Supreme Court Judge Ertha Pascal-Trouillot was inaugurated by the army today to head Haiti's first civilian-led government since the fall of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986.
Pascal-Trouillot becomes the first woman president in the Caribbean nation's tumultuous 186-year history. She was inaugurated a day after military leader Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril, pressured by widespread protests, resigned and left the country.
The new president will serve with a 19-member advisory council until after the country's first free elections, which could take place in three to six months.
"I have accepted this heavy task in the name of Haitian women," Pascal-Trouillot said.
Pascal-Trouillot, who was the only woman on the 12-member Supreme Court, was inaugurated by Maj. Gen. Herard Abraham, the army chief of staff, at the National Palace. The ceremony was carried live on state television.
"The armed forces are under your orders," Abraham told her. Abraham had taken temporary control of the government after Avril resigned Saturday.
Abraham reminded the nation that he had kept his promise to hand over power to a civilian-led government within 72 hours, and said, "the army has . . .... remained in its quarters."
"The Haitian people have shown the world their capacity to overcome their problems," the general said, to warm applause.
There had been fears of army resistance to the provisional government, which is to lead Haiti to democratic elections within three to six months.
"She has the capacity to lead the country to the democracy we have all been waiting for," said Chantal Hudicourt Ewald, a lawyer who helped write the 1987 constitution. "It is a great victory for women."
"The men in Haiti have messed up the country so much, we can only expect her to do better," said Pierre Louis Gaillard, 48, an unemployed mechanic.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Government figures last year showed about 80% of the country's nearly 6 million people live in absolute poverty, and unemployment is 55%.