Haiti owes Venezuela $2 billion – and much of it was embezzled, Senate report says

miami heraldA special Haitian Senate commission is accusing more than a dozen former government officials and heads of private firms of embezzling $2 billion in Venezuelan oil loans — money that could have helped the country rebuild after its devastating earthquake in 2010.

An anti-corruption investigation concluded that charges should be filed against two former prime ministers, several ex-ministers and the owners of private firms on grounds they misappropriated and embezzled money that left post-quake Haiti with unfinished government buildings, poorly constructed housing and overpriced public works contracts.

The nearly $2 billion that was paid out came from the country’s Venezuelan oil largess, known as PetroCaribe. It provides Haiti and several other cash-strapped Caribbean countries with subsidized oil on favorable financing terms. The debt is stretched over a 25-year period with a 1 percent interest rate and a two- to three-year grace period allowing the countries to use the savings to finance social and economic projects. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

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