PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haitian President Michel Martelly has named a new cabinet as he tries to end a wave of street protests against his rule of the impoverished Caribbean country, but opposition leaders said he broke his promise to create a consensus government.
Martelly announced his cabinet choices via Facebook late on Sunday night, keeping the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, health, tourism, education and public works in their jobs and appointing allies to the key positions of planning minister and secretary of state for public security.
Martelly, who is also a popular singer known as “Sweet Micky,” has been in power since 2011. But he has failed to end Haiti’s long-running political turmoil and protesters have called for him to step down.
Haiti’s parliament was dissolved last week after last-minute negotiations to extend the terms of its members collapsed.
With protests against him swelling, Martelly promised on Friday to use his executive powers to build a broad-based government, but opponents quickly criticized his cabinet choices on Monday.
“There is not a real opening as promised,” former Senate president Simon Desras told Reuters, noting that only one opposition member made the cabinet list. “This isn’t solving the crisis and, worst, it’s bringing more problems.”
He said the choice of Carel Alexandre as head of public security was especially “worrying.”
Alexandre was former chief of security at the presidential palace but was forced out in 2012 under pressure from U.S. officials and human rights groups over ties to a band of corrupt former police officers, sources said.
The new planning minister, Yves Germain Joseph, is a former senior palace official who was close to late dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier who died last year.
Martelly’s decision to keep the ministers of education and public health in their posts was, however, likely to be applauded by international donors who have praised them.
The new ministers and secretaries of state were sworn in on Monday afternoon, except for Alexandre who was mysteriously not present at the official ceremony attended by the diplomatic corps.
In his speech on Friday, Martelly urged anti-government demonstrators to keep street protests peaceful as he tries to steer the country toward new elections. He also pledged he would not try to change the constitution to seek a second term.
Evans Paul, a veteran politician and former mayor of the capital Port-au-Prince, was sworn in as prime minister on Friday night. He ran unsuccessfully for president in 2006, receiving just 2.5 percent of the vote.
Haiti has a long history of coups, uprisings and dictatorships and the dissolution of parliament raised fears that it is again on a slippery slope toward violent unrest.
Although Martelly is barred from re-election, his opponents accuse him of engineering the current crisis to promote his own candidate to succeed him in elections late this year, possibly even his wife, Sophia Martelly.
A last minute, U.S.-brokered proposal to extend the life of parliament and call elections fell apart after opposition political parties decided not to show up for a vote to approve the deal.
In a phone call with Martelly on Friday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden expressed disappointment with the collapse of parliament, but voiced his support for the president.
Haiti remains heavily dependant on U.S. financial aid and Washington fears that a political collapse could spark mass migration to the United States.
It is the poorest nation in the Americas and is still recovering from a devastating earthquake in January 2010 that destroyed large parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
There have been no legislative or municipal elections for three years. They could be held this summer although Martelly must first form an Electoral Council.
Additional reporting by David Adams in Miami; Writing by David Adams; Editing by Kieran Murray and Cynthia Osterman