THE EMBEZZLEMENT OF THE PETROCARIBE FUND: WHY THE HAITIAN MEDIA SOUGHT TO BURY THE STORY

 

THE EMBEZZLEMENT OF THE PETROCARIBE FUND: WHY THE HAITIAN MEDIA SOUGHT TO BURY THE STORY

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI – In Haiti, government and business corruption is endemic costing millions of dollars of loss to the government and the Haitian economy in general. The press and the media in general have an affirmative and moral duty to report on corruption,and grafts specially when the corruption is so massive as in the case of the Petrocaribe fund. For several years, the main organs of Haitian media including radio stations, printed media, televisions sought to bury the theft of the petrocaribe fund by promoting a total blackout of the theft of nearly 2.3 billion dollars. Money that could have been used for education, health care, assistance to poor farmers among other things. The 2.3 billion dollars ended up in the pockets of government officials and their business associates, to the detriment of the Haitian people.

The petrocaribe embezzlement was one of the biggest story and largest theft of Haitian government resources in nearly a century, and yet there was no major investigation conducted by any of the most established newspapers in Haiti. None of the more politically vocal radio stations, and the countless of talk radio personalities even attempted to address the petrocaribe theft. From 2007 to 2015, Petrocaribe was hardly mentioned in news coverage in Haiti.

Omegaworldnews, an online newspaper owned by Haitian-Americans has been the only newspapers that constantly reported on the theft of the Petrocaribe fund. Omega’s reporting led to an investigation in 2015 conducted by the Haitian senate headed by Senator Youri Latortue, the then president of the Haitian senate. The report of the investigation released on August 2016 clearly indicate what we, at Omega thought all alone that from the Preval administration (2006-2011) to the Martelly administration (2011-2015, government ministers have embezzled nearly 2.3 billion dollars through several schemes involving kickbacks for contracts, and issuing no bids contracts to companies owned by themselves or people affiliated with them.

Following the release of the report on the petrocaribe investigation, the Haitian media was relatively silence. There had not been one single article on any of Haiti’s more established newspapers in Haiti calling government officials to task, calling for further investigations by the government. The report concluded that at least two dozens government officials were involved in the embezzlement. All of them were recommended for prosecution. President Jovenel Moise who succeeded Martelly kept quiet wishing that the Petrocaribe issue would simply go away if he acts as if this theft did not occur.

Omegaworldnews continued reporting on the Petrocaribe theft led to several complaints being filed by members of the Haitian civil society, which finally got the attention of the United Nations, through MINIJUSTH who issued a public comment supporting the appointment of a judge to investigate the complaints filed against present and former government officials who participated in the theft of the petrocaribe fund. The petrocaribe fund became an albatross in the neck of the Haitian government – A government that seems clueless and does know how to deal with this case. Haiti’s president Jovenel Moise paid lip service to the issue of corruption but provides no leadership or no tangible actions to hold those responsible accountable.

Democracy cannot flourish without a robust media to report freely. Freedom of the press in not challenged only when the government threatens to sanction opinions it does not agree with; press freedom is also threaten when the media becomes part of the corruption either through bribes for positive and flattering stories, or through self-censoring because of fear that their economic interest might be jeopardized. In Haiti, it is well known that government officials often paid reporters and newspaper editors to ensure positive reporting.

During the Martelly administration the United States Department of State released a list of about 22 reporters and media people who were in the payroll of a certain minister for positive coverage, and flattering articles. That kind of arrangement between media and government official is not only illegal but undermine the integrity of the press and encourage corruption because government officials know that as long as they can pay a reporter to keep quiet, they can act with impunity. Omegaworldnews will continue to shine a bright light on corruption in Haiti, and will continue to report on petrocaribe until those who are responsible are held accountable.

 

Omega Staff Writers

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