Haitians renew protests against corruption

Haitian citizens demonstrated this Friday outside the Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes to demand the publication of the final report on the embezzlement of funds received through Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program.

The demonstration was convened by Nou Pap Domi, a group of citizens who fight corruption and impunity, an extra burden here in the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

The protesters asked the court to publish the report before the end of April, just as it promised in February when it presented part of the documentation.

The court announced, however, that the documentation will not be presented until mid-May.

Venezuela has long supplied oil to Caribbean countries on favorable financing terms, with much of the bill payable over 25 years at an interest rate of just 1 percent.

The idea of the program was to enable the Haitian government to take advantage of the long repayment schedule and use proceeds from domestic oil sales to finance public-works projects.

But the information released in February by the Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes revealed irregularities on the Haitian end of PetroCaribe between 2008 and 2016 and implicated 15 current and former officials – as well as a company once headed by President Jovenel Moise – in the scandal.

The 288-page report reveals that much of the $4 billion in PetroCaribe funds went to projects without planning, without studies, without respecting legal procedures, while dozens of companies collected the money without finishing the works.

“We’re here to ask the court to respect the law and publish the final report as it should,” Paul Henry-Pierre, one of the protesters, told EFE.

Though the protest was called against corruption and impunity, the demonstrators also demanded stronger measures against crime, which has spiked in recent weeks.

At least eight people died in a shooting last Wednesday night in the capital neighborhood of Carrefour Feuille.

Feb. 7, the second anniversary of Moise’s 2017 inauguration, marked the start of weeks of protests called by the Democratic and Popular Sector, an alliance of opposition groups that blame the head of state for Haiti’s worsening economic crisis and demand his resignation.

Disturbances growing out of the protests left 26 people dead, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, while police have not confirmed the casualty figures.

Haiti’s struggles have been exacerbated this year by a sharp depreciation of the gourde and constant power outages stemming from fuel shortages.

Inflation hit 15.1 percent in December and the unemployment rate is more than 50 percent.

More than half of Haiti’s roughly 10 million inhabitants survive on less than $2 a day.


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