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TMCNet:  Haiti shakes up government for second time in 5 months

[January 23, 2013]

Haiti shakes up government for second time in 5 months

Jan 23, 2013 (The Miami Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- This is the third cabinet change in President Michel Martelly's 20 month presidency, and it comes after months of speculation about the stability of his government.

For the second time in five months, Haiti's government has reshuffled the cabinet, ending months of rumors about who would survive growing political intrigue.

Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who remains in his post as minister of planning and external cooperation, announced the pending shakeup via Twitter on Tuesday afternoon in French. He tweeted, "After the resignation of several government ministers, the Head of State and I will announce tonight a reshuffling of the ministerial Cabinet." The shakeup comes 10 days after Haiti marked the third anniversary of its catastrophic Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, and just hours after President Michel Martelly left the country for Miami, where he planned to get a "complete medical check-up" before traveling to Chile for this weekend's Community of Latin American and Caribbean States meeting. Martelly took ill in April and spent nearly two weeks in Miami recuperating.

Lamothe is also expected to travel Wednesday to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum. The cabinet is scheduled to be sworn in at 10 a.m., prior to his departure.

Several women are among the seven new ministers. They will join the ministers of tourism and public health, who survived the shakeup.

Some of the holdovers who will remain in the 23-member cabinet have caused surprise.

Among them is Ralph Theano, the minister responsible for relations between the executive office and parliament. He made headlines last week when he compared a group of opposition lawmakers to "suicide bombers" after the politicians heckled Lamothe, preventing the prime minister from addressing parliament.

New additions include: --South Florida resident Bernice Fidelia, a friend of the president and most recently, his liaison with the Haitian diaspora. She replaces sociologist Daniel Supplice as minister for Haitians Living Abroad.

--Magalie Racine, former personal assistant to the first lady and an etiquette coach, is the new minister in charge of sports and youths.

--David Bazile, who served as minister of public security during the 2004-2006 interim government and is an ex-member of Haiti's defunct army, is now interior minister.

Also, two other posts appeared to have been eliminated for now -- neither secretary of state for foreign affairs or communications were mentioned in the presidential decree announcing the new make-up of the government.

This is the third cabinet change in Martelly's 20 month presidency, and it comes after months of speculation about the stability of the government. Many have been disappointed with the pace of change in Haiti, where there have been almost weekly protests since August over rising food prices and allegations of government corruption. The president and prime minister also have come under fire for their extensive traveling. Both have defended their trips abroad, saying they are promoting "a better image of Haiti." "We want to show to the world the opportunities that Haiti has to offer," Martelly said during a November visit with South Florida's Haitian community. "Every time we go around the world trying to change that image, we also sing that song, 'Haiti no longer wants aid, but trade. We need jobs.' " Last week, the international community reiterated its own call, telling Haitian officials they must hurry up and hold long overdue, fair and transparent elections for mayors and a third of the 30-member senate. Scheduling the elections has been mired in controversy and conflict over the establishment of an electoral council to stage the balloting.

___ (c)2013 The Miami Herald Visit The Miami Herald at www.miamiherald.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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