Haiti president to host Oprah Winfrey during visit

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) - December 9, 2011

In an interview with The Associated Press, the Haiti leader said he would like to see Winfrey promote the troubled nation's lesser known attributes to outside investors as it struggles to recover from the 2010 earthquake that threw hundreds of thousands people into makeshift camps.

Martelly said he planned to meet with Winfrey on Monday.

"I am hoping she will serve as an ambassador for Haiti, to help us get the kind of assistance needed," Martelly said at a trade summit for Caribbean leaders.

Winfrey is expected to arrive in Haiti on Sunday evening and on Monday visit a settlement camp for displaced people run by Hollywood actor Sean Penn and his aid group J/P HRO. She is also expected to meet with fashion designer Donna Karan, who has celebrated the work of Haiti's artisans through her Urban Zen Foundation since the quake.

Chance Patterson, a spokesman for Winfrey's Harpo Studios, couldn't be reached for comment Friday night.

The interview with Martelly came on the second day of the Caricom-Cuba summit, an effort aimed at encouraging cooperation among Caribbean nations and advocating for their interests.

Martelly, a former musician who performed under the stage name "Sweet Micky," also said he plans an ambitious world tour in an effort to raise money for an education program that seeks to ensure children attend school in Haiti. Few parents can afford tuition for his country's many private schools.

"We would take the tour to Los Angeles, Korea, Japan, France to raise money for the children's education," Martelly said, adding that he understands the power of the stage.

"I will get on it and dance and have great groups of entertainers to perform to help Haiti, including Wyclef (Jean) and Oprah and have others play my music and sing my songs," he said.

Separately, Martelly said he is moving ahead with a campaign pledge to restore Haiti's army despite opposition raised by some people, including Nobel peace laureate and former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

Arias sent a letter this week to Martelly saying it would be an error to bring back the military that was disbanded in 1995 because of a long history of abuse. Arias and others have said money for the $25 million force would be better spent elsewhere for the struggling country.

In the interview, Martelly reiterated his position that the new force would be a modern one and a departure from its predecessor, which was an instrument long used to topple presidents and jail opponents in Haiti.

"I could bring arguments which could prove him wrong," Martelly said about Arias. "For instance, in a modern army we would have engineers and a medical corps who, if they were there in the time of the earthquake, could have saved lives."

Martelly said he hopes the new force will provide jobs and education to the youth of Haiti, where only about 60 percent of the people have regular employment.

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