Haiti: Anti-corruption protesters burn tires, block roads

 

DW | Published: June 09, 2019

 

Thousands of demonstrators denouncing corruption have called for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise in further protests over alleged misuse of funds. He formerly headed a firm under scrutiny by state auditors.

Protesters burned tires and threw stones during Sunday’s march in Port-au-Prince, blocking roads and bringing much of the Haitian capital to a standstill as they called for President Jovenel Moise to step down. At least one person was reported killed.

Many stores and gas stations were closed, and travel between some cities was disrupted. Police set up barricades near the presidential palace and fired tear gas at demonstrators.

The protesters are demanding further investigation into the fate of funds from subsidized Venezuelan oil shipments under the Petrocaribe program that resulted in parliamentary inquiries in 2016 and 2017.

Read more: UN ends peacekeeping mission in Haiti

Last week, judges of the High Court of Auditors laid out a litany of examples of alleged corruption and mismanagement in a 600-page report. One involved the state granting contacts to two firms — with the same tax number and staff payroll — for the same road-repair project.

One of the contractors, Agritrans, was formerly headed by Moise until his election as president in 2017. It received more than 33 million gourdes ($700,000 at the time) to do the road work, despite being nothing more than a banana farming venture.

Opposition parties, who opposed Moise’s 2017 election, have urged supporters to demonstrate peacefully. Sunday’s protest came after widespread riots in February in which at least seven people died.

Fuel, electricity shortages

Petrocaribe, in decline because of Venezuela’s political and economic crisis, was designed to benefit Caribbean and Latin American nations through discount prices.

In exchange for backing Caracas at regional forums against the US, Haiti took half of its Venezuelan oil repayable at low rates over 25 years. Earlier this year, Haiti was forced to buy oil on the global market, leaving power stations without affordable fuel and unable to deliver electricity.

In May, much of Haiti’s population was restricted to just three hours of electricity a day. Shops have struggled, people have been unable to get to work and or to school and hospitals have been forced to rely on backup generators.

Haiti ranks as the poorest country of the Americas, with 60% of its population of 11 million living below the poverty line. Partially collapsed buildings, damaged during Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, still line many blocks of downtown Port-au-Prince.

ipj/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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