To the uninitiated, drivers passing under a bridge on one busy road in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, would presume that it was simply under construction.
But to millions of Haitians the concrete slab, that has no ramp to get on or off it, has become the most glaring symbol of an injustice that holds the impoverished Caribbean nation hostage among the most corrupt countries in the world.
Now, anger over endemic corruption has brought tens of thousands onto the streets and threatens to bring down the president, Jovenel Moïse. Demonstrations, which began last year but have intensified since February 7th have left at least 7 people dead.
Funds to build the bridge came from a loan that Venezuela gave to Haiti for reconstruction projects following the devastating 2010 earthquake. Since then, politicians racked up nearly $2bn in debt to the so-called Petrocaribe scheme. Most of the projects the money was intended for – including housing and government buildings – remain either incomplete or nonexistent.
A Senate report into how the funds were used came to a definitive conclusion, stating ‘the Petrocaribe fund has been the object of embezzlement, embezzlement, embezzlement.’ The report also named Moïse himself, claiming that before he was president his private company received funds to build a road that never materialized.
Since the release of the report, Haitians have been demanding the answer to one simple question.
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