Haitians protest alleged misuse of Petrocaribe funds

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A protest by tens of thousands of people across Haiti turned violent Wednesday as anger grows over the alleged misuse of funds from an oil assistance program sponsored by Venezuela.

Gunshots rang out while protesters threw rocks, blocked roads and burned tires to demand more transparency in how the government uses funds from Petrocaribe. The program provides below-market financing for oil for several countries in the region.

"We are protesting so we can come out of misery," said Jean-Robert Roland as he marched through the streets of Port-au-Prince. "The country is in a hole, and the government keeps stealing our money."

Radio station Zenith 102.5 FM reported that one person was fatally shot in the southwest coastal town of Les Cayes and several wounded. The station also reported that a government office in the northern town of Cap-Haitien was set on fire and one person was shot in the leg. There was no immediate official confirmation of the reports.

In addition, one police officer and two civilians were injured in Port-au-Prince, where police used tear gas to disperse a crowd throwing rocks at Hotel Kinam.

Another policeman was injured on Tuesday when a bullet grazed his hand as officers tried to remove barricades ahead of the protest.

An investigation by Haiti's Senate found that at least 14 former government officials allegedly misused $3.8 billion under the administration of former president Michel Martelly.

A crowd marching through the capital chanted, "Tie them up! Tie them up!" and some protesters carried signs that read, "Where's the money?"

Protesters mobilized as Haiti commemorates the death of independence hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

Schools have been closed since midday on Tuesday as a precautionary measure, and embassies recommended people remain indoors.

The protest comes three months after Haiti's prime minister resigned amid widespread unrest following his failed attempt to increase fuel prices. At least seven people died in the unrest and dozens of businesses were looted or destroyed.