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S. Floridians Celebrate As President Martelly Takes Power In Haiti

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LITTLE HAITI (CBS4)- Haitians in South Florida are celebrating the inauguration of Haiti’s president Michel Martelly.

Back in Haiti, a smiling Michel Martelly, wearing the red and blue presidential sash, walked out of a white parliament building Saturday holding his wife’s right hand.

“Great, great, great,” said Sophia Martelly, dressed in a royal blue two-piece suit.

Moments earlier, her husband, musician-turned-politician Martelly was sworn in as this quake-ravaged nation’s 56th president. He took the oath in darkness. As he was sitting down next to former President René Préval, the lights went out.

In Little Haiti, a group of musicians gathered wearing pink shirts, Martelly’s favorite color. One musician said they’re supporting Sweet Micky, which is what Martelly calledhimself when he was a musician.

“That’s what he was then this is what he is now. Our president represents change and we need it.”

Supporter Patricia Smith said Haiti needs Martelly.

“From years, nothing really happened, but with someone that how it is to be in poverty, with someone that knows how it is when someone doesn’t go to school…(he) thinks about the kids, about the future and I think that’s good,” Smith said.

Representative Frederica Wilson said it’s important for South Floridians to connect with Haiti.

“I think it’s important because Haiti is so close,” she said. “Now we’re not talking about Spain or Costa Rica. If we had a bridge we could walk to Haiti. So that’s why it’s so important for us to be concerned about Haiti. And continue to be extensions of Haiti.

A painter painted a mural of Martelly with the palace behind him. He says, “I wanted to paint the palace behind him to show that we will support and work to rebuild the presidential palace that was destroyed.”

Dignitaries at the inauguration included former President Bill Clinton, Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding and delegations from France, Brazil and Taiwan. The head of the U.N. Peacekeeping operations also attended.

Saturday’s inauguration, which came after months of political uncertainty, saw the historic end to the term of one democratically elected president and the beginning of another.

During the Nov. 28 first round of elections, a dozen candidates, including Martelly, stopped the vote mid-day, demanding cancellation amid allegations of “massive fraud.”

The United Nations came under fire by those demanding cancellation. It was responsible for technical and logistical support.

It later took the lead in the international community to salvage the elections by demanding that Préval remove his candidate, former state construction chief Jude Célestin, from the race.

The two-month electoral crisis finally ended with a second round between Martelly and former first lady Mirlande Manigat. Martelly won with 67 percent of the vote.

But with most of the 4.3 million voters staying home, and his victory representing just 16 percent of the electorate, Martelly has difficult road ahead.

As he arrived on the grounds of the broken presidential palace on Saturday, thousands outside the wrought iron green fence chanted. Earlier, a small band of protesters took to the streets wearing green and white T-shirts, saying in Creole, “We fired them.” referring to Préval’s government.

The presidential palace was one of many building that crumbled during the 7.0 earthquake more than a year ago. The quake killed more than 300,000 people and displaced thousands more. There are still more than 1,100 tent cities and thousands of people in need of care, clean water and basic necessities of life.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)

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