HAITI:The Presidency and Parliament: A Damned Alliance to rob the nation.

 

 

The Presidency and Parliament: A Damned Alliance to rob the nation.

 

The international press continues to refer to Haiti as “the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” Mean while, it also ranks among the most corrupt states whose leaders specialize in the art of stealing its resources. Over the years, they’ve perfected their technique to avoid being accountable for their crimes. Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, from one government to the next, whatever the ruling party, the leaders keep renewing their resilience in the theft of public funds. As things go, the damned alliance between the Presidency and Parliament to rob the nation is likely to strengthen. For stealing in broad day light gradually has become part of the socio-political culture of Haiti. The latest revelations regarding millions requested by the Ministry of the Interior and Territorial Communities to ensure the protection of the President of the Republic, as he participates in certain national events and for trips within the country, have shocked most. Adding insult to indecency and injury, the Senators are also participating in the “waltz of mil lions,” getting hefty “bonuses” for so-called national and local festivities. Not counting a slew of other perks provided on top of their salaries!

 

Undeniably, the end of the Duvalier dynasty did not bring the prosperity the Haitian people expected. On the contrary, the pauperization of the urban and rural masses has accelerated and a budding middle class has disintegrated. On the other hand, the men and women who came to power over the past twenty seven years have become rich at the expense of the Public Treasury, as well as through corruption and drug trafficking. Under the presidencies of Jean Bertrand Aristide, René Préval and Michel Martelly, Haitian leadership, at all levels, eased the country of its resources by amassing millions of dollars while paying no attention to the masses beset by hunger, disease and abject poverty. Different teams coming to power invented various me thods to enrich themselves, but the most common modus operandi has been the squandering of the public coffers. There had been even a Ponzi scheme to defraud families at home and Haitians abroad of their savings.

 

Indeed, former President Aristide began his fundraising campaign be fore he was sworn in. Through an operation called “Voye Ayiti Monte,“ (Creole acronym VOAM) or “Up With Haiti,” millions were raised from the Haitian diaspora. There ne ver was an accounting of the money raised during the euphoria that followed the election of the popular cleric-turned-dishonest-politician. In power, especially following his re turn from exile in Washington, Pre si dent Aristide used the so-called “Little Projects of the Presidency” to fa cilitate his embezzlement initiative. Moreover, he tapped on funds of Teleco, the State-owned telephone company that had established obscure contracts with some foreign carriers. He also extorted money from drug dealers who had turned Haiti into a Narco State. But his most egregious act was the so-called “cooperatives,” a Ponzi scheme he sponsor ed to defraud the gullible of millions of their savings.

 

President René Préval had a reputation of a “clean” Head of State, distancing himself from the misconduct of his predecessor. But most people forget that the initial depredations into the PetroCaribe Fund occurred under the watch of Mr. Préval. Under his administration, more than $600 million were supposedly disbursed for the victims of three major hurricanes that had devastated the country. The supposed beneficiaries loudly protested, saying they had not receiv ed a penny. Mr. Préval also had dipped into the Venezuelan crude oil revenues to finance the candidacies of his supporters and friends to various elective posts under the banner of his political party. To the extent that there was no accounting of how the PetroCaribe Fund was managed, there’s no guarantee that he had not helped himself to it. For having suggested that the revenues of the Petro Caribe Fund be budgeted, former Prime Minister Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis was run out of office by a no confidence vote from Préval’s allies in Parliament. As for Michel Martelly, he came to power intent on making millions from the outset. Even before taking the oath of office, he traveled to the Dominican Republic to collect some millions in bribes from Dominican Senator Félix Bautista, whose construction companies had gotten no bid contracts for post-2010 earthquake work in Haiti with the blessing of the newly elected president.

 

Soon after his inauguration, Martelly made withdrawals from the Petro Caribe Fund to finance the purchase of “gifts” to distribute throughout the country to supporters. But only 10% of the   withdrawn amounts were used for such purchases. In deed, the Venezuelan duck with the golden eggs was plucked throughout Martelly’s five-year presidency. Un der the Martelly-Lamothe and Mar tel ly-Paul administrations, there was a multiplicity of construction projects funded with the millions from the PetroCaribe Fund. But many were never completed. In complicity with the firms selected with no bids, only fractions of the sums required for the contracts were paid. Thus, during his term, Martelly wasted nearly $2 billion of the PetroCaribe Fund, leaving Haiti harnessed with a hefty debt. An icing on the Presidential family’s cake: Martelly required a doubling of his per diem to $20,000 and to $10,000 for his wife No wonder the couple took advantage to visit the world during their five-year stint at the Palace!

 

Now comes Jovenel Moïse’s turn. But his arrival coincides with a dearth of funds. For there’s no longer any duck with golden eggs. Unable to continue “the waltz of millions” at the expense of the PetroCaribe Fund, President Moïse must scrounge around to find enough to satisfy his “big eater” appetite. Besides, he’s forced to share the few remaining sources of funding with the parliamentarians who are nothing but voracious. Hence a rebounding of moneys  scandals to tarnish the reputation of a new chief who was perceived as a budding reformer! What can be expected with a ballooning of the budget deficit faced with the greed of the Presidency and of members of both Houses? A generalized social breakdown may not be far off. Especially since the traditionally benevolent international community seems reluctant to come to the rescue.

 

The two poles of political powers in Haiti are in unchartered territory as they scramble over diminishing resources. We are dangerously ad vancing toward an explosion of generalized anger coming from the bottom this time. There’s uneasiness in the air as people ask for an accounting from those living high off the hog. What happened in Pétion-Ville last Monday (the May Day holiday) may be a harbinger of things to co me. Some street merchants and public market people took to the streets of the upscale suburb of Port–shouting their slogan: “When we are hungry, we don’t joke

 

 

 

 

 

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