism, Prezeau said.
"In all the other Caribbean countries, tourism is the priority," she said. "I think every country has its challenges and diseases, and every country finds its way to address them. Why is ours sensationalized more than every other tourism country? It's because they have a better PR system and maybe they don't have other people bringing them down as much as Haiti does."