By Bianca Silva
The #PetroCaribeChallenge, a hashtag meant to express outrage at the Haitian government embezzling $2 billion in Petrocaribe funds, is slowly evolving into full-fledged protests. While people in Haiti have been walking through the streets demanding accountability, other cities like Boston and Paris are leaving posters in universities and bus signs asking “Where’s the Money?”
In New York City, #PetroCaribeChallenge has come in waves. Last Thursday, people were seen protesting outside the office of Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte in Flatbush.
Bichotte, a lifelong New Yorker and the first Haitian-American politician to be elected into New York City’s state legislature, has been accused of stealing money after a video circulated allegedly connecting her with petrocaribe.
Despite word on Twitter suggesting a strong #PetroCaribeChallenge presence in front of the Brooklyn Museum at the West Indian Day Parade Monday, a very small group of people marched through the streets of Eastern Parkway holding up signs of former president and musician Michel Martelly, who made an appearance at the parade.
Martelly, who served as Haiti’s president from 2011 until his resignation in 2016, was accused of corruption in addition to taking $2.6 million in bribes ensuring that a Dominican Republic construction company would be able to receive contracts under his presidency.
The #PetroCaribeChallenge hashtag has continued to go viral since filmmaker Gilbert Mirambeau tweeted an image of himself in a blindfold asking Kot Kob Petro Caribe A?” in August.
Petrocaribe is an oil-based program created by late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2006 that provides cash-strapped countries subsidized oil on a one-percent interest over a 17 to 24 year span while simultaneously allowing the participating countries to use the savings to construct various projects.
In 2017, an investigation led by the senate commission found that Haitian officials had embezzled the funds lent by Venezuela that was meant to reconstruct the country a and develop Haiti’s economy. Venezuela had previously forgiven $396 million of debt prior to 2010.