The Petro Caribe Challenge hashtag

The Petro Caribe Challenge hashtag

The Petro Caribe Challenge hashtag meant to express outrage at the Haitian government embezzling $2 billion in Petrocaribe funds.

The Petro Caribe Challenge Hashtag

The #PetroCaribeChallenge, a Hashtag meant to express outrage at the Haitian government embezzling $2 billion in PetroCaribe funds, is slowly evolving into full-fledged protests. On August 24, 2018, Haitians protest to call for an investigation into the alleged misuse of Venezuela-sponsored PetroCaribe funds by previous administrations, in Port-au-Prince. PetroCaribe was an agreement by Venezuela, with 13 Caribbean countries on July 29, 2005. The objective of PetroCaribe was to alleviate the burden of rising oil prices and its negative impact on Caribbean countries. The countries under the agreement were allowed to purchase 185,000 barrels of oil per day on preferential terms.

Additionally, these nations could settle their debt to Venezuela using goods and services. During the period of Haitian President Rene Preval it was decided as per the agreement that Haiti would buy oil from Venezuela, paying only 60% up-front with the remainder payable over twenty-five years at 1% interest. This oil support from Venezuela was the key in providing basic needs and services to 10 million Haitians, securing a guaranteed supply of oil at stable prices and a basis for relief from the dependence on oil from the U.S.

Since 2008, Venezuela has provided nearly $1.9 billion in petroleum products, with over $800 million being paid up-front. Following the earthquake, Venezuela cancelled some $400 million of PetroCaribe debt, yet with large disbursements since the earthquake, Haiti still owes some $580 million. While significant resources have already been spent, Haiti maintains a balance of $350 million in PetroCaribe funds.

The administrations that controlled the PetroCaribe fund are currently under an investigation for corruption. Also, the funds in question have grown to more than 4 million dollars. Consequently, the public has exploded in protest to the government decision in July to increase fuel prices by as much as 51 percent. A report detailed that $1.7 billion worth of no-bid contracts was given by the Haitian government between 2008 and 2016. The projects, which included government ministries, housing for the poor and a new parliament building, were all awarded using PetroCaribe money. Contracts were signed and paid, but many of the projects were never completed. A company named GTC Construction firm received $ 21 million or over 95 percent of the total cost of the project for performing only 8 km road or 44 percent of the work. Moreover, a new contract was signed by the MPCE with the same construction company for $ 45 million with also PetroCaribe funds.

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