“We must improve our cooperation with Haiti,” pleaded Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to his 32 American homologous partners attending the Sixth Summit of the Americas the weekend of April 14-15. Intervening on behalf of the earthquake stricken nation, Santos said rather than helping individually, countries should collaborate to maximize their impact on Haiti’s recovery. Haiti’s weak infrastructure crumbled on Jan. 12, 2010 when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the island nation, killing more than 300,000 people.
While Cuba’s absence highlighted this year’s summit, Haiti received strong support from the Colombian leader who perceived the country’s problems as a hemispheric affair, in lieu of a separate entity. “We must take ownership of the agenda of [Haiti’s] government and integrate it into our actions,” declared Santos on Caribbean Journal’s reporting. Founded in 2011, the Miami-based news magazine focuses on Caribbean affairs, offering its readers a regional news source.
President Michel Martelly, who cancelled his trip to the summit following his doctors’ orders, welcomed Santos’ statements with open arms. “President Santos has shown that he is concerned about the situation of our country,” said the head of state that had surgery on his right shoulder just a week ago before the summit. “He showed a great political vision in proposing joint action of all the countries in the Americas to join us for the reconstruction and development of our country, and the improvement of the conditions of the Haitian people,” added Martelly who informed the national media of the last minute changes late Friday. “On recommendations of his physicians, the president was forced to rest in order to ensure a safe and full recovery,” read an unsigned note issued by the president’s communication office. Prime Minister-Designate Laurent Salvador Lamothe, the resigning Foreign Minister, would represent Haiti at the summit, emphasized the note.
Lamothe, 39, received the approval nod from 19 senators in the first phase of his ratification process last week, though not without controversy. While some senators, including West Department representative Steven Benoit, contended Martelly’s close friend and business partner was ineligible due to irregularities found in his documents, others in the majority said those claims were circumstantial. As they propelled Lamothe to the second phase that will take place in the House of Deputies midweek, senators decried a lack of concrete evidence or a smoking gun to change their votes. Martelly proposed Lamothe for the post of PM following Garry Conille resignation nearly five months after receiving a narrow senate majority and 98 percent approval from the lower house.
Back in Cartagena, Cuba’s exclusion from the summit became a point of contention between South and North American nations, dividing the hemisphere and preventing the proclamation of a final declaration from the event. Many participating nations even threatened to boycott Panama’s 2015 Summit should Havana’s omission persist. Nevertheless, Santos’ message on Haiti’s recovery efforts was crystal clear; “We must work together in unity with the government of Haiti to be able to overcome its problems,” hammered the host of the summit. “Because in the past,” explained Santos, “The priorities of the Haitian people have at times been missed.”