It is hardly the best of times for Haiti's President Michel Martelly. His finance minister, widely praised for her rectitude, resigned in April, citing "lack of solidarity." The U.S. State Department's country report remarked on Haiti's "near absence of the rule of law," and "chronic, severe corruption in all branches of government." And more than three years after a devastating earthquake killed more than 200,000 people, the World Food Program says that two-thirds of Haiti's 10 million people are still "food insecure." It's the only place on the planet to have a U.N. peacekeeping force without an actual war. But in a late April interview Martelly, the former singer known as "Sweet Mickey," insisted that things are getting better. "I've always been a winner. I don't expect to transform Haiti overnight." Excerpts, edited and condensed for clarity, follow:
Foreign Policy: You've just completed two full years in office. Did you ever expect to be marking this anniversary? Your swearing-in was the first time in 207 years of Haitian history that an incumbent president peacefully transferred power to someone outside their party.
Michel Martelly: It was not peaceful. They kicked me out in the first round. I was the one they called the bad boy. But my people -- the people of Haiti -- said they wanted a bad boy because too many good boys had been president before and not enough things had been done.
FP: But the point is that you have completed two full years in office. Did you ever expect to be marking this anniversary, to be sitting here as president two years later?
MM: Certainly. Haiti is not as unstable as they claim. Many times, the instability in Haiti has been sponsored by foreigners.
FP: How much of the political stability of the last two years can be credited to the presence of the nearly 10,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force?
MM: It's very important to have that force here. But they have not had to interfere in internal affairs. We haven't had any riots.
FP: When do you want them to leave?
MM: As a true Haitian, I wish they had never come. But due to bad governance, at that special moment, we needed the force to intervene. Today, they should be thinking of reviewing the mission. Because it was a mission of maintaining peace in Haiti. I suggest that before they leave they turn this mission into a development mission. Haiti is not the most insecure country in the region. The [U.S.] Attorney General Eric Holder was in Haiti and he cited the most insecure countries -- Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Haiti wasn't even third. And yet, because we are kind of unstable, because we're the one with the foreign force here, and because we do not have our own force to take control of insecurity and because we're economically dependent, it makes us a very insecure country.
FP: More than 320,000 people live in tent cities three years after the earthquake; 56 percent of your people live on less than $1 per day; Haiti is 98 percent deforested; 70 percent unemployed; and has the lowest energy access in the Caribbean. What are your priorities?
MM: Before I pick one or two, I should say the whole stage was set to maintain the exploitation of Haiti, the poverty of Haiti. We need to tell the world that we no longer need assistance. The Haiti that had its hands out, begging, that Haiti no longer exists. This Haiti wants to work.
FP: But 90 percent of your development budget is from foreign aid, so it's not like you're turning away handouts.
MM: I tell my people all the time, if you plant a tree today, you will have to wait five years to be able to enjoy the shade. I'm not expecting great changes today. I'm setting the stage.... Presidents from any country come to Haiti; they just land and say ‘Hey, what's up? We're here for the summit,' without asking ‘Do you have security,' ‘Do you have armored cars,' ‘I'm going to send my army,' ‘I'm going to send my private security people.' It shows that Haiti is a regular country.