Haiti

President Martelly addresses nation amid violence in Haiti

Demonstrators protest against the government of Haiti President Michel Martelly in Port-au-Prince on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. Protesters marched through the streets calling for the resignation of the Haitian leader.
Demonstrators protest against the government of Haiti President Michel Martelly in Port-au-Prince on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. Protesters marched through the streets calling for the resignation of the Haitian leader. AFP/Getty Images

Haitian President Michel Martelly announced Friday the formation of a presidential commission to help deal with his nation’s worsening political crisis.

Martelly made the announcement in a brief 8 p.m. address to the nation that was broadcast live over local radio stations, at the end of another day of anti-government protests in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, by opposition groups demanding his resignation.

“The country is divided. The problems are many. The problems are complicated,” Martelly said, his voice sounding devoid of the fight and energy that have become a hallmark in his ongoing battle with the country’s opposition over delayed local and legislative elections and his own fate.

Haiti hasn’t held elections since 2011, and on Oct. 26, a day in which they were to finally take place, Martelly’s office announced that they were being postponed. The government and the opposition have been at odds over an electoral law that opposition senators have refused to debate, arguing that it’s unconstitutional. Instead, they have joined demonstrators in demanding Martelly's resignation during recent protests that have turned violent.

On Friday, pro-government protesters in the city of Gonaives demanded that opposition senators pass the law so that elections can be held. Martelly also did the same during his address, saying his government has made several demands during more than two months of political consultations with various groups.

The demands, he said, include replacing Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and some members of the government; making changes to the electoral council charged with overseeing the balloting; and prolonging the term of parliament to avoid a political vacuum that would allow Martelly to rule by decree come Jan. 12.

Martelly said the 11-member consultative presidential commission, which includes well-known political and private sector personalities, will have eight days to report back to him.

On Friday, anti-government protesters used burning tires to block a street near the razed presidential palace. They have also announced protests for Saturday.

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