Socialist Worker

Rage at rule of the rich and the corrupt hits Haiti

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2642

People are furious at the PetroCaribe scandal

People are furious at the PetroCaribe scandal (Pic: Medyalokal/Wikipedia)


Huge protests and a general strike in outrage at corruption have gripped Haiti.

President Jovenel Moise’s regime has been heavily implicated in the PetroCaribe scandal. This channelled government revenues into the pockets of bosses and politicians.

The government has also come under fire for passing the costs of an economic crisis on to ordinary people in a country already devastated by imperialism and neoliberalism.

The beginning of the protests coincided with the anniversary of the country’s notorious former ruler Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier fleeing after the fall of his regime.

Banks have been attacked, petrol stations set on fire and businesses across the country have reported they can’t function.

The protests, which began on 7 February, are demanding the resignation of Moise. But they also express a much deeper dissatisfaction with the government and the political system.

Protesters have already scored victories.

On Sunday prime minister Jean-Henry Ceant announced that “unnecessary privileges for high-level government officials, like allowances for gas and ­telephones, needless trips abroad, and the amount of consultants” were to be stripped away.

Such measures may not be enough to stem the tide of protest, although mainstream media sources are keen to claim they will.

Protester Valckensy Dessin expressed the deep anger millions of Haitian people feel when he told the Miami Herald newspaper, “We have a little minority, rich people in this country, running this country, earning everything.

Misery

“And we have the mass of the ­population dying, hungry, and misery like this.”

The PetroCaribe agreement at the heart of the scandal is between the Haitian state and ­oil-producing countries in the region such as Venezuela.

It allows the Haitian state to receive oil and pay for it within 25 years, meaning it can sell it to organisations inside the country. This is designed to enable the state to use the money to fund development projects.

But this has not happened. Emergency measures introduced after successive devastating hurricanes lifted restrictions on bidding processes for the oil.

This opened the door for bosses to stick their hand in the till.

Over £3 billion is missing. Banners on the protests include, “Give us the PetroCaribe money” and, “Where is the Petrocaribe money?”

The links between the Haitian state and those who have enriched themselves are complex but undeniable.

For instance, the firm Societe Generale d’Energie owes £134 ­million to the state.

Its chief executive founded the Haitian stock exchange. Its second in command described Haiti to French bosses as “27,750 square ­kilometres of opportunities to invest and make money”.

Haiti has been impoverished by outside powers and the local rich. This revolt gives a glimpse of the force that can bring change.


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