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Two killed, several injured in Haiti anti-corruption protests

Thursday, October 18, 2018

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PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) — Haitian police said Thursday at least two people were shot dead and more than a dozen injured in a huge anti-corruption protest that rocked the country a day earlier, as pressure mounted on unpopular President Jovenel Moise.

In their initial report, authorities did not say who was to blame for the shootings, but police had fired in the air on Wednesday to help Moise escape from a public ceremony after he was shoved by protesters.

Elsewhere, near the presidential palace, police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators. Tempers have been running high for weeks in Haiti over the alleged embezzlement of funds obtained through Petrocaribe, a Venezuelan initiative that provided poor countries in the Americas oil at cut rate prices.

In 2016 and again last year, probes carried out by Haiti's 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.

Moise issued a series of tweets on Thursday saying he was serious about getting to the bottom of the scandal. "I ask all senior civil servants who have been actively involved in the management of these funds to make themselves available to justice," he wrote.

But the messages did little to assuage the anger of his critics, who accused the president of protecting some of those accused — one of whom is his current chief of staff.

"These messages amount to bluffing and demagoguery," said Andre Michel, a lawyer representing citizens who had filed a complaint over the scandal, adding: "Jovenel Moise is the main obstacle to the completion of the Petrocaribe trial."

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