Haiti

‘Where did the money go?’ Haitians denounce corruption in social media campaign

A tweet by Haitian filmmaker and writer Gilbert Mirambeau Jr. asking what happened to the PetroCaribe money that Haiti received from Venezuela’s discounted oil program, has launched a viral social media movement.
A tweet by Haitian filmmaker and writer Gilbert Mirambeau Jr. asking what happened to the PetroCaribe money that Haiti received from Venezuela’s discounted oil program, has launched a viral social media movement.

K-Lib — whose real name is Valckensy Dessin — said the anger and frustration that sparked last month’s civil unrest are also fueling the cyber activism that has spurred calls for protests on the ground, including a Friday sit-in in front of the country’s Superior Court of Auditors. On Thursday, black-and-white posters appeared on utility poles, and banners hung from power lines around the nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince asking where the PetroCaribe money has gone.

A series of other posters featuring images of former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who co-chaired the country’s interim reconstruction commission after the quake, asked a related question: Kote Lajan CIRH La, or where is the money from the Interim-Haiti Reconstruction Commission? Those posters, which were paired with images of current President Jovenel Moïse and ministers in former President Michel Martelly’s administration, were removed Wednesday.

“I am of the generation who’s never seen a day of stability in Haiti, and I am tired,” said Daphne Valmond Bourgoin, 39, a mother and entrepreneur in Port-au-Prince who has joined the Twitter campaign. “Corrupt governments have come and gone and we sit passively as if they don’t affect us.

“The challenge to me means get up, mobilize and start acting for the Haiti I want,” she said. “I want to stay in Haiti, raise my kids here, but I have access to absolutely nothing, and money designated to help just disappeared. It’s unacceptable. We need to know what happened to it and those responsible need to face the consequences.”

But the anger isn’t just over squandered money. It’s also directed at Haitian politicians and their privileges in a country where two out of three people live on less than $2 a day and concerns are increasing over the potential for more social unrest.

During recent political mudslinging, the president of the Haitian Senate and an opposition senator accused each other of corruption. Sen. Ricard Pierre said Haiti’s cash-strapped government was paying $115,500 to rent a residence for the head of the body, Sen. Joseph Lambert. Lambert in turn accused Pierre of stealing the chamber’s generator.

Pierre denied the accusation. Lambert announced that the Senate would cancel the lease and curtail lawmakers’ privileges. The damage, however, was already done.

“They were not even ashamed,” K-Lib, 37, said, adding that it’s time for Haitians to stop accepting “corruption and impunity” as normal.

“After the last events that happened to Haiti, the Haitian population understands the necessity for them right now to take part in everything that is happening in the country,” he said. “What’s happening is a movement of massive collective consciousness.”

Haitians have long taken to the streets to express dissatisfaction with corruption and the country’s political leaders. But this time, social media is playing a significant role in rallying Haitians.

“Every Haitian needs to stand in the four corners of the world with their posters in their hands to ask where is the PetroCaribe money,” Haiti-born actress Gessica Généus tweeted on Wednesday.

A Twitter analysis provided by Mirambeau from Brandmaxima and Keyhole, marketing companies that track hashtags, show that the #petrocaribechallenge hashtag has been re-tweeted over 13,000 times and was potentially seen by 3.6 million people on Twitter. The hashtag has also made its way onto other social media platforms. Various Haiti-related WhatsApp forums are being flooded with photos of Haitians asking what happened to the money. Comedians and budding filmmakers are also producing short video clips.



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