Latin America & Caribbean

Haiti pop star Michel Martelly sworn in as president

Media captionMichel Martelly has pledged a break with Haiti's violent past

Haitian pop star Michel Martelly has been sworn in as president of the poorest country in the Americas.

"This is a new Haiti, open for business now," he told a cheering crowd in the capital Port-au-Prince.

The political novice was elected president in March in a run-off poll after a first round marred by fraud.

He has pledged to speed up earthquake reconstruction, develop the impoverished countryside and build a modern army.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians still live in tent cities after the devastating January 2010 earthquake.

Supporters celebrate

Mr Martelly, known to Haitians as Sweet Micky, was inaugurated in a building which is temporarily housing Haiti's parliament.

Former President Rene Preval took off the presidential sash and put it on Mr Martelly as they shook hands and embraced.

A power cut during the ceremony plunged the guests into darkness.

The watching dignitaries included former US President Bill Clinton, who is co-chair of the Haiti Reconstruction Commission, which controls billions of dollars in aid pledged to rebuild earthquake damage.

Mr Martelly later delivered his inaugural speech at the badly-damaged National Palace.

Rallying a people he said were "tired of injustice," Mr Martelly said the "onslaught of change" would affect all aspects of Haitian society.

He promised improvements to the police and judiciary, increased security, a better environment for investors, and restored confidence in state authority.

Outside the gates, more than 1,000 of his supporters had gathered to celebrate.

"Today is a party for us, for the masses, because the country is destroyed," said Esaue Rene, a 28-year-old mechanic.

In addition to the challenge of rebuilding the quake-shattered capital, Port-au-Prince, Haiti faces a cholera epidemic, an economy in ruins and the legacy of a violent past.

But legislating in a parliament controlled by political opponents from Mr Preval's party could prove difficult.

"His administration will have to show progress fairly quickly in order to provide confidence to the population," said Mark Schneider, senior vice-president of the International Crisis Group, in Washington DC.

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