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Updated: May 18, 2012 23:39 IST

Troubled Haiti tries to fill political vacuum

    AFP
    AP
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FILLING A VACUUM: Haitian President Michel Martelly (right) and the new Prime Minister, Laurent Lamorthe, in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.
AFP FILLING A VACUUM: Haitian President Michel Martelly (right) and the new Prime Minister, Laurent Lamorthe, in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.

A new Haitian government led by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe officially began its duties on Wednesday, capping a months-long political vacuum in the troubled nation.

President Michel Martelly, in office for a year, had lacked a Cabinet chief since Garry Connille resigned in February.

Mr. Lamothe (39) says he is basing his government's policies on fighting extreme poverty and protecting the environment.

“I am asking the government team to get to work immediately in order to satisfy the population and improve its living conditions,” he said.

Immediately after the inauguration, Mr. Lamothe and Mr. Martelly led the first Cabinet meeting held at the presidential palace destroyed in a devastating January 2010 earthquake.

“Each ministry must have a website and a constant presence on social networks in order to lead transparently and to inform the population of decisions,” said the Prime Minister, rarely seen without a tablet computer.

“All of my Cabinet Ministers will share information via Twitter, Facebook and the Internet,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

There are 22 Ministers, including seven women, in the new Cabinet.

Mr. Lamothe received his political science degree from Barry University in Miami and earned an MBA at St. Thomas University in Florida. A keen sportsman, he played tennis for Haiti in the Davis Cup.

He became Foreign Minister in Mr. Martelly's government in October.

The Martelly administration is trying to ramp up stalled reconstruction efforts following the 2010 earthquake that flattened large parts of Port-au-Prince and damaged much of the south of the country.

The magnitude 7.0 quake killed 250,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands in a nation that was already the poorest country in the Americas. According to U.N. figures, the quake killed, injured or displaced one in six of the Caribbean nation's entire population of almost 10 million.

Mining

The Haitian government is drafting legislation for the newly emerging mining industry to help this impoverished Caribbean nation reap benefits, the new Prime Minister said on Tuesday.

Mr. Lamothe, who saw his Cabinet and policy plan approved hours earlier, told The Associated Press during an interview that the legislation will be sent to Parliament soon.

It will lay out rules apportioning royalties for the government and setting protections for the people and environment that could be affected by mines.

“The most important thing is to have the correct mining law,” he said. “It ensures that the right portion comes to the state. It ensures that the people living in the region where the mines are, that their rights are protected. It ensures environmental protection.”

The plans to draft the mining legislation come after the AP reported that two mining companies have begun drilling in Haiti's northeastern mountains. The companies say testing indicates the precious metals such as gold, copper and silver is worth potentially $20 billion.

That would be a boon for Haiti, which is one of the world's poorest countries. Most of its 10 million people live on less than $2 a day.

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