PORT-AU-PRINCE – Tens of thousands of Haitians took to the streets in Port-au-Prince and other cities around the country on Wednesday to demand that those linked with alleged corruption in PetroCaribe, a Venezuelan program supplying crude oil to Caribbean and Central American nations on generous terms, be brought to justice.
The demonstration in the capital was the city’s largest since the start of the anti-corruption movement several months ago, EFE determined.
Protesters burned tires at various spots around Port-au-Prince, all the while monitored carefully by a huge contingent of police.
“Today, we want the judiciary to do its job. If not, we’re going to get justice for ourselves. We don’t want violence, but we’re losing patience. If (President) Jovenel Moise cannot guarantee that there’s trial, he should give up power,” activist Mirlande Paul told EFE.
Local media reported that the most of the protests around Haiti were peaceful, but in the capital the demonstration was broken up when police fired tear gas, creating panic for several hours.
“They stole $3.8 billion; the country doesn’t have hospitals, schools, the people are leaving for other countries out of misery. Today, we’re saying enough and we need a quick answer to prevent the situation from deteriorating,” Paul added.
The activist was referring to the amount of funds – according to several local sectors – that were allegedly embezzled from the PetroCaribe program administration.
Moise also mentioned the issue after heading a patriotic event in the capital, saying that he was in favor of an investigation and urging people to show “love for the nation.”
Similar marches were held in other cities, including Petit-Goave, Cap Haitien, Gonaives, Saint-Marc, Les Cayes, Jeremie, Ouanaminthe and Jacmel.
The investigation into alleged irregularities in the management of the PetroCaribe funds is in the hands of the Superior Anticorruption Court, but the results will only be made public in January.
Meanwhile, several people were hurt on Wednesday when Haitian police opened fire on rock-throwing protesters during a ceremony to commemorate the 212th anniversary of the killing of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the nation’s founder.
The incident occurred as Moise and first lady Martine Moise were laying a wreath at the Dessalines monument in Port-au-Prince.
Members of the president’s security detail responded with live ammunition when some protesters began hurling rocks.
Authorities did not say how many people were hurt and provided no information on the severity of their injuries.
The Haitian parliament published a report last year blaming former senior officials for irregularities in the use of the PetroCaribe funds, but no one has been indicted.