Controversy and questions have swirled in recent weeks around Haitian First Lady Sophia Saint-Rémy Martelly’s announcement that she will run under the banner of the National Buckle Network (Bouclier) as a candidate for Senator of Haiti’s West Department, which includes Port-au-Prince.
Several journalists and rival candidates were quick to point out that Ms. Martelly was born in New York City on Oct. 9, 1965, and listed as a U.S. citizen on official Haitian government documents filed by her husband, President Michel Martelly, as late as 2011. Haiti’s Constitution bars U.S. citizens from running for and holding high public office in Haiti.
On April 28 at the Office of Departmental Electoral Contestation (BCED), Ms. Martelly’s lawyers claimed that she had renounced her U.S. citizenship at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince last year. Attorneys Grégory Mayard-Paul, Napoléon Lauture, and Patrick Laurent produced a “Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States,” purportedly signed on March 31, 2014, by U.S. Consul General Jay Thomas Smith, showing that Ms. Martelly “voluntarily executed an oath of renunciation of her U.S. citizenship.”
As widespread skepticism continued, U.S. Ambassador Pamela White stepped into the fray to vouch that Ms. Martelly had indeed renounced her U.S. citizenship, much as former U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Merten had been obliged to join President Martelly in a March 8, 2012, press conference to assert “that President Martelly is not American, he is Haitian” when suspicions grew over his nationality.
Some analysts have pointed to Ms. Martelly’s absence from the U.S. Treasury Department’s “Quarterly Publication of Individuals, Who Have Chosen To Expatriate, as Required by Section 6039G” of the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). This list, available at the Federal Register, applies to people who made an average of $124,000 annually for the five years prior to renouncing their U.S. citizenship or who had a net worth of $2 million or more. Sophia Saint Rémy Martelly does not appear on this list, although her net worth is greater than $2 million due to real estate holdings, in Haiti and Florida, in the names of herself and her husband.
There are several bureaucratic reasons why she may not yet be listed in the U.S. Treasury’s quarterly lists in the months since her claimed March 2014 renunciation, but its absence continues to stir doubts. Ambassador Merten’s unprecedented press conference in 2012 has still not put to rest disturbing questions raised by investigating commissions of both the Haitian Senate and House of Deputies that found that Michel Martelly had many Haitian passports with Haitian immigration exit stamps but no corresponding entry stamps in other countries.
The Martelly regime and U.S. government have trampled so many Haitian laws and institutions in recent years that it is understandable that skepticism and suspicion run high. Even President Martelly’s cousin, prominent musician and hotelier Richard Morse who was once part of Martelly’s presidential inner circle, tweeted on April 23: “Sophia Martelly/Pam White/Michel Martelly legitimize corruption & Narco trafficking.”