It’s hard to imagine how life could get worse in Haiti, as the country has never recovered from the 2010 earthquake, poverty and disease are rampant, and inflation is very high. The country’s latest problem is its inability to keep the lights on:
The capital Port-au-Prince’s fragile power grid was dealt a blow when Novum Energy Trading Corp suspended shipments in February, leaving residents without electricity for days and many gas stations with no fuel at the pumps.
Novum says the government owes it $40 million in overdue payments for fuel. Haitian officials did not reply to requests for comment.
The Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, Haiti long relied on fuel shipments from nearby OPEC member Venezuela, which offered cheap financing to several Caribbean nations to buy its gasoline, diesel and other products through a program called Petrocaribe.
But the scheme fell apart last year due to economic turmoil in Venezuela, forcing Haiti – a nation of 11 million people – to return to international markets.
A government official, who asked not to be identified, said fuel distribution companies in Haiti had not paid the government for gasoline and diesel it purchased on their behalf from Novum. That in turn meant the government could not pay the U.S. company for the fuel.
Protesters have for months agitated to remove Moise, a former businessman who took office in February 2017. They blame him for inflation running at around 17 percent, the depreciation of the gourde currency, and for not investigating alleged misuse of Petrocaribe funds by public officials.
Andre Michel, an opposition leader looking into the alleged corruption surrounding Petrocaribe, said it was difficult to estimate how much was stolen but the signs of misused of funds appeared compelling.
“No serious projects have been completed: no hospitals, no campus for students, no roads, no housing projects,” he said.