PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A group of aspiring soldiers and former troops criticized President Michel Martelly on Wednesday, saying he is breaking his campaign promise to restore Haiti’s army.
At a news conference in the Delmas section of the capital, the leaders of a group calling itself the Organization of Demobilized Soldiers for the Reconstruction of Haiti accused Martelly of not sticking to his word.
“As president you must have one word — either yes or no,” ex-soldier David Esperance said as two dozen men in camouflage pants stood behind him. “You can’t change your word all the time as president.”
The charge came five days after the Martelly administration said the president would announce details about a new “public security force” on Nov. 18 instead of a plan to revive the national army.
The army was disbanded in 1995 by then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide because of its long history of abuse and coups.
Martelly said as a candidate that he wanted to restore the armed force. In September, The Associated Press obtained a government plan to bring back the military with 3,500 soldiers at the cost if $95 million.
The new military would be responsible for border patrol, disaster response and nationwide surveillance, according to the plan. It would later replace a United Nations peacekeeping mission that has been in Haiti since 2004.
It’s unclear who would foot the bill.
The U.S. State Department has said that it would help strengthen the national police force, which has 8,500 officers in a country of 10 million, instead of helping rebuild the army.
Members of the pro-army group and similar organizations in the countryside have been training in recent months with the hopes of securing a job in the planned force.
Martelly spokesman Lucien Jura couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
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