Last year, a Haitian Senate commission published a 650-page investigative report on the Petrocaribe program. It implicated much of Haiti’s political class in inflating government contracts, funneling money to ghost companies and a host of other financial improprieties.
And now, after the $2 billion scandal languished for a year in the hands of politicians, and with Haiti’s judiciary too weak to act, Haitians on their island and living abroad took it into their own hands.
The movement itself is improbable. It has no clear political leader. Yet more than half of the Haitian population is younger than 24, and by focusing on social media, the ever-growing diaspora is becoming more active in its country’s political future.
Unfortunately, tensions are rising as change begins to appear possible. Last July, three days of riots followed a gasoline price hike, revealing how close the nation is to a social explosion. Then came Mr. Mirambeau’s #PetroCaribeChallenge, shifting the paradigm to a nonviolent campaign. Still, armed gangs close to the ruling party, together with corrupt police officers, massacred at least 60 people just days before the Nov. 18 protest.
In Haiti, stability has often been cited as a reason not to challenge misgovernment, but the events of last summer and fall revealed that continuing the status quo will only generate more instability.
Nonviolent protest that puts pressure on officials to promote accountability would seem to be an obvious path out of that conundrum, but recent history does not point to much hope for significant change. For example, the government has urged patience and promised an investigation. But Haitians have heard empty promises before. After the Duvalier dictatorship fell, not one official was convicted of a financial crime.
In February 2017, when Jovenel Moïse became president, he pledged a crackdown on corruption. But his political mentor and presidential predecessor, Michel Martelly, had presided over most of the Petrocaribe spending. Now Mr. Moïse too has been directly implicated, and his government’s repression has picked up.