Where is the money? How a Haitian-Canadian played a role in the country’s anti-corruption movement

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In a photo posted to Twitter last summer, Gilbert Mirambeau Jr. sits on a couch in Montreal, wearing a blindfold and holding up a cardboard sign with a handwritten Creole message that reads: “Where is the PetroCaribe money?”The now viral photo, posted on Aug. 14 to commemorate a 1791 slave uprising in Haiti, served as a catalyst for a series of massive street protests that have been shaking the Caribbean country. Fuelled by social media, the protests have revealed the depth of anger over the rising cost of living and the alleged disappearance of billions of dollars from PetroCaribe – an oil subsidy program intended to help the impoverished Haitian people.Kot Kòb Petwo Karibe a ???
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Yon katon, yon plim, epi mande palman an kot kòb la! @SenatHaitien @deputeshaitiens @moisejovenel
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.#KotKòbPetwoKaribea#PetwoKaribe#PetroCaribe pic.twitter.com/Eb0L4QVvdW
— Gilbert Mirambeau Jr🇭🇹 (@GibszZZz) August 14, 2018
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Mirambeau, a Haitian-Canadian filmmaker who divides his time between the two countries, said he was in Canada last summer when he became fascinated by the debate on social media over the alleged mismanagement of the PetroCaribe fund, a 2005 pact under which Venezuela provided oil to Caribbean nations with long-term, low-interest financing.The savings on oil were supposed to be used to fund economic and social programs, but Mirambeau and many Haitians say it disappeared into the pockets of government officials, who spent it on extravagant luxuries such as mansions, casinos, and cars.“I was witnessing this, and the whole night I couldn’t sleep,” said Mirambeau, who donned a blindfold in the picture to symbolize justice. “I had to play my part, in a sense.”READ MORE: Montreal-based nurse stranded in Haiti ‘relieved’ to be back in CanadaMirambeau, 35, said his message was posted about a month after government fuel hikes in July 2018 spurred riots among a population struggling to pay for basic staples. It was retweeted by a popular rapper and actor, and other Haitians quickly joined in, using the hashtag #petrocaribechallenge.Mirambeau became part of a loose coalition of leaders and activists involved in organizing a series of protests, each designed to take place on a significant date in Haiti’s history. Since last year, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest corruption and demand the resignation of the country’s president, Jovenel Moise.“Social media played a big part because we could point fingers at the senators, deputies, state members, and it was in their face,” he said.The most recent uprisings, which began Feb. 7, led to the Canadian government issuing a travel warning for Haiti. More than 100 Canadians had to be airlifted to the airport last week to avoid blockades along the country’s highways, where armed protesters threw rocks, fired weapons and set fire to burning tires during sometimes violent protests.Mirambeau blamed the violence on gang members infiltrating what is a peaceful movement. “The movement is not violent,” he said. “You had a million people in the street, and they could have destroyed everything, but they were not violent.”WATCH: Haitians claim gang members dressed as police carried out massacre

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