Thousands took to the streets in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, Sunday to protest corruption and to demand the president resign.
“You can understand, $4.2 billion [PetroCaribe profits] what it would mean to the people if it had been spent justly. Kids who are cleaning cars in the streets would be in school instead,” a protester marching with a group near the National Palace told VOA Creole.
“People are dying in hospitals because there is no gauze cloth to cover their wounds. Near the fire station there are beautiful young women who could have great jobs, they could be government ministers but instead they are prostituting themselves for a bottle of beer! That means this mafia-style system is not serving the young people.”
Protesters have vowed to continue marching “non-stop” until their demands are satisfied. Shots were fired into the crowd by unknown gunmen in the Bel Air neighborhood of the capital, causing protesters to run for cover.
There are no details yet on casualties but police at the scene took measures to control the crowd. VOA Creole’s reporter in the capital also reported seeing tires burning in some streets.
President Jovenel Moise is accused of fraudulently benefiting from funds generated by the PetroCaribe oil alliance with Venezuela.
The allegations were made in an official report handed to Haiti’s Senate leader on May 31. Haiti's Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigation (Cour Superieure de Comptes et du Contentieux Administratif), a non-partisan institution tasked with overseeing the government's budget, spending and allocation of funds, prepared the report detailing irregularities and alleged abuse of funds generated under the PetroCaribe agreement.
President Moise has denied the allegations as political and his representatives cast doubt on the methods used to reach its conclusions.
What Is PetroCaribe?
PetroCaribe was launched in June of 2005 as a Caribbean oil alliance, with Venezuela giving members preferential treatment for energy purchases, at a discounted price with low-interest deferred terms and an option to pay in kind instead of currency.
Several audits have shown that much of Haiti's PetroCaribe revenue (about $3.8 billion) disappeared, having been disbursed for government construction contracts on projects that were never finished. The funds had originally been earmarked for infrastructure, social and economic projects.
VOA Creole reporters in the cities of Les Calles in the south, Cape Haitian in the north, and Jeremie in the southwest also reported protests.