Monday 10 June 2019 - 07:54

Protesters in several Haitian cities urge President Moise’s ouster over graft scandal

Story Code : 798672
Protesters are seen, through the smoke of barricades, during an anti-government protest in Port-au-Prince, June 9, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)
Protesters are seen, through the smoke of barricades, during an anti-government protest in Port-au-Prince, June 9, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Angry protesters brought Port-au-Prince to a standstill on Sunday, as they were marching in the streets in protest to Moise’s alleged corruption and mismanagement of millions of dollars saved in a regional aid program to improve the lives of the country’s poor.

The protesters blocked roads with vehicles, rocks and other large objects, causing many stores and gas stations to remain closed during the day.

They burned tires and threw rocks during the rally, according to police, who said an officer was hit by a rock and injured.

At least two people were fatally shot and four others were injured during the clashes, said police Spokesman Michel-Ange Louis-Jeune. He said more than a dozen people were also arrested.

Police also used tear gas to disperse those who were trying to breach the barricades set up near the presidential palace.

Similar protests were held in some other Haitian cities to demand more investigation into the fate of the fund that, according to government auditors, was received by Moise for road rehabilitation projects.

The protests were held days after Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes handed over a final 600-page report to the Senate on the regional PetroCaribe aid program, which is an energy agreement between Venezuela and a number of Caribbean states, including Haiti.

Under the program, Venezuela provided countries with oil, with payments deferred over 25 years at an interest rate as low as 1 percent.

In Haiti, the savings from not having to immediately pay for the oil were designated for investments in roads, hospitals and social programs to help the poor.

Several government audits have, however, revealed 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 report to the Senate included details of alleged fraud by the current and former presidents, Moise and Michel Martelly, triggering outrage and prompting fresh calls for justice.

Haiti currently owes Venezuela nearly $2 billion — money that was stolen by government officials and their supporters over the years, according to two anti-corruption commissions in the Haitian Senate. The aid program has ended due to Venezuela’s political crisis, though.

Haiti, the poorest country of the Americas, has a population of some 11 million, 60 percent of which lives below the poverty line.