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Haitian anti-graft protesters demand probe into oil fund scandal

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) — Hundreds of Haitians protested in the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince on Sunday, demanding an investigation into the alleged misuse of funds marked for a cheap oil programme run by Venezuela.

Founded in 2005 by late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, the PetroCaribe programme allowed several Latin American and Caribbean countries to acquire petroleum products at a low cost, and to pay their bills over 25 years at a one per cent interest rate.

Two Haitian Senate investigations in 2016 and 2017 into the misuse of nearly US$2 billion set aside for the fund had pinned a dozen former ministers from the current ruling party, but they have yet to face justice.

“Our biggest problem in Haiti is injustice. The judicial system is in the hands of the elite; how can we trust it?” asked Emmanuel Junior Cassis, one of the protesters.

“When bad things happen in Africa, where justice is weak, the International Criminal Court is called in for help. It must be the same for us here, to stop those who steal money from the people.”

A campaign against corruption, launched in mid-July on social networks, regularly organises protests in major cities.

Several small demonstrations were also organised by the Haitian diaspora in the United States.

Faced with this growing movement, new Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant announced in his inaugural speech last week that his government would lead the charge against corruption.

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