Haitians Decry Squandered Venezuelan Oil Funds

(Argus, 11.Jun.2019) — Deadly street protests have erupted in Haiti following the publication of a court report alleging that recent governments mishandled about $2bn in oil-related credit from Venezuela.

Seven people have been killed and many injured since 9 June as security forces attacked protesters, according to opposition groups that are calling for the resignation of president Jovenel Moise and his government.

Moise has made no public statement about the protests since they broke out over the weekend.

A report sent to the parliament on 31 May by the superior court concluded that companies linked to several government officials collected funds delivered under Venezuela’s PetroCaribe regional oil supply program and failed to use the money for the projects planned by the government.

The $2bn in allegedly missing funds represent about a half of Haiti’s benefits under PetroCaribe between 2008 and 2016, the report said.

Under PetroCaribe, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PdV provided several Central American and Caribbean countries with crude and refined products, allowing them to pay a fraction of the cost while keeping the rest as long-term, low-interest loans.

Haiti produces no hydrocarbons, and had a nominal PetroCaribe quota of 14,000 b/d.

Venezuelan oil supplies to Haiti and most other countries have dried up since 2015, because of PdV’s declining production at home, and its oil-backed loan obligations, mainly to China. Venezuela’s close ally Cuba continues to receive a steady flow of Venezuelan oil in spite of US sanctions meant to block it.

The protests in Port-au-Prince and other cities that involve the burning of tires in streets, roadblocks, and the burning of vehicles and buildings will continue until the government resigns, protest leaders say.

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