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Haiti president shows passport to end controversy

11 march 2012, 12:43
Haiti's President Michel Martelly. ©REUTERS/Swoan Parker
Haiti's President Michel Martelly. ©REUTERS/Swoan Parker
Seeking to end rumors that he is a US citizen, President Michel Martelly on Thursday showed his Haitian passport on national television, AFP reports.

Haiti's constitution does not allow dual nationality, and charges that he has foreign passports -- raised by his opponents -- has been a thorn in Martelly's side for months.

Martelly lived in the United States for some time and obtained a US residency card, which he said he surrendered upon being elected to office.

"I am a native Haitian. I, Joseph Michel Martelly, have never lied," the president said during a meeting with religious leaders at the presidential palace which was broadcast on national television.

Also at the event was Kenneth Merten, the US ambassador to Haiti, who vouched for the Haitian leader.

"I can say that President Martelly is not a US citizen -- he is a Haitian," Merten said. Senior Haitian government members at the event applauded the statement.

Martelly showed eight passports -- all Haitian -- to religious leaders from the group "Religion for Peace."

In Haiti, when a person's passport expires, the original does not have to be returned.

For the past three months, a Haitian senate committee has been investigating Martelly's nationality and that of his government ministers. The committee has written to US and Italian authorities seeking data on Martelly's nationality.

On Wednesday, the committee published a partial report stating that three cabinet officials were found holding a US, Spanish and Canadian passport, respectively.

On March 1, Martelly asked Foreign Minister Laurent Lamothe to become prime minister after Garry Conille resigned as prime minister on February 24, after just four months in office, amid tension over the dual nationality issue.

Martelly's administration is trying to ramp up stalled reconstruction efforts following the devastating January 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. According to UN figures, the quake killed, injured or displaced one in six of the Caribbean nation's entire population of almost 10 million.

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