Thousands protest corruption in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against corruption Wednesday in Haiti, with some even shoving the unpopular president at a public ceremony.

Police fired in the air to get President Jovenel Moise away from a ceremony at which he laid flowers at the tomb of one of the destitute Caribbean country’s founding fathers.

People in the crowd threw themselves to the ground as the shots rang out.

Elsewhere, near the presidential palace, police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

Tempers have been running high for weeks in Haiti, where some accuse the government of doing nothing to fight corruption.

On Wednesday, people demonstrated all over Haiti. In the capital, Port au Prince, burning barricades were set up in the streets.

One particular gripe is the alleged theft of funds from a foundation called Petrocaribe.

It was created by the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to help poor countries of the Americas, among other things by providing them with cut rate oil. Haiti has benefited from it for the past 12 years.

In 2016 and again last year, probes carried out by the Senate concluded that nearly two billion dollars in money from the fund had been embezzled. A dozen former government ministers were implicated but nobody was ever charged.

Since protests began this summer, Haitians have started using the higher figure of 3.8 billion dollars, but this is not the correct amount given by Petrocaribe.

“Our children have nothing to eat. We have nothing to pay for their education. And politicians wasted 3.8 billion dollars that were supposed to be used to develop the country,” said one protester, Ronald Saint-Hilaire, in the capital.