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Haiti's President Launches PetroCaribe Investigation

Voice of America
19 Oct 2018, 19:05 GMT+10

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI  - Haitian President Jovenel Moise has reiterated his commitment to rooting out corruption.

Responding to protester demands to "tell us where the PetroCaribe money is" Moise tweeted Thursday that his administration would investigate the allegations of misuse of funds and would hold all those responsible accountable.

"No one will escape justice. It's a moral and judicial duty," he said.

The president's press secretary Eddy Jackson Alexis told reporters Moise had officially notified all government officials involved in the PetroCaribe agreement that they were to make themselves available to respond to a judicial inquiry.

Haitian President Jovenel Moise, center, accompanied by Haitian first lady Martine Moise, speaks with a protesters at a demonstration in Port-au-Prince, Oct. 17, 2018.

Thousands of protesters who took to the streets nationwide Wednesday were demanding transparency from the government regarding the alleged misuse of $3.8 billion.

The money, due to Haiti under the PetroCaribe oil alliances signed between Venezuela and Caribbean nations beginning in June 2005, had been earmarked for infrastructure and social and economic projects.

Audit done, unclear results

Several audits have been done, with the results either failing to provide clear answers as to where the PetroCaribe funds went, or showing that much of the revenue has been mismanaged, including being spent on construction projects that were not completed.

Meanwhile, National Police spokesman Michel-Ange Louis-Jeune spoke with reporters about the toll of the protests on civilians and law enforcement.

Two people died of bullet wounds in the West Department, he said, but did not specify who shot them. Eleven policemen were injured when protesters pelted them with rocks. In addition, the police force lost seven vehicles to fire and two others were damaged by flying rocks.

But some municipal officials have reported higher injury and death tolls. Frantz Ulysse, Saint-Marc's deputy mayor, reported 14 injuries when police fired to clear a roadblock on a highway the presidential motorcade was traveling on to attend a ceremony commemorating the 212th anniversary of the death of revolutionary hero, Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Ulysse said of 10 people who were hit by bullets, three are in critical condition.

A Haitian National Police officer pushes a protester during a march to demand an investigation into what they say is the alleged misuse of Venezuela-sponsored PetroCaribe funds, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 17, 2018.

Police crack down

According to the spokesman, the PNH (Police Nationale d'Haiti), widely criticized in July for failing to stop looters who ransacked businesses and gas stations, accomplished its mission this time around. Louis-Jeune said police thwarted a plot to loot two markets during the protests, but declined to identify the targeted businesses.

"We arrested several individuals who were on motorcycles, with gas cans in hand and who were unable to explain why they had these cans and what they planned to do with them," he said. Illegal weapons were also seized from several individuals.

President Moise congratulated the police force on a job well done.

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